TRC #282: Rice and Positive Thinking + Colour of Food + Adding Salt to Boiling Water

riceThe core TRC gang is back together for episode 282 of The Reality Check. Darren starts things off by looking into a recent viral Facebook post regarding positive thinking and its effect on rice. Next, Adam talks about the effect of colour on our perception of food. Elan closes out the show with a segment on whether or not adding salt to heated water will make it boil faster.

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Rice and Positive Thinking

Altering Perspectives


Debunking video

Food Colour

Today I Learned: Froot Loops Are Actually All the Same Flavor – Foodbeast

Are the different colors of Froot Loops different flavours? – The Straight Dope

How they make Smarties – Amazing News

Study Reveals That Color Affects Taste Perception – PerfumerFlavorist

The influence of Color on Taste Perception: Interesting Thing of the Day

‘You Are Not So Smart’: Why We Can’t Tell Good Wine From Bad – David McRaney – The Atlantic

Tasting – Chemical Object Representation in the Field of Consciousness – Frederic Brochet

What’s With the Color of Your Plate? – Cornell

Salt in Boiling Water – Why do you add salt to boiling water

ABC Science – Salt in the water – Cooking pasta properly


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6 Responses to TRC #282: Rice and Positive Thinking + Colour of Food + Adding Salt to Boiling Water

  1. funkmon says:

    Great segment, Elan. That is one with which I can annoy relatives for the rest of my life.

  2. slashthedragon says:

    “What do you say to someone who repeats an obvious nonsense claim?”

    I have succeeded with the following tatic. This was a friendly person so it may not work with a hostile person. This was a magnetic shoulder pad which helped with flexibility.

    First I sounded interested, puzzled and courious.
    Second I asked as much about the claim as the person knew.
    Third I discussed similar claims but she shot down those with valid arguments.
    Fourth I commented that I don’t know how the pad worked but I know that the magnets didn’t cause it because that is not how nature works.
    Fifth (Not in my case but in the rice study case) I would wonder out loud if the study has ever been duplicated.
    At the end we were discussing how we repeat a study to prove or falsify the claim.

  3. Scott Dornian says:

    Hey Guys,

    Great show as always!
    Regarding salt and water, Elan’s discussion was correct in what he said but he missed out on what I think is the most interesting aspect of this topic which is nucleation. A bit of background first before my main point: As a substance either cools or heats, the new phase needs to form on a surface. So for example if you’re cooling a metal in a very controlled way on an extremely smooth surface etc. you can actually cool it below its freezing temperature without it solidifying. This is called supercooling (‘Phase Transformation in Metal Alloys’ Porter and Easterling, p.185).

    I bring it up because the reverse also happens to a certain degree when heating (there’s a long discussion behind why I say “certain degree” there if you care). And this can be easily observed in a water/salt system if you heat the water to very nearly boiling then throw in a handful of salt. The hot regions of the water with quickly form small water vapour bubbles on the surface of the salt crystals and boiling with occur at that localized surface. This is called nucleation.

    One can speculate that if a person does this at the right time while cooking, but doesn’t understand the theory behind it, they could perceive it as making the water boil faster as they see a bunch of bubbles form. Try it at home; it’s a lot of fun! But note that unless you’re at almost exactly 100 degrees and the water is well stirred that it will simmer down again.

    Also, there is a quick way to get a sense of how any two-phase system will act through what’s called a phase diagram. These are discussed in length in ‘Introduction to Thermodynamics’ by Gaskell page 475 (a longer discussion than most can stomach), and a simple one for salt/water can be found here (and many other places).

    So that’s the salt and water nucleation in a nut shell!

  4. Scott Dornian says:

    Also wanted to comment on the race issue, but my other post was so long already.

    I think that some of the discomfort comes from and understanding of how evolution works, and that knowledge is actually working against us in this case. It is true that large component of speciation is caused by isolation (among other mechanisms); when a group of creatures is isolated for long enough it will inevitably become a distinct group, we all know this. So we know intuitively that there is some theoretical background for race; we can think that a group of humans is now far enough removed genetically that they are someways along the path to being genetically distinct.

    The problem is of course time scale, while this is true in the long I suppose it is being argued that it cannot, and is not, true for humans as we are still too genetically alike to make any sort of meaningful distinction.

    I think what bothered me a little is the Dina seemed unwilling to even concede that it is *theoretically* possible for certain groups of humans to be genetically distinct. That being said, I certainly agree with all her salient points.

  5. Hey Scott,

    Thanks for the interesting comment about nucleation!

    “I think what bothered me a little is the Dina seemed unwilling to even concede that it is *theoretically* possible for certain groups of humans to be genetically distinct.”

    I don’t think Dina implied this and I definitely know that this is not what she thinks. Her point was that *race* is not a scientifically defined term and thus it is not a reliable way to group people into genetically distinct clusters.

  6. Kyoko says:

    The CBC had a show in the summer caelld the Invisible Hand that explored economic topics including price gouging (it’s episode 1 on the podcast).They argued for price gouging and I must admit I found the argument convincing. There are many natural experiments with every disaster where people are incented to provide services or products (for example undergoing personal expense to get resources to disaster zones something too risky to do without the promise of reward).While Darren’s arguments on the risks of gouging are valid, they are essentially the critiques of capitalism in general. Limiting all price gouging is a blunt instrument. We have nuanced approches to balancing capitalism and poverty reduction in non-critical times; when disaster strikes is not the time to rewrite the economic rules. Especially since we have even less evidence that price fixing in the marketplace is good policy.

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