Curiosities: What are soaps made from?

May 9, 2018

By Eddy Montilla.

Since soap has a history of more than 5000 years, we might think that ingredients have changed through the years when in fact, the main ingredients remain intact. What has changed is the source from which we get them and the addition of new ingredients that we use today for color and scent, for example. In ancient times, primary ingredients were ashes and animal fat or vegetable oils. During the eight century, Spain and Italy (countries that probably were in the vanguard in Europe as regards soaps at that time) used goat fat and beech tree ashes while France, some time later, replaced animal fat with olive oil. That was the beginning of what could be called soap in more exact terms or modern soap, a resemblance to the soap we use today.

Soaps are basically a mix of fat (animal or vegetable), water and sodium hydroxide (lye). These days, soaps that are made from fats that come from coconut oil, palm oil, tallow (beef fat), or lard (pork fat) and they are more resistant to dissolution in water than those from oils like olive oil, soybean oil, or canola oil. Glycerine and sorbitol (a cheaper alternative to glycerine) are also used as ingredients (as emollient) for soaps.

As for the way soaps are made, the basic idea is the result of a process called saponification, a chemical reaction for the presence of fat or oil, alkali and water, which produces soap. This process begins when oils and fats are melted first and sodium hydroxide (lye) is carefully mixed into water, giving the mix some time to cool. After that, the mix of sodium hydroxide and water is poured into the container with oils and all is blended. This is the moment when we can opt to add scents, colorants, etc. The process of saponification will take between 24 and 48 hours to come to an end. However, the cure time for handcrafted soaps, that is, the time when water is dissolved from the soap in order to make a hard and long-lasting soap is between four and six weeks.

Copyright 2018 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.

Photo: By courtesy of Bradley Stemke under the criteria of Creative Commons (Flickr, 5-9-2018).

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Curiosities: What do the rings on the Olympic flag mean?

May 8, 2018

By Eddy Montilla.

Rather than in sports, today’s Olympic Games had their roots in a religious festival dedicated to Zeus, the King of the Greek gods of Mount Olympus, turning later into the Ancient Olympic Games held in Olympia, Greece, whose first edition was in 776 BC. After hundreds of years without these Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin (Frenchman) founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894 and created the conditions for the resurgence of the Olympic Games in their modern stage two years later, that is, 1896.

The Olympic rings that we see on the Olympic flags are five rings with the same diameter and established order in color: blue, yellow, black, green and red. It was based on a design from the founder of the International Olympic Committee and it represents the five continents and their athletes coming from all around the world every four years to participate in this magnificent event.

Copyright 2018 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


Curiosities: Why do we have fingerprints on the fingers?

April 20, 2018

By Eddy Montilla.

As you know, fingerprints are cutaneous ridges on our fingers that are not altered through the years and are unique to each person. Based on those characteristics, we can joke about it by saying that this is the smart way that human nature has to catch thieves since they can be used as a means of identification. Argentina was, by the way, the first country where fingerprints were used for that purpose. In all seriousness, though, the reasons for the fingerprints are different.

Thanks to the fingerprints we can develop our sense of touch. In simple terms, our sense of touch is enhanced by the increase of vibrations. The ridges on the finger play an important role on that aspect since the vibration levels increase when you rub your fingers on a surface, which will help you to identify better textures. Another possible reason (rather controversial and not accepted by all people) is that fingerprints help us improve our ability to grip things.

Copyright 2018 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


Curiosities: How many times per minute does a hummingbird’s heart beat?

April 19, 2018

By Eddy Montilla.

While a normal heart rate for an adult person (18 years old and older) ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, a hummingbird’s heart can beat as fast as 1,260 beats per minute. After reading this, the best thing that you can do to try to win the love of the girl you like is telling her that whenever you see her, your heart beats faster than a hummingbird’s heart. Good luck!

Copyright 2018 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.

Photo: By courtesy of Gailhumpshire under the criteria of Creative Commons (Flickr, 4-19-2018).


Curiosities: How do fireworks get their different colors?

April 18, 2018

By Eddy Montilla.

FIREWORKS

At the end of the year, it is customary to see the sky full of brightly coloured fireworks to the delight of adults and young people. But how do they get those colors? With gunpowder only, it would be impossible to get the blue, red, green and other colors we frequently see when the fireworks explode. This problem is solved thanks to the presence of metals and chemical elements. To be more specific, metal salts, which are chemical compounds produced as a result of submerging a metal in a mixture of acid and potash. For example, strontium carbonate powder is used as a red flame coloring agent in fireworks, barium chloride is the responsible for the sparkling green bursts, sodium nitrate produces the yellow flames, etc.

Copyright 2018 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


Curiosities: How do mosquitoes make the annoying whining sound in your ear and why?

April 17, 2018

By Eddy Montilla.

It´s the typical story in summer: You are extremely exhausted, falling asleep on your feet, and your body only asks you one thing: a bed. Everything is ready to go to sleep, you turn off the lights and when you say good night with a broad smile, a mosquito responds to it with a whine. Then, you turn on the lights to kill it and cannot find it. The same situation is repeated several times to a point that you do not feel sleepy any more. Under this nightmare scenario, the least we can do is to know how and why mosquitoes do that. The sound you hear when a mosquito is near your ear is the result of quick movements of its wings. How quick? Well, mosquitoes can flap their wings at a rate of 500 times per second or more.

As for the second question, these insects don’t do that to bother you, but in reality, is a cry for love. The sound of the female mosquito is lower, and therefore, different from the male one, which helps make distinctions among them, so that they can know exactly where to go for mating. There are, however, other ideas related to the amount of carbon dioxide that we breathe out, our body temperature and humidity, factors that turn into indicators for mosquitoes to know who is going to donate blood for them without any help from Red Cross. When they are adults, mosquitoes can live from days (or seconds if you have quick hands!) