Stupid Science Q&A

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andykhang
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Stupid Science Q&A

Postby andykhang » Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:41 pm UTC

You know how you find in the internet, really really stupid thing that's just, wrong, but you don't know how to explain it in a scientific way? This thread is all about that. Submit the thing that you heard of that just make you want to facepalm, answer is optional, you could just leave it there for someone else to answer, bonus if you could answer it in a way the people that think of such thing would understand. I start first:

Q: I heard that bolling salt water would evaporate Cl and let Na behind, combining with water to create a Based that's bad for you. The reason you won't die because it's in trace amount, you'll die eventually with continuous consumption.

A: That's wrong, because:

1. When you boil water, the salt that's previously dissolve in water will clump up again into salt. The reason is that salt can't interact with air (hence how you could get and store salt in the first place), and have high melting point (meaning you can't cook it into toxicness without already burning a few thing in your house), way more than water. Not to mention that water itself is a pretty good heat storage (meaning they could both store and get heat really good) in the first place, thus any heat that could potentially get into the magical reaction that would turn Cl into stable gas and combining Na with water without involving all that Cl- nonsense, without combining into a more stable Na-Cl composition, would instead be transfer into that water and get itself evaporate first.

2. Even if those magical Cl and Na based get itself into your body in trace amount, all of that trace amount wouldn't hold into the body for long and get itself kicked out before it could clump up with your daily dosage of cooked food with salt. That's because, aside from how the body is really actually fcking good at kicking toxic shit out of your body, we actually dissolve the salt we eat in our body, and used that for important function in the body (one of them is being an electrolyte, which is how your brain transmit signal into the brain that think of this question in the first place), and we got nature way of dispelling that trace amount whenever they got too much in it. (well, aside from that's why your sweat taste salty, I can't think of any other way for that)

Anyway, that's my take on it. I'm not exactly a chemist, just a college student who learned basic chemistry, so if there's anything wrong, you're free to fix it.

Edit: Just realize that the salt can't interact with air thing is unrelevant in the first place. It's more accurate to said that the ion there like water too much to evaporate, and when they go they would return into being salt, because turning into that, without any catalyst, is waaay easier that Cl turning into gas and Na into Na based.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Soupspoon » Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:59 pm UTC

That leads into the "acid foods, alkali foods" thing, as well. Probably. Bunkum as it is.

Not from the internet, but from TV, there was something I saw with an explanation (for children, but I still object to it!) that the reason why goods can be carried in greater quantities by boat (canal barge, in particular) is that if something heavy is put in water it is provided with an up-force (they did not mention "buoyancy" at any point, even while demonstrating it!) that reduces the 'weight' of the load, so makes it easier to move. Barring the double-confusion regarding weight being likely taken as mass, though it is then true that buoyancy actually does reduce effective weight to zero (but not mass! And adds in more tangible resistance!), I rather think they would have been better to work with simple hydrodynamics, compared with solid-on-solid sliding resistance (to which it was compared, or wheel resistance to which it was not), and go with some dumbed-down version of limiting friction and let the unaltered inertial mass be skipped over as briefly as they might want.

Multi-layered as the real explanation is, I just think they gave the wrong lie-to-children, not leading the way to the true trail of lies that lead on to the eventual adult-grade 'truth'.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:25 pm UTC

Ships obviously experience enormously more friction than trains. That whole explanation is bullshit from start to finish. Shipping is cheaper only because container ships have a much larger capacity, which reduces the unit cost of labor and fuel, even if the total cost is much higher.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Soupspoon » Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:55 pm UTC

The context was why the invention of canals was a Big ThingTM. The reality was that (in the context of lump bulk goods) canals allowed water transport without much regard to (unmodified) geography, river flow levels/directions, tides around the coast, etc. Untouched was also the possibility of transporting fragile pottery, etc, without having to be packed in mule baskets and at great danger from mishandling over pack-routes, etc, and in such small quantities per string of anmals, but they only talked of coal.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby DaBigCheez » Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:25 pm UTC

Somehow I feel like if boiling salt worked as described, you'd be more worried about the chlorine gas being released into the air than the pH balance of the water left behind...
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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:10 am UTC

Well, you wouldn't get neutral chlorine atoms evaporating. The way it was described, you would get chloride ions, which would presumably react quickly to produce relatively safe compounds like chlorates. (I did say relatively safe.) I wonder why they think the chloride would evaporate but not the sodium.

