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Posts Tagged ‘water

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This SciShow video addresses a trend by asking a simple but critical question: Is alkaline water really good for you?

The bottomline is that drinking alkaline water does not make much of a difference. The human body is a giant homeostatic machine designed to keep it operating within narrow margins so that we stay alive.

I would wager that any immediate feel good factor on the part of the consumer of such water is psychological, not physiological. The feel really good factor on the part of the seller is financial, not ethical.

The uncritical consumer is not just poorer financially, but also developmentally. They would rather believe hype than consider bitter truths.

I wish there were more videos like this one. It presents the facts, but passes little or no judgement.

Consumers are left to make their own decisions. This reminds me that good educational videos are like the best teachers: They show you where to look, but do not tell you what to see.

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see. — Alexandra K. Trenfor

Saying that water is wet is to speak the obvious. What was obvious to me when I read this Wired article about screen time was how ignorant fear drives more policy than researched information.

In disputing one of the questionable findings about brain cortex thinning, the author wrote:

…the observation that an activity changes the structure or function of an adolescent’s gray matter is the scientific equivalent of observing that water is wet. Many childhood activities alter the brain; what matters is the downstream effects of the alterations.

Even a researcher behind the study cautioned against misinterpreting and misreporting:

“It’s a very complicated question, so people often oversimplify this kind of research,” says neurobiologist Gaya Dowling, NIH director of the ABCD project. “Like the cortical thinning I mentioned on 60 Minutes: We don’t know if it’s good or bad—we just know that it is. That’s one message that got lost in recent coverage of our study: We’re seeing these associations, but we don’t yet know what they mean.”

What is obvious to the research literate is that scientific studies often highlight more questions than reveal answers. They also reveal uncertainties and cast doubt, but all in a systematic way. If you do not realise or communicate this aspect, you cannot report the research or shape policy.

Fear and bad news sells. They also spread faster than fact and truth. These statements should be as obvious as “water is wet”. So read everything with a healthy dose of skepticism.

As one wise person once said to me: It is important to have an open mind, but not so much that rubbish falls in.

It is important to have an open mind, but not so much that rubbish falls in.

You can read the title as a cheer or a sigh.

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Yesterday I heard a promoter at mall sell disinformation. This reminded me of the claim a student teacher made years ago.

The mall charlatan proclaimed the benefits of oxygenated water and a product that would allow you to put extra oxygen in tap water.

Only aquatic organisms would benefit from an infusion of oxygen in the water. Then again only up to a point because too much oxygen is harmful whether it is in water or air. That aside, humans are terrestrial animals and we do not gain from extra-oxygenated water except perhaps for ticklish bubbles.

If we were somehow able to absorb more oxygen from water like the way we do from our red blood cells, we would oxidise chemicals in our bodies. One physically overt effect of this is premature aging, which was something contrary to the promoter’s product.

The harm of buying into this non-scientifically-based sell hurts your pocket and helps perpetuate scientific ignorance. This is bad, but not as bad as what might happen in a classroom.

A few years ago, I reflected on a student teacher who told her students that it was important to drink water because it contained oxygen. Our bodies do not electrolyse water. If we did, we would produce two highly flammable and explosive gases (hydrogen and oxygen) in our bodies.

I pointed this out to the student teacher and urged her to rectify this at the next lesson. Misteaching science initiates or perpetuates falsehoods. Disinformation takes root and becomes unfounded knowledge. If left unchecked, this condition might develop into disdain for scientific literacy and critical thinking.

We should be nurturing kids who are scientifically literate and cheering, “Yeah, Science!” But if we do not correct bad teaching or ignorant sales pitches, we leave kids who think that ignorance is bliss.

My rant yesterday about the analogy of eagles vs geese as leaders reminded me of a fallacy I had to shoot down.

A few years ago, I supervised a student teacher who made an off-the-cuff statement during a lesson. It had no bearing on the content, but she decided to explain why it was important for her students to drink lots of water.

Reminding kids to drink water was great. Telling kids that each water molecule consisted of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom was good general knowledge.

However, things went awry when the student teacher explained why water was good for the brain. She mentioned that water split up into hydrogen and oxygen and that the latter benefitted the brain and made you alert.

This does not happen in the human body. It takes an extraordinary amount of energy to split water molecules and the human body does not do that. Even if it did, we would have two extremely flammable and explosive gases building up somewhere.

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The video above illustrates how dangerous this can be. By the way, hydrogen gas was a possible cause for for the Hindenburg disaster.

The human body gets oxygen from the air via the respiratory system and transports it via the circulatory system. There is a lower and safer energy investment this way. It does not get the oxygen it needs by splitting water molecules up like you might with electrolysis.

The electrolytic process might be chemically feasible, but it was biologically impossible. If it did happen as my former student teacher described, the physics would have been incredible. It would blow your mind. Literally.

Now this is not an informal science lesson. This is about teaching responsibly and holistically. A fallacy like water providing oxygen for the brain might stick because it sounds believable and was based on other scientific phenomena.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Two rights do not necessarily make another right. A teacher must know her limits and not try to make things up as she goes along. If she does, the teacher might not destroy minds as quickly as an explosion might, but she does insidious long term damage.


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