Monday, April 20, 2009

April Fools

How many of you were actually fooled on April 1st? What is the nature of the prank? April Fools is a day whereby pranks and jokes are played on the gullible to varying degrees. Elaborate and well-known pranks include BBC's spaghetti trees documentary in 1957, the changing of Big Ben to analogue, BMW yearly pranks etc.

This sounds odd for a topic on a biotechnology website, but then I would like to focus on a prank I pulled on that particular day on many people in an online forum I regularly haunt. Behind the frivolity of the prank, there is a more serious underlying issue at stake whereby it would be important for us as thinking human beings to look at. Look at the following:

Dihydrogen monoxide:
* is called "hydroxyl acid", the substance is the major component of acid rain.
* contributes to the "greenhouse effect".
* may cause severe burns.
* contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
* accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
* may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
* has been found in excised tumor

Yes, I pulled a fast one with dihydrogen monoxide, aka water. It was very amusing to look at how people who actually supported a blanket ban on the substance without further research in the first place. Similarly, the wording that was shown above, being used in the online poll I set up, was sufficiently alarmist but yet not untrue about water. Looking at the statements, from your knowledge about water, how can one say the above as being untrue? However, despite so, it would also be ludicrous to suppose that water is a dangerous substance that needs to be banned, on the contrary to what is being assumed, water is a life-giving substance which is important to every living being.

It is important to note that there are organisations out there who are thriving on such inherent alarmist tactics to create fear and generate revenue in turn. These are organisation breeding on the inherent good intentions of people who yet are gullible and able to believe things without further verification. Especially with current media trends, where people are being bombarded by information which may or may not be biased, it would be very hard to verify on a first glance. If was an organisation, with the level of support for the bans, I would think that the human race would have to move to a desert planet.

The prank which was perpetrated by Eric Lechner, Lars Norpchen and Matthew Kaufman of UC Santa Cruz in 1989 signifying a greater issue at stake, where science facts are being overlooked and replaced by alarmist accounts which are probably true but worded in a way to give a false negative. As such as the above box. Referring to the Wikipedia article on the subject, the hoax is still alive and well, with people from all walks of life, including MPs being duped.

My contention is this. Google! Anyone with a computer can Google up DHMO or dihydrogen monoxide and find out it was a prank. But how many actually did take the effort to verify that the cause was worthy? How many actually would take the time to check whether petitions are for a worthy cause, instead of something frivolous, or worse, simply pure alarmist? All I am trying to convey right now is the importance of verification and understanding both sides of the debates, and that information being provided for consideration on issues should be factual and science-based. Probably only then will the DHMO issue be able to lay to rest, and my cup of water is not being threatened by organisations with vested interests.

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