Also, actual sodium chloride vapor is interesting. Apparently it is molecular.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby morriswalters » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:29 am UTC

I've never seen a train at sea. They don't float well. They use ships because they have to.

is that if something heavy is put in water it is provided with an up-force (they did not mention "buoyancy" at any point, even while demonstrating it!) that reduces the 'weight' of the load, so makes it easier to move
Here's the thing. This is as close as a child needs to get. And it is demonstrably true. Drive a semi along a muddy road.
andykhang wrote:Q: I heard that bolling salt water would evaporate Cl and let Na behind, combining with water to create a Based that's bad for you. The reason you won't die because it's in trace amount, you'll die eventually with continuous consumption.
Roll your eyes, you'll be happier. And tell them not to make chicken stock or spaghetti.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby p1t1o » Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:53 am UTC

Pfft. This is nothing. A striking proportion (I forget what the percentage was that was quoted to me) of chemistry graduates cant correctly identify what is inside the bubbles in boiling water.

I learned of this just after graduating myself and tested it by asking some fellow graduates, and it held true.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:59 pm UTC

p1t1o wrote:Pfft. This is nothing. A striking proportion (I forget what the percentage was that was quoted to me) of chemistry graduates cant correctly identify what is inside the bubbles in boiling water.

I learned of this just after graduating myself and tested it by asking some fellow graduates, and it held true.

To be fair, there are actually 2 types of bubbles that form when boiling water. It is possible that the graduates where overthinking it and were trying to answer for both types.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby andykhang » Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:39 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I've never seen a train at sea. They don't float well. They use ships because they have to.

is that if something heavy is put in water it is provided with an up-force (they did not mention "buoyancy" at any point, even while demonstrating it!) that reduces the 'weight' of the load, so makes it easier to move
Here's the thing. This is as close as a child needs to get. And it is demonstrably true. Drive a semi along a muddy road.
andykhang wrote:Q: I heard that bolling salt water would evaporate Cl and let Na behind, combining with water to create a Based that's bad for you. The reason you won't die because it's in trace amount, you'll die eventually with continuous consumption.
Roll your eyes, you'll be happier. And tell them not to make chicken stock or spaghetti.


I would, if I also didn't think of the reason why it isn't true in the first place... Woe to be scientifically curious I guess?

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby andykhang » Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:41 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Well, you wouldn't get neutral chlorine atoms evaporating. The way it was described, you would get chloride ions, which would presumably react quickly to produce relatively safe compounds like chlorates. (I did say relatively safe.) I wonder why they think the chloride would evaporate but not the sodium.

Also, actual sodium chloride vapor is interesting. Apparently it is molecular.


Arcoding to what I read in the youtube comment where that question came from, it's from a mom who heard it in a chinese network...So yeah.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby p1t1o » Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:58 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
p1t1o wrote:Pfft. This is nothing. A striking proportion (I forget what the percentage was that was quoted to me) of chemistry graduates cant correctly identify what is inside the bubbles in boiling water.

I learned of this just after graduating myself and tested it by asking some fellow graduates, and it held true.

To be fair, there are actually 2 types of bubbles that form when boiling water. It is possible that the graduates where overthinking it and were trying to answer for both types.


To be honest I think it was quite clear which bubbles were being talked about.

Anyway, oxygen, hydrogen or vacuum are silly answers in either case.

But yeah, overthinking a suspiciously easy question is all too tempting.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby morriswalters » Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:38 pm UTC

andykhang wrote:I would, if I also didn't think of the reason why it isn't true in the first place... Woe to be scientifically curious I guess?
No. Be as curious as you wish. But unless you're a chemist I suggest that you can't explain the answer well enough to not confuse people more. This is how misconceptions get started. If you want to indulge your curiosity do science. Test the idea.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby measure » Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:52 pm UTC

Someone I know wrote:It makes sense that there are a lot of hurricanes right now because it's near a full moon, and the moon causes the tides

...

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:19 pm UTC

measure wrote:
Someone I know wrote:It makes sense that there are a lot of hurricanes right now because it's near a full moon, and the moon causes the tides

...

