Sunday, June 23, 2019

How Many M&M Candy's Would Be Required To Form A Line Between Earth And The Moon?

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

A couple of years ago I posted a blog post regarding the number of blimps required to hold a certain volume of gas.  One of the respondent's was really questioning the reason why I chose the metric and question in general.  In his comment, he stated: "Why blimps? Why Helium?  Why not calculate the amount of M&M candy's required to reach the Moon from Earth?"  It is time to address his question below.

What Are The Dimensions Of M&M Candy's?

To start the analysis, we need to know what the dimension of a single M&M candy is?  In the past blog post with calculations, I have chosen 'Google' to find information.  Following that format, we can start by typing into Google the question: What are the dimensions of an m&m candy?   The answer is shown below:

Wow! The internet has so much information.  A single M&M candy is 1.04 centimeter.  That is a conversion factor which we can use in dimensional analysis.  Conversion factors are displayed as follows:

If we want to know the distance in units of M&M candies, the conversion factor above can be used.   In our current problem, we want to know how many M&M candies would be required to form a straight line from Earth to the Moon.  In order to figure that number out, we need to know the distance from Earth to the Moon.

Distance Between Earth and Moon?

The distance from Earth to the Moon can be found out by asking Google.  Insert the following question: What is the distance between Earth and the Moon in meters?   The answer is shown below:

The distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384.4 million meters.  Notice how we asked a question specifically calling for the answer to be expressed in units of meters?  The answer must be in units of meters because the unit of measurement of an M&M candy is expressed in units of meters.

Our analysis is almost finished.  To arrive at a final answer, take the total distance from Earth to the Moon (in meters) and divide by the length of a single M&M candy (in meters) as shown below:

The answer indicates a total of 3.7 billion M&M candies would be needed to form a single line from Earth to the Moon.  Our results are summarized below:

With the methodology above, many different types of questions involving dimensional analysis can be asked (and answered too).  Analyses like the one above give the reader experience in handling large numbers.  Large numbers typically only seen in science research or classes in college.  Although, the analysis above mimics questions and answers which are useful in scientific research.  See what questions and answers you can come up with using the above methodology.  Science is fun.  Have fun with it.

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Reader Question: How far would 291 billion Goodyear Blimps reach end to end?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Brand Beats Competition In Work Environments

                                    Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The brand that each of us brings to the work table is more valuable than competing against coworkers.

We live in a hypercompetitive world today with technology moving us forward near the speed of light. Alright — maybe not at the speed of light, but you understand what I am getting at right? Work seems more competitive with the explosion of the internet along with the information superhighway out in front of us. How does one compete in such a stressful environment?

Each human needs sleep. But that does not necessarily translate into downtime which a colleague can use against you at work. Each of us has a natural pace at which our bodies feel comfortable pursuing daily life. That is not to say that each of us cannot be kicked into high gear to accomplish a project. Let me explain further.

Competition Is Not Branding

Specific work environments thrive on competition. But each of us should not confuse competition with our unique brands. Each of us brings a unique brand to the work environment. That branding is what keeps us employed. You might be wondering at the moment: Doesn’t the employee who completes the project first stay employed?

Not necessarily.

What you bring to the table in terms of uniqueness is what keeps you employed. As an example, take a manager who has ten workers underneath her on a team. In the case, she delegates the entire team of ten workers the same task. She requests that each employee work individually. Nominally, she should get ten copies of projects. At the completion of the project, she should expect to receive ten unique reports.

Therefore, when each of us steps into our hypercompetitive environments, we should remember that each of us brings a unique brand to the work environment. The brand begins at birth. Through your life, your brand develops. I have written about brands in a previous post. No two people can ever have the same brand — impossible.

As a result, don’t stress out at work when given a task. You may not complete a job at the same time as your colleagues. You may not even turn in the same length of a report to your boss as your colleague. Your story (and work) will be unique — with the stamp of your brand on it.

Be Proud Of Your Brand

The concept of a brand is becoming more critical as corporations move toward teamwork environments. In the past, work silos or cubicles were famous. Notice that more workspaces are becoming open environments. Settings where people can share ideas and network more efficiently. Work together on projects by merely being in proximity.

Don’t ever be afraid of elevating your colleague up. Do you need all of the credit for a project? I have found in life that elevating my colleagues up in life has, in turn, brought me more success. I am not bragging — just an observation.

