Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fantasy of a lifetime!

Your mileage may differ, but as for me, I hope I can do better than this.

Stolen from The Corner.

Because you want to know

Want to see some science on TV? Try the Food Network.

No, I'm not talking about Alton Brown (this time, anyway). This tiime it's the "Ham on the Street" program, checking to see if wintergreen lifesavers really did emit sparks when bitten.

Yes, they do.

The explanation that was offered said that about any sugar candy would emit ultraviolet radiation when crushed. But wintergreen shows visible light because the UV is absorbed by the methyl salicylate that provides the flavor, and in turn the MS emits a faint visible light.

To cap off the demonstration, host George Duran put a bunch of wintergreen LifeSavers in a food processor in a dark room. By Jove, you could see the sparks fairly clearly, if dimly.

Incidentally, if you should ever be in an industrial setting and you smell wintergreen, you'd probably better head for the exit. Like the mercaptan that they add to natural gas so you can smell it, wintergreen has been used in carbon dioxide (CO2) fire suppression systems to tell you the system has been discharged. And if the fire doesn't get you, the CO2 will.