Look on the bright side; they know that the Moon causes the tides.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Xanthir » Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:09 pm UTC

More moon = more tides, everyone knows that.
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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby DaBigCheez » Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:48 am UTC

Never a miscommunication.
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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby jewish_scientist » Thu Sep 14, 2017 1:57 pm UTC

p1t1o wrote:Anyway, oxygen, hydrogen or vacuum are silly answers in either case.

I just realized, 2 of those answers are correct. Water vapor is made of oxygen and hydrogen. They (hopefully) did not mean O2 and H2.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby SDK » Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:03 pm UTC

An answer is not correct if it's incomplete. Water is definitely not oxygen or hydrogen. That "and" is important.
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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby p1t1o » Thu Sep 14, 2017 3:07 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
p1t1o wrote:Anyway, oxygen, hydrogen or vacuum are silly answers in either case.

I just realized, 2 of those answers are correct. Water vapor is made of oxygen and hydrogen. They (hopefully) did not mean O2 and H2.


That would be just as bad! Possibly worse!

Imagine a chemist who gave answers like that!

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Sep 14, 2017 3:12 pm UTC

Indeed. It should be O2 and H4, obviously....

:P

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby jewish_scientist » Thu Sep 14, 2017 5:09 pm UTC

p1t1o wrote:Imagine a chemist who gave answers like that!

I think that answering as a list would be acceptable in an informal setting. If I asked a friend what limestone was made out of, the most useful reply he could give would be something along the lines of, 'It is calcium, carbon, and oxygen, with some impurities possibly mixed in.'

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby p1t1o » Fri Sep 15, 2017 10:31 am UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
p1t1o wrote:Imagine a chemist who gave answers like that!

I think that answering as a list would be acceptable in an informal setting. If I asked a friend what limestone was made out of, the most useful reply he could give would be something along the lines of, 'It is calcium, carbon, and oxygen, with some impurities possibly mixed in.'


I'd still say thats not what is happening (I dont remember anyone answering Hydrogen and Oxygen), and an answer like the one you suggest is fine from a non-chemist, but a really strange one from a chemistry graduate.

Apparently its even a documented phenomenon!:

https://books.google.de/books?id=1GAy-p ... er&f=false

"Even more striking, some graduate students in chemistry doctoral programs still harbour confusion about phase changes - a topic first taught in elementary school (Bodner, 1991). A common misconception about phase changes is that bubbles in boiling water are made of air rather than water vapour (Nakleh, 1992)"

(Emphasis mine)

*edit*
On a more personal note, during my masters I studied the shells of planktonic creatures, and there are very many minerals which correspond to "calcium, carbon and oxygen with some impurities." - and describing it as such would have been a big no-no. If you asked me what they were made of I would have said "Calcite, similar to chalk but with a different structure."

NB: chalk is a form of limestone. Limestone is formed of calcite and aragonite, chiefly. Aragonite, calcite, and the material that make up these shells, all have similar elemental compositions, but structurally are distinct. If I said they were made of calcium, carbon and oxygen I would have been given SUCH a stink-eyed look....

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Sep 15, 2017 11:34 am UTC

Without looking it up, I suspect there's at least something like "face-centred/body-centred cubic crystals, in the differences, albeit locally across an amorphous whole, of course.

(Hitting my limit of precise knowledge, so inexpertly importing from other fields. Exactly to demonstrate the point of this thread, probably.)

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby p1t1o » Fri Sep 15, 2017 11:57 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Without looking it up, I suspect there's at least something like "face-centred/body-centred cubic crystals, in the differences, albeit locally across an amorphous whole, of course.

(Hitting my limit of precise knowledge, so inexpertly importing from other fields. Exactly to demonstrate the point of this thread, probably.)


Pretty much. But there can be differences up the scale as well, eg: pearls are also formed from calcite/aragonite, see "nacre" (nay-ker)

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby jewish_scientist » Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:57 pm UTC

Yeah, if they did not give hydrogen and oxygen, then they would be wrong.

On a similar note, MIT students cannot light a lightbulb with a wire and battery, women college students want to end womens' suffrage, and adults tend to be much worse engineers than 10-years olds.

P.S. Turn on the subtitles on the MIT video at 1:30.
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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Sep 15, 2017 11:45 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:On a similar note, MIT students cannot light a lightbulb with a wire and battery

Is it even possible to get a bulb that size to light up noticeably with a D-cell?

