Alcohol Myth?


“Cooking removes alcohol.”


Ruling:
Mostly true. The rate by which alcohol is burned off depends on the method of cooking.

Analysis:
Studies show not all the alcohol is burned off: if a dish is left to simmer for hours, most of the alcohol will go away; but after 20 minutes of simmering, up to 50 percent of it can stick around. Flambéing leaves even more alcohol behind, and even less of it escapes during baking, because the alcohol has to work its way out of the batter.

See other: Mythconceptions?

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Boiling Myth?


“Adding salt to water makes it boil more quickly.”


Ruling:
Mostly false. Depends on the nature of the salt.

Analysis:
Merely adding some salt to regular water will only make a difference in large quantities. However, it is true that salt water boils more quickly than regular water. If you look at the heat capacity of salt water, you will find that it is less than pure water. In other words, it takes less energy to raise the temperature of salt water 1°C than pure water. This means that salt water heats up faster and eventually gets to its boiling point first.

See other: Mythconceptions?

Atomic Theory


‘[…] when atomic theory was first proposed, it sounded pretty crazy. And yes, we call it ‘Atomic Theory’, using the scientific definition of theory, which is “a well-tested set of ideas that explains many disparate observations”, not the colloquial definition of theory, which is “a guess.” But luckily there’s no-one running around any more saying “atoms are just a theory.”

But it wasn’t that long ago that people were running around saying that. You want to know who settled it for good? Einstein! Atoms had been postulated for a long time by the 20th century, but it wasn’t until Einstein mathematically proved the existence of atoms and molecules in 1905 that the matter was truly settled. And you thought Einstein was all about relativity and E=mc2, he also proved atoms exist! Continue reading

On Enjoyment from Understanding


“Understanding the world leads to a greater ability to enjoy the world.”

– Hank Green

Language and Scientific Understanding


Osiatynski: Would this extrahuman observer think the same way about our symbols, ideas, needs, and values?

Chomsky: Absolutely. I think he would be struck by the uniformity of human societies in every aspect. And there is more than that. Let’s imagine again an observer looking at us without any preconceptions. I think he would be struck by the fact that although human beings have the capacity to develop scientific knowledge, it must be a very limited capacity because it is only done in very narrow and specific domains. There are huge areas where the human mind is apparently incapable of forming sciences, or at least has not done so. There are other areas — so far, in fact, one area only — in which we have demonstrated the capacity for true scientific progress.

Osiatynski: Physics?

Chomsky: Physics and those parts of other fields that grow out of physics — chemistry, the structure of big molecules — in those domains, there is a lot of progress. In many other domains, there is very little progress in developing real scientific understanding.

Osiatynski: Isn’t it because man wants to exercise control over the physical world?

Chomsky: I don’t think so. I think it probably reflects something very special about the nature of our minds. There is no evolutionary pressure to create minds capable of forming sciences; it just happened. Evolutionary pressure has not led to higher rates of reproduction for people capable of solving scientific problems or creating new scientific ideas. So if, in fact, the science-forming capacities evolved for other reasons, it would not be too surprising if those particular structures that have developed proved to be rather special in their nature, reflecting the contingencies of their evolution or the working of physical law.

– Wiktor Osiatynski (ed.), Contrasts: Soviet and American Thinkers Discuss the Future (MacMillan, 1984), pp. 95-101

On Two Outcomes


“There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.”

– Enrico Fermi

One Million Years


Not taking into account the first 100,000 years, the following events make up a very brief overview of the next 1,000,000 years:

  • [+296,000] Voyager 2 vs Sirius: The space probe will pass within 4.7 light years of the brightest star in the sky.
  • [+500,000] Asteroid Strike: The Earth will probably have been hit by an asteroid with a +1km diameter by now.
  • [+500,000] Safe Plutonium: The spent nuclear fuel in today’s reactors will be safe.
  • [+500,000] New Ice Age: A new global freeze will probably have made life on Earth very difficult for a large number of organisms by now.
  • [+1,000,000] Betelgeuse Explosion: The red supergiant will have exploded by now; the explosion will probably be visible in daylight.
  • [+1,000,000] Monuments: Massive stone structure like the Giza pyramid or stone sculptures like Mount Rushmore may still exist – everything else we see around us today will no longer be around.
  • [+1,000,000] Glass Decomposed: All glass created to date will have degraded.

See other: Events of the Far Future

Cleavage in Politics


Cleavage is not just the space between a woman’s breasts, it can mean a lot of things: in biology, it is the repeated division of a cell into daughter cells after mitosis; in chemistry, it is the splitting of a large molecule into smaller ones; and in politics, the division of voters into voting blocs.

English is unique in the way it uses the word ‘cleavage’ for all these different phenomena.

“Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality.” – Iris Marion Young

Political systems are characterised by cleavages. These are the metaphorical lines which divide members of the community into different sides. Cleavage lines are mainly founded on values, ethnicity, language or socioeconomic status.

Specific issues, political parties and ideology on the other hand are not the bases for cleavage, but they may well be indicative of the fundamental value conflicts which do constitute the lines of cleavage in a particular system.