Written by Erika Kinach
Erika is a lifelong visitor turned full-time Science Facilitator and On the Road Facilitator at Science World. Besides spending her days at Science World or bringing science demonstrations to communities in BC, she loves learning about all kinds of science, enriching her vocabulary with new words (particularly collective nouns), testing out her trivia skills, running long distances, spending time outside and travelling the world. She is currently seeking the perfect punchline to a joke about the difference between physics and a loaf of bread. You can follow her on twitter @erikakinach.


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Created date

Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 11:22am

Science Hacks: Scientific Solutions To Everyday Problems

I was cooking recently and became frustrated with the amount of water I was losing over the top of my pot as it was boiling over. My roommate quickly came to the rescue with a wooden spoon to place over the top of my pot, which immediately reduced the over boiling of the water. As I witnessed this new development I began to question the science behind this process. It got me thinking: what other simple scientific solutions are out there to assist us with everyday frustrations?

Place a wooden spoon across your pot to prevent boil over

This age-old technique can help prevent water in a pot from boiling over, or at least delay the boiling over, so you have enough time to turn the stove down. This works in two ways; first, the spoon laying across the open boiling pot of water helps pop many of the bubbles that form once water boils, and the use of a wooden spoon rather than a metal spoon keeps your hands safe from burning. Wood is an insulator, so it takes more heat to warm up and burn your skin when touched compared to a metal spoon or kitchen tool, which you would eventually have to remove with an oven mitt!

Apple can reduce garlic breath

The scientific reason for poor breath after eating garlic is a chemical compound called allyl methyl sulfide (AMS). This compound is not metabolized in the gut and liver very well and as a result, is exhaled out of your mouth .  AMS releases a gas that, instead of being absorbed into your blood stream, is exhaled through your lungs. Since AMS can’t be broken down very easily, it can stick around in your body for a couple of hours to a couple of days. Brushing your teeth can get rid of some of the smells coming from your mouth, but you need something more to help combat AMS from behind exhaled through your lungs.

Garlic breath is reduced by eating or drinking different foods that can break down AMS. For example, eating fruits and vegetables that turn brown (apples, pears, avocados) are great at  battling AMS because they contain another compound, and enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PO). When PO is exposed to oxygen, it reduces the odor produced by AMS through enzymatic deodorizarion. So, next time someone passes on dessert, you can tell them that science actually suggests that apple pie might be a cure to their garlicky breath. 

Meat tenderizer can stop sweat stains

If you’re a sweaty individual, like me, and you like wearing light-coloured shirts, you’ve experienced the grief of yellow sweat stains that don’t come off in the laundry. Ironically, these “sweat stains” don’t come from sweat itself, because sweat is colourless. Instead, these yellowish (and sometimes brown) stains come from a chemical reaction between sweat and your deodorant or antiperspirant. The urea in sweat reacts with aluminum and acidic ingredients in your deodorant and antiperspirant to result in the yellow stains on your clothing. One way to remedy stains that have already set in your clothing is to spread a paste of meat tenderizer powder and water onto the stains, let it dry and then launder as usual. The meat tenderizer powder contains enzymes such as papain and bromelain that help break down the proteins in the yellow stain so that the stains can be washed away!

Now that I've learned that science can help me in ways I didn't even realize, I can't help but be inspired to brainstorm new solutions to challenges I regularly encounter. We can be our own super heroes if we take the time to think it through; more often than not science can help us save the day. 

Science hacks are a great way to talk about everyday science. Have you read about our Bulletproof Coffee Experiment? What science hack do you employ in your everyday life? 

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