Monday, December 28, 2009

The red coats came.


It is hard to believe that these little tackers, small scale insects on a South American cactus, are useful but they are the source of the common food colour, Cochineal.

The very same colour responsible for the original red coats of the British army:

It takes some 70,000 of the little critters to make a pound of dye.

There are two principal forms of cochineal dye: cochineal extract is a colouring made from the raw dried and pulverised bodies of insects, and carmine is a more purified colouring made from the cochineal. To prepare carmine, the powdered insect bodies are boiled in ammonia or a sodium carbonate solution, the insoluble matter is removed by filtering, and alum is added to the clear salt solution of carminic acid to precipitate the red aluminium salt. Purity of colour is ensured by the absence of iron. Stannous chloride, citric acid, borax, or gelatin may be added to regulate the formation of the precipitate. For shades of purple, lime is added to the alum.



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is Coca Cola evil?


Got an email from a friend recently, spouting the old and hoary myths about Coca Cola. My comments are in blue.

1. In many states the highway patrol carries two gallons of Coke in the truck to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
Why would they? Water is cheaper and as effective. But don't take my word for it - as a patrol man. But be ready to be laughed at.

2. You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be gone in two days.
No, it wont. But don't take my word for it. Put a piece in Coke and watch it get wet and soggy before you eyes. But it wont dissolve. Only use a small bit, no sense in marinading a whole steak.

3. To clean a toilet: Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl . . . Let the "real thing" sit for one hour, then flush clean.
Probably will. It is a weak acid and the stains are generally acid soluble. So what. Orange juice would probably do the same.

4. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous china.
See 3, though Coke is more commonly phosphoric acid.

5. To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a crumpled-up piece of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola.
See 3.

6. To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
Again, so what? Any carbonated drink will do this. Best use soda water so that you don't get a sticky battery.

7. To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.
Never managed to get this to work myself. Eucalyptus Oil works a treat, though.

8. To bake a moist ham: Empty a can of Coca-Cola into the baking pan;rap the ham in aluminum foil, and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished, remove the foil, allowing the drippings to mix with the Coke for a sumptuous brown gravy.
Yum. Is this a bad thing?

9. To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, And run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains. It will also clean road haze from your windshield.
Most detergents are phosphate based. So is Coke. Is there enough phosphate to act as a detergent? It certainly can't hurt.

FYI: 1. The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. It's pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in about 4 days.
No it wont. I tried it and the nail was still there 4 years later. Ditto a copper coin.

The pH of your gastric juices can be as low as 1. That's six times stronger than Coke.

2. To carry Coca Cola syrup (the concentrate) the commercial truck must use the Hazardous material place cards reserved for Highly Corrosive materials.
Your point being? The same applies to trucks carrying vinegar concentrate.

3. The distributors of coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for about 20 years! Drink up! No joke. Think what coke and other soft drinks do to your teeth on a daily basis. A tooth will dissolve in a cup of coke in 24-48 hours.
Any carbonated soft drink will help dislodge muck from anything. It's the bubbles what do the job.

Teeth? Nope, sorry. Not enough acid in the drink to do that.