These types of "experiments" involving surprising a bunch of strangers with a question and then broadcasting the people who fail always irritate me. We will never know how many people they interviewed who got the answer immediately.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Liri » Sat Sep 16, 2017 3:45 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:On a similar note, MIT students cannot light a lightbulb with a wire and battery

Is it even possible to get a bulb that size to light up noticeably with a D-cell?

These types of "experiments" involving surprising a bunch of strangers with a question and then broadcasting the people who fail always irritate me. We will never know how many people they interviewed who got the answer immediately.

I was videotaped for one of those, but not quite as "gotcha", I don't think. I was quizzed on whether a selection of news articles were true or not (I got them all, thankfully).
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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby morriswalters » Sat Sep 16, 2017 2:25 pm UTC

Is it even possible to get a bulb that size to light up noticeably with a D-cell?
A facile reading of that statement might lead to speculation that you don't understand the question either. The answer is, it depends upon the bulb and its rated wattage.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:11 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Is it even possible to get a bulb that size to light up noticeably with a D-cell?
A facile reading of that statement might lead to speculation that you don't understand the question either. The answer is, it depends upon the bulb and its rated wattage.

When I said "a bulb that size," I obviously meant that bulb. They were outside during the day, and D cells don't produce much power. It just seems badly set up.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby morriswalters » Sun Sep 17, 2017 12:07 am UTC

I know what you meant.
Is it even possible to get a bulb that size to light up noticeably with a D-cell?
The question you should have asked is how hot will the filament get? That light comes out of light bulbs is a happy accident. They're a resistive heater. A smart ass would have told the researchers that the bulb did light, that the researchers just couldn't see it.

The biggest unfairness in the video is taking a day those Graduates earned by multiple years of hard work, and turning it on them. But they should have known. Put them in a lab on any other day, and told them they would be graded, you would have gotten a different answer, I would think. They didn't take the time, and on that day I would probably wouldn't have either.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:23 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Is it even possible to get a bulb that size to light up noticeably with a D-cell?

Well, one student does at 2:00, so I am going to guess yes.

These types of "experiments" involving surprising a bunch of strangers with a question and then broadcasting the people who fail always irritate me. We will never know how many people they interviewed who got the answer immediately.

In general I would agree with you, but there is a limit. When questions get so basic that not knowing the answer cast series doubts on your ability to function as a well informed individual, any amount of incorrect answers is too much. Another interesting aspect of these tests is psychological. For example, even though people did not know what 'suffrage' meant, they were still willing to sign the petition.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Sep 25, 2017 6:06 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Is it even possible to get a bulb that size to light up noticeably with a D-cell?

Well, one student does at 2:00, so I am going to guess yes.

No, he is using his own light bulb, not the one provided by the crew. That seems to reinforce the idea that they provided a light bulb that cannot be (visibly) illuminated by that battery.

These types of "experiments" involving surprising a bunch of strangers with a question and then broadcasting the people who fail always irritate me. We will never know how many people they interviewed who got the answer immediately.

In general I would agree with you, but there is a limit. When questions get so basic that not knowing the answer cast series doubts on your ability to function as a well informed individual, any amount of incorrect answers is too much. Another interesting aspect of these tests is psychological. For example, even though people did not know what 'suffrage' meant, they were still willing to sign the petition.

So what conclusion do we draw? That all engineering graduates are incompetent? That seems a bit hasty.

A more plausible conclusion is that people are not usually surprised by random questions vaguely related to their major and demanded to answer them immediately while on camera and under pressure. This does not resemble an engineer's usual job experience and does not prove anything.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby morriswalters » Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:56 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:No, he is using his own light bulb, not the one provided by the crew. That seems to reinforce the idea that they provided a light bulb that cannot be (visibly) illuminated by that battery.
He evidently understands why you can light a flashlight bulb and not a 40(or so) watt candelabra bulb.

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Re: Stupid Science Q&A

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:42 am UTC

I used to carry a bulb around with me, while at Uni. It was a mains <x>ty-watt mains bulb that would likely not have lit. Especially as it (or whichever successor it was, as I did renew and replace the current incarnation a few times) was also a blown bulb that wouldn't have lit under any reasonable circumstances...

(People who knew me, back then, weren't too surprised that I was doing so. I think.)


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