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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dihydrogen Monoxide

     The following meme was recently posted on Facebook by someone who gets their information from alternative news sources.

     This particular meme appeared on a Facebook site called Dysfunctional Veterans which describes itself as “a brotherhood and sisterhood of veterans rooted in sarcasms and the things that remind us we are not alone. We strive to entertain those who served, to offend those who never did. We know there is no better sense of warped humor than that of a veteran. We endeavor to bring quality information that is easily misconstrued and offensive to the civilian populace.” 
     Sarcasm, warped humor, misconstrued and offensive, but not necessarily true should be a warning, but some gullible folks, well...they never read the fine print and so they believe whatever is posted.   

     There is actually a site that lists the evils of Dihydrogen Monoxide and a Facebook site, Dihydrogen Monoxide Awareness. DHMO is part of a hoax, meant to show the public’s misunderstanding, ignorance or mistrust of science. The hoax involves taking a relatively innocuous chemical (in this case water), giving it a scary name, listing a lot of facts that sound bad but are actually irrelevant and then watching as people get angry or scared. 
     For example, the DHMO site says it is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, that has been shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. 
     The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol. DMHO can corrode and rust metal and if consumed it can cause bloating and excessive urination and sweating. 
     Thousands of people in the US die from its accidental ingestion every year. If you are dependent on it, going through withdrawal can kill you. It’s found in significant quantities in acid rain, tumors, and more. 
     The site also quotes Nathan Zohner, referred to as a award-winning US scientist who concluded that roughly 86 percent of the population supports a ban on dihydrogen monoxide. 
     Nathan Zohner was, in the spring of 1997, a 14-year-old junior high school from Idaho and his science fair project made a convincing argument to ban dihydrogen monoxide, known as DHMO. He won the grand prize at the regional science fair that year, hence the “award-winning” moniker. 
     Zohner wasn't the first to to come up with the idea though. A Michigan paper ran a piece decrying the harms of DHMO as an April Fool’s Day joke in 1983. In Zohner’s experiment, the point was to highlight how easily people could be taken in by misleading, fear-mongering “scientific information.”

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