What do I mean by elevating your colleague up?

Instead of trying to undermine or compete against your colleague in a work environment, try to elevate their part in the project. Express to your manager or supervisor how their contribution was constructive. If your teammate did not pull his/her weight, then do not elevate them. But do not bad mouth them either. Their lack of branding on the project will be completely noticeable by a supervisor or manager over time.

While competition is high and causes teams to thrive, recognizing specific brands (i.e., individual strengths) can be extremely powerful. Understanding that each of us brings a unique brand to the table alleviates the stress of competition. Believe in your brand and try to stop competing against your colleagues. Work to make the team stronger and, in turn, the corporation more successful. Everyone will win in the end.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Why Doesn't Plastic Dry in a Dishwashing Machine?

Photo by Ryan Everton on Unsplash

Have you ever opened up the dishwasher machine after a cycle only to see that residual water is on the plastics inside? What was your thought at that exact moment? "Is the dishwasher working properly?" Do not panic; the dishwasher is working. Plastic containers absorb heat at different rates than metals.

Specific Heat Capacity

I will just cut to the chase. The specific heat capacity is responsible for different materials drying in dishwashers in a given time. Plastic has a much different specific heat capacity than does water. What does the difference mean? The rate of thermal energy absorbed by a material depends on the specific heat capacity:

The specific heat capacity is the amount of heat required to raise a gram of material a single degree on the Celsius temperature scale.

The table below shows that materials absorb heat at different rates:

The lower the specific heat capacity of the substance, the less heat is required to change the temperature a single degree Celsius.

In the table above, the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a gram of water (4.186 Joules/gram C) is roughly eight times the amount to change a gram of steel (0.490 Joules/gram C).

How About Plastic?

The plastic container below is a standard container found in a domestic dishwasher.

Plastic, in general, is made up of a high molecular weight polymer. A polymer is a large molecule of repeating units (i.e., molecular units). In the case of Rubbermaid, the small repeating molecular units are shown below:

The molecule above is a repeating unit of polycarbonate. Meaning that the molecule above is a link in a chain. On one side of the molecule is the polycarbonate portion of the chain. The polycarbonate part of the repeating molecular unit is shown below circled:

The dashed ends of the repeating unit with a bracket indicate that the molecule is a link of a more massive chain (of repeating units). Polymers differ in the number of repeating units. The molecular weight of a polymer is dependent on the number of repeating units. The best example of a high molecular weight polymer is a car tire. As a side note, a car tire is an example of a massive polymer - a single polymer chain - a huge chain.

According to the table above with various specific heat capacities, the specific heat of plastic is between the value for steel and water. Water holds heat very well. Whereas, the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a gram of plastic is double the amount needed to raise a gram of steel.

Heat Transfer Inside A Dishwasher

Hot water circulating in dishwasher heats objects (metals, plastics, etc.). Pots and pans absorb heat from the warm flowing water. The water reaches a maximum of 75 Celsius during the cleaning cycle. Hot water circulating removes food from metal containers and plastics.

There is the last rinse cycle, which increases the temperature of the water an additional 7 Celcius to reach a maximum temperature of 82 Celcius (180 F). The last rinse step dries the dishes.

Specific heat accounts for the heat absorbed to raise the temperature. Heating objects depends on absorbing thermal energy inside a dishwasher:

The thermal energy absorbed by heating (energy = Joules) is dependent upon: mass (in grams), specific heat capacity (Joules/gram C), and the Temperature range (Final-Initial).
Heating inside of a dishwasher depends on the three parameters shown above.

Therefore, the reason why plastic does not dry inside of the dishwasher is due to the large specific heat capacity. Certain plastics might dry which are not made of polycarbonate and possess a lower specific heat capacity.

Metal objects have low specific heat capacities. Which means that during a dishwasher cycle, the metal objects will experience a broad temperature range - heat up quickly to a high temperature. Whereas plastics have sizeable specific heat capacities.

Therefore, the temperature range which plastics undergo throughout a dishwasher cycle will be lower, which means that the water will not evaporate off of a piece of plastic which does not heat up to the equivalent temperature of steel or aluminum.

Dishwashers were not initially designed to heat plastics. Early models were calibrated to heat metal objects. Plastic containers placed on the bottom shelf could experience inhomogeneous (i.e., non-uniform) heating, which would result in changing shape. Yes, the plastic would dry, but be deformed.

To attempt to dry plastic containers, place them on the top shelf. Be sure to clean the plastic in the sink (of all food) first before placing the objects in the dishwasher. That way, all the heat absorbed during the rinse cycle can be converted into heat to evaporate water (i.e., dry). That is the best strategy.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Even Monkeys Know When They Receive Unequal Pay

Us humans easily get caught up thinking that we are so sophisticated.   When, in fact, each of us has primal behavior, which resembles our animal ancestors.  What about when our animal species display behavior which resembles human behavior?  In the video below -- an embedded tweet -- shows that even monkeys know when they are receiving unequal pay for the same given task:

Have a great Saturday!

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

FDA Stance On PFAS: Study Findings and Survey Results

Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

Congress currently is stalling/deciding on the fate of the PFAS class of chemicals.  To remind you, the chemical class Per- or Poly Fluoro Alkyl Substances (PFAS) is incorporated into a wide array of products.  Two such applications involve the resistant properties of the chemicals make them useful to include in plastic liners in food products or fire retardant in furniture products.  Over the last few months (to a year), I have reported on the emergence of the issues associated with the class of compounds (here and here).  But what is the government going to do?

Usually, Congress holds hearings during which the federal agencies (FDA, CDC, EPA) are brought in to deal with the regulation side of the chemical compounds.  That is the reason for all of the recent hearings.  To begin with, the Food and Drug Administration agency needed to do initial testing to make a statement.  The FDA has finally released a statement regarding regulations of PFAS class of chemicals:

For Immediate Release:
June 11, 2019
Statement From:
Commissioner of Food and Drugs - Food and Drug Administration
Norman E. "Ned" Sharpless MD
Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response - Food and Drug Administration
Frank Yiannas
At the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, increasing our scientific knowledge and capabilities is a cornerstone to ensuring the safety of the foods that Americans consume. We do this by reviewing all available scientific evidence to determine the safety of foods and food packaging and conducting our own research to fill in gaps in the science. As part of these efforts, the FDA has been working to develop new methods to quantify certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in foods. We have employed these new methods to test samples of foods Americans typically consume for certain types of PFAS, and today we are making available recently analyzed data from these initial testing initiatives.
Overall, our findings did not detect PFAS in the vast majority of the foods tested. In addition, based on the best available current science, the FDA does not have any indication that these substances are a human health concern, in other words a food safety risk in human food, at the levels found in this limited sampling. These data give our scientists a benchmark to use as we continue our critical work studying this emerging area of science.
Background on PFAS
PFAS are a family of human-made chemicals that are found in a wide range of products used by consumers and industry. There are nearly 5,000 types of PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. Many PFAS are impermeable to grease, water and oil. For this reason, beginning in the 1940s, PFAS have been used for many different applications including in stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, paints and fire-fighting foams, as well as in limited, authorized uses in cookware and food packaging and processing, referred to as food contact substances.
The widespread use of PFAS and their ability to remain intact in the environment means that over time PFAS levels from past and current uses can result in increasing levels of contamination of groundwater and soil. This same accumulation also can occur in humans and animals, with PFAS found in the blood of humans and animals worldwide. While the science surrounding the potential health effects of PFAS is developing, current evidence suggests that the bioaccumulation of certain PFAS may cause serious health conditions. However, with the decrease in production and use of certain PFAS, levels in humans in the U.S. have been declining.
PFAS can occur in food through environmental contamination, including contaminated water and soil used to grow the food. This type of contamination can occur in a specific geographic area; for example, a water well or farm near an industrial facility where PFAS were produced, or an oil refinery, airfield, or other location at which PFAS were used for firefighting. PFAS can also come into contact with food as a result of the limited authorized uses as food contact substances.
FDA Testing
Addressing potential effects of Americans’ PFAS exposure is a national priority and effort and work is underway in this area by several government agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are advancing knowledge around environmental exposures and potential health risks from PFAS, and the Agency is working on issues related to PFAS contamination with these and other federal partners, including the Department of Defense. State health partners are also investigating exposure and working to reduce exposure in local communities. The FDA recognizes its important role in generating, applying and evaluating the science that is needed to begin to estimate exposures from food. As we continue this research, we will be better able to detect, evaluate, and respond more quickly to potential contamination issues involving food.
The FDA has tested foods for PFAS coming from specific geographic areas with known environmental contamination. Recent limited surveys were conducted on dairy products from certain farms in New Mexico and produce from North Carolina, both of which were from specific areas with known PFAS contamination. For every sample for which PFAS was detected, a safety assessment was performed by FDA scientists. In the case of one dairy farm in New Mexico, milk samples were determined to be a potential health concern and all milk from the farm was discarded and not distributed into the American food supply, and milk production from those cattle has been suspended. The Agency continues to work closely with our regulatory partners in the New Mexico Department of Agriculture on these issues. In the case of the produce samples from North Carolina, the levels of PFAS detected were low and, based on our safety assessment using the best available science, samples were determined not likely to be a health concern at the levels found through testing.
To conduct these safety assessments, the FDA reviews relevant information, such as the levels of PFAS found in that food, consumption of that food and the most current toxicological information for PFAS, which we use to determine whether the levels of PFAS found in that food may pose a health concern, especially to vulnerable populations.
Over the last year, we have expanded our testing to analyze for PFAS in foods typically eaten by Americans, and not associated with specific contamination areas. The samples analyzed were from foods originally collected as part of the FDA’s Total Diet Study (TDS) in 2017 and analyzed in 2019. This is the first time the FDA has tested for PFAS in such a highly diverse sample of foods. While no PFAS compounds were detected in the majority of the foods sampled, varying levels of PFAS were found in 14 samples out of 91, but our safety assessment determined the products were not likely to be health concern at the levels that were detected. We plan to continue this testing and currently have new TDS samples in the lab for analysis. Combined with our other sampling, the testing will help us calculate the risks of exposure through food.
Next Steps
Our findings on dairy, produce, and the samples from the TDS were recently presented by FDA scientists at this year’s annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) in Helsinki, Finland. The purpose of this scientific presentation was to share, with the scientific community, the new methodologies being advanced by the FDA for measuring concentrations of these substances across a wide variety of foods, and the early findings generated from the application of these methods. The FDA has published information on PFAS testing in other foods in the past, but FDA scientists also shared information on its recent limited PFAS testing.
Since PFAS contamination is not specific to the U.S., sharing the FDA’s knowledge and analytical advances with scientists from across the world working on this issue is an important part of our work to begin to address this problem globally. Overall, the FDA’s testing to date has shown that very few foods contain detectable levels of PFAS. However, we know that levels may not be uniform and there is more work to be done. To ensure we are taking the best approach to this complex issue, we have established an internal agency PFAS workgroup with representatives from the human and animal foods programs. A key objective of this workgroup is to establish base-line levels for PFAS in foods, which requires data from these initial and future surveys, and will be used to then estimate overall PFAS exposure. The workgroup will use a systematic, risk-based approach to identify and prioritize FDA activities to reduce exposure to PFAS in human and animal food, guided by available data.
Measuring PFAS concentrations in food, estimating dietary exposure and determining the associated health effects is an emerging area of science. Although the FDA’s scientists are at the forefront of developing new and more sensitive testing methods to measure PFAS in foods, this work does not occur in isolation. We’re also working closely with our federal and state partners to advance the science of PFAS detection and better understand the potential health risks associated with PFAS exposure.
As the FDA continues to evaluate the food supply, we are committed to using the advanced analytical capabilities of FDA labs to generate and share new scientific information, such as our testing methodologies. By working closely with our state partners and helping them to develop their own testing capacities, we can work together to increase the baseline knowledge of PFAS occurrence in foods. We will also continue to support response to local requests about known or possible contamination events.
Federal and state partners each have important roles to play to better understand PFAS exposures and potential health effects, and the FDA will continue to work with these partners to help inform appropriate next steps to protect and promote public health. As part of an era of smarter food safety, the FDA is committed to testing more foods, collaborating with other federal agencies, helping states develop their own testing capacities, and continuing to support responses to contamination events. It is critical that we continue to share our knowledge and leverage existing and new resources as local, state and federal agencies work together to study this emerging public health issue.
We remain committed to sharing further updates as our ongoing surveillance work into PFAS exposure in foods continues.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

The initial findings indicate that no dangerous detectable levels were found in foods.  Except for milk in New Mexico.  FDA regulators reached out immediately and stopped milk sales/distribution.  For the broader class of PFAS chemicals, the danger has been reduced for the moment.  Testing in foods (which are different from liquids) presents different challenges. 

Namely, matrix effects.  The presence of spectator chemicals (not being analyzed) could interfere with measurements of chemicals of interest. Currently, the Cannabis industry is plagued with matrix effects which distorts method development at each stage.  Which is why the FDA states above that method development are emerging for such tests.

Regardless, I will update you on the progress of the testing along with the regulations which emerge as a result of the current hearings.  Stay tuned!

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Seth Godin On Writing: Overwriting

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

There are very few masters at efficiently placing words on pages to make sense.  In fact, Scientists are great offenders of using too many words to convey ideas.  Seth Godin, author, and businessman has stated the problem clearly and concisely below regarding writing for those who struggle like me:

Decorating a car with bling, mudflaps and an airhorn is a form of signalling. You can show your peers that you have the resources to waste on superfluous adornments.
(Did you see what I just did there? I could have said, “You can show your friends that you have money to burn,” but I didn’t.)
Overwriting has a long tradition, particularly among academics. Make it a bit more complex and wordy than it needs to be. Write run-on sentences. Apparently, complicated writing must be more true.
One reason for this commitment to overwriting is that it keeps the hordes away. It’s difficult to read and hard to imagine writing. And so scarcity is created.
And yet, the articles and books that stand the test of time are straightforward. They’re memorable. They can be understood by the reader you seek to serve.
Simply write.
Write simply.
As few words as you need, but no fewer.
But simply write.

We can all use some advice on writing.  The process is a continual process of learning how to not drag on and use up all of our reader's attention.  Which could result in not revisiting your work to read further?  Learning to be concise is an art, a personal goal of mine. Have a great day.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

FDA should finalize Sodium Reduction Targets, Although Lobbyists Hit Congress Hard in Opposition

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

 Too much sodium in the diets of Americans is unhealthy. According to the American Heart Association (AMA), the average American eats more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. The recommended amount by the American Heart Association is less than 1,500 milligrams per day.

To make matters worse, when asked about the amount of sodium in their daily diet, respondents in one study could not estimate the exact (or approximate) number of milligrams of salt in their food each day. Further, the respondents thought that they were eating less than 2,000 milligrams per day.

In light of this revelation, the amount of sodium in Americans daily diets should not be solely in the hands of the consumers. What about the manufacturers of food? Why are these corporations not held accountable for elevated amounts of salt in their products? Congress has directed the Food and Drug Administration to address the issue of sodium reduction targets in foods sold in the United States. What is the status you may ask? 

Reporting from 'Politico Agriculture' suggests that there is a battle in Congress with lobbyists on one side and Sustainable Food Policy Alliance on the other regarding Sodium reduction targets in food:

Make way for sodium reduction? Health advocates and the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance have asked appropriators to make sure there's no language in the approps bill that could block FDA from advancing long-awaited sodium reduction targets (past bills have pumped the brakes). They also want funding to support sodium cuts in school meals, among other things.
The FDA has said it's preparing to release sodium reduction targets in the coming months, but the effort has sparked late-game lobbying from industry groups. The agency is now expected to finalize only short-term reduction targets, but the final details are unknown.

How much sodium will be in our daily diet? Will the FDA clamp down and ultimately set a lower amount of sodium in each product? Or will the Agency give in to the lobbyists who hit Congress hard and let the status quo exist without change?

Placing the daily sodium intake in the consumer's hand is difficult. Why? Sodium finds its way into foods by different ingredients. Below are different ingredients (chemicals - molecular structures) which contain sodium:

You may recognize the different molecules above as common ingredients in different favorite foods. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is the molecule responsible for enhancing the flavor of food - which tricks the body into eating more. Food packages sold in stores do not list all ingredient concentrations. Which makes determining the total amount of sodium in the daily diet difficult.

Although, armed with the list of sodium containing chemicals which are common in foods gives the consumers a fighting chance to curtail their consumption. Congress needs to act on the Food and Drug Administration to reach sodium reduction targets soon. Until Congress pushes the FDA to reach a goal, consumers should be vigilant about the amount of sodium incorporated into their diet. Stay tuned!

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