5 Post-Truth ‘Life-Hacks’

[And a real solution to the problem…]

It’s official, the international Word of the Year is: ‘post-truth’.

Arguably grimmer than last year’s ‘smiling with tears of joy’ emoji, ‘post-truth’ nonetheless neatly summarises a year in which thousands have been willingly misled by lies in the media, represented as fact.


Although most commentators have jumped on the recent election race in America for context for this particular (Britain’s exit from the EU was another good example of ‘post-truths’ skewing public opinion), this kind of things has been going on for much longer on the internet. 

This week, we’re going to be debunking some less harmful forms of ‘post-truths’. Life-hacks, in the form of memes, have been proliferate for the past 10 years. They are the 21st century ‘urban myth’;  baseless classroom rumours which serve little purpose, other than to waste the user’s time.

Here are 4 Post-Truth ‘Life-Hacks’ along with a better solution to the problem:

Use a Dishwasher Tablet To Clean Your Oven

A contributor known as ‘Wittery Twittery’ reported this hack on Mumsnet in September this year:


Although she denies coming up with the idea herself, commentators were quick to assert that this did not work. Cleaning your oven is something that should be done at least once a year. High temperatures and food with high-contents of fat will often cause a thick crust of grease to form all over the sides, requiring some serious elbow grease or some caustic cleaning chemicals to cut through.

In case your curious as to whether this will work – stop. Wetting a dishwasher tablet will lead to tablet breaking up in your hand. Attempting to scrub a dirty oven with a dishwasher tablet will result in the aforementioned tablet crumbling into nothing as it’s too small to grip and has zero-structural integrity.

You may feel like attempting a cheap, quick solution is the best option – but it’s not. Just call an oven cleaning professional, they can come out once a year – charge a small fee – and get the job done better than you ever could have hoped to.

Urinate on jellyfish stings to reduce the pain

Other than this being kind of disgusting (where exactly are you meant to be doing this, anyway, just on the beach?), it will also not work.

The cells that cause pain from jellyfish stings, called nematocysts, are more likely to release more poison if you and you’ll also smell of urine. Swimming in the seas around Australia, South East Asia and Americas comes with the problems of rising jelly fish populations. They can vary greatly in the amount of physical pain they cause (certain species can even kill), but this much used wives’ tale will not help you.

The current consensus is currently being shared in a variety of graphics (see below) – the most important tip to remember is to avoid touching the stings with your hands – this will just lead to your hands being stung as well.


Take a used loo roll and make a cheap iPhone speaker

Nope. This is perhaps one of the dumbest ideas, perpetuated by many sources and emulated by eager beavers looking to ‘bring the party’ to their next camping trip.


Modern smart phones are designed to project music as best as they can – people are paid very well to get the job done as best as they can – to think that something as simple as a cut up loo roll will improve on their work, is foolish. And before you consider trying any different configurations, just don’t. Most smartphones project music through their bottom – planting them in a loo roll will only serve to block the sound waves from reaching your ears easier.

If you’d like to amplify your music, just buy a good speaker.

Wooden Spoon Boiling Over

There is some grounding for this much shared meme:


Essentially, the science is sound. The idea is that the bubbles of hot water, being made of hot water, will burst on impact with a colder surface (such as the wooden spoon).

This hack will work to a certain extent – if you simmer your water instead of boiling hard, the spoon will do it’s job. Turn the heat up, however, and you’ll soon find your wooden spoon being hopelessly ineffective – simply because the spoon will eventually rise to the same heat as the water.

This hack was created to stop pasta water, especially, from boiling over and covering the hob surface in starchy water. A great way to avoid this is simply simmering your pasta, instead of boiling it like an idiot.

As the amended adage goes: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Biology News Round-up 21/11/16

This month Jason takes control of the News Round-up – reporting on all the plant-based revelations that have been occurring in the last week or so, including: Helpful lichen pointing to climate change, Marijuana breaking hearts and how a bag of salad could make you very ill…

Genetic Modification Successfully Boosts Photosynthesis

You may have thought that improving the efficiency of the photosynthesis process in plants would be the first thing on any scientist’s agenda, however, this groundbreaking step forward in plant production has only just been made by a research team at the University of Illinois. Targeting the tobacco plant’s light sheltering process, called nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ), Dr. Stephen Long and his team successfully recorded a 20% increase in yield – quite the feat!

Graphic by Julie McMahon

Graphic by Julie McMahon

Although the American team is yet to test this process on a food stuff, such as corn, it’s already been suggested that the knowledge learned here could be applied to the problem of world hunger (an issue which is predicted to worsen within the next 30 years). On the back of this success, Long and his team have now been offered funding from the Gates Foundation – allowing them to begin work on major staple foods such as soy beans, rice and cassava.

Sensitive Lichens Are Blowing Whistle On Climate Change

ScienceNews, this week, have a wonderful article well worth reading on how ecologists are studying the biological states of various species of lichens, around forests in Portland. There are hundreds of species of lichens stuck to the trees, rocks and undergrowth of the Forests in the US; biologists around the country are just starting to notice the correlation between their health and the air-quality of the environment they live in.


Photo from http://www.kindofcurious.com/

Linda Geiser makes regular trips into the Forests of Portland. As manager of the Forestry Service’s air-quality program, she records the state of particular species of lichen that are known to visibly show signs of deterioration when introduced to pollution. It’s hoped that by continually studying and recording the state of these parks, the Forestry Service will be able to build up a history of the air-quality in their 193 million acres.

Smoking Marijuana Could Break Your Heart

Although cannabis has recently seen wide-spread decriminalisation in many American States, such as Massachusetts and Washington, there is still a lot we’re yet to learn about the long term effects of smoking it. In a recent study, conducted in part by scientists from St. Luke’s University in Pennsylvania, it was found that cases of stress cardiomyopathy (or ‘broken heart syndrome’ as it’s otherwise known) were much higher in cannabis users, compared to those that choose not to partake.


Presenting his findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, Dr Sing stressed that if you are a regular marijuana smoker and are developing symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, then you should visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Salmonella enterica Loves Pre-Cut Salad

The University of Leicester has discovered that ‘small amounts of damage’ to salad leaves, such as you would find in a pre-cut bag of salad at a supermarket, offer ideal conditions for the growth of salmonella enterica. Exposure to this microbe can cause severe food poisoning to the unlucky victim – lumping them with 12-72 hours worth of vomiting and diarrhoea.


Research published in November’s edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology has shown that liquid, trapped with salad leaves in plastic bags, is an ideal home for microbes to multiply – with Salmonella bacteria multiplying from 100 to 100,000 in the space of five-days (the usual refrigeration time for salad products).

Maybe just buy and cut your own salad from now on?