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The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life PDF

301 Pages·2004·12.82 MB·english
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PRAISE FOR DR. JOE AND WHAT You DIDN'T KNOW: "Mother Nature has a few less secrets. In Dr. Joe and What You Didn't Know, Dr. Joe Schwarcz enlightens us with explanations for life's curi- osities." — Joy Ferguson, Canadian Bookseller PRAISE FOR THAT'S THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLES: "Schwarcz explains science in such a calm, compelling manner, you can't help but heed his words. How else to explain why I'm now stir- frying cabbage for dinner and seeing its cruciferous cousins—broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts—in a delicious new light?" — Cynthia David, Toronto Star, online PRAISE FOR THE GENIE IN THE BOTTLE: "Often lighthearted, other times deadly serious, he covers a range of topics, 64 in all, that includes tap water quality, methane, bag balm, and even 'flubber.' No doubt readers will find a lot of stuff here about a lot of things they have never even considered." — Ted Hainworth, Star Phoenix, 29 December 2001 PRAISE FOR RADAR, HULA HOOPS, AND PLAYFUL PIGS: "Dr. Schwarcz has written a book that has done three things which are difficult to do. First, the book is enormously enjoyable — it commands and holds your attention. Second, it explains science and scientific phenomena in a simple and yet accurate way. And third, it stimulates you to think logically and in so doing, it will lead to a scientifically literate reader who will not be so easily misled by those who wish to paint science and technology as being a danger to humankind and the world around us." — Michael Smith, Nobel Laureate "It is hard to believe that anyone could be drawn to such a dull and smelly subject as chemistry — until, that is, one picks up Joe Schwarcz's book and is reminded that with every breath and feeling one is experi- encing chemistry. Falling in love, we all know, is a matter of the right chemistry. Schwarcz gets his chemistry right, and hooks his readers." — John C. Polanyi, Nobel Laureate This page intentionally left blank THE FLY IN THE OINTMENT This page intentionally left blank THE FLY IN THE OINTMENT 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life DR. JOE SCHWARCZ Director McGill University Office for Science and Society ECW PRESS Copyright © ECW PRESS, 2.004 Published by ECW PRESS 2.120 Queen Street East, Suite zoo, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E IEZ All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any process—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the copyright owners and ECW PRESS. NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION DATA Schwarcz, Joseph A. The fly in the ointment: 70 fascinating commentaries on the science of everyday life / Joe Schwarcz ISBN 1-5502,2-62.1-5 i. Science - Popular works. I. Title. 0.173.538 2004 500 C2OO3-9O73IO-6 Copyeditor: Jodi Lewchuk Production: Emma McKay Interior design: Yolande Martel Interior cartoons: Brian Gable Cover design: Guylaine Regimbald - SOLO DESIGN Cover artwork: © 2,003 Varian (www.varian.net) Author photo: Tony Laurinaitis Printing; Transcontinental This book is set in Stemjpel Garamond and Koch Antiqua. The publication of The Fly in the Ointment has been generously supported by the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program. Canada1 DISTRIBUTION CANADA: Jaguar Book Group, 100 Armstrong Avenue, Georgetown, Ontario L7G 554 UNITED STATES: Independent Publishers Group, 814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, Illinois 60610 EUROPE: Turnaround Publisher Services, Unit 3, Olympia Trading Estate, Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22, 6T2 AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: Wakefield Press, i The Parade West (Box 2066), Kent Town, South Australia 5071 PRINTED AND BOUND IN CANADA ECW PRESS ecwpress.com CONTENTS Introduction 11 HEALTH ISSUES Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics 15 Farmed, Wild, or Canned? 19 DDT: A Double-Edged Sword 23 Feeding the Hungry 29 Say "Cheese" 32 The Teflon Scare 36 Weeding Out the Pesticide Myths 39 Paralysis through Analysis 43 Bottled or Tap? 50 Waxing Lyrical about Fruit Wax 57 The Challenge of Menopause 61 Carpets and Chemical Sensitivities 68 Adventures in the Health Food Store 71 The Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease 74 Going through a Phase 81 Russian Spies and Sick Turkeys 85 The Strange Case of the Stinky Man 89 High on Protein 93 Mad Honey 96 When Sugar Isn't So Sweet 100 Sugar-Free Kisses 104 For the Love of Broccoli 107 I'm a Bread and Propionates Man 110 Put Garlic Where? 114 Dietary Supplements: To Take or Not to Take? 118 What's In a Vitamin Name? 122 Toxic E-mail 125 Natural or Synthetic? 129 Count Your Way to Good Health 132 SOME NEAT CHEMISTRY Wondrous Tricks and Bad Smells 137 Sex and Scents 141 From "Yuck" to "Yum" 144 Nibbling on Glass 148 Bad Science, Bad Justice 152 Santa's Mushrooms 155 There's No Viagra in Niagara 159 The Wonders of Polyester 163 Pay Dirt! 166 A Galling Tale of Vitriol and Murder 170 The Right Alchemy: Harry Potter and Nicolas Flamel 174 The Swedish Blonds Who Turned Green 177 Saving Lives with Kevlar 181 Kiss and Makeup 184 Hard-Water Woes 188 Look at Those Cow Chips Fly! 191 Frenzied Males and Virgin Females 195 Munching on a Chemist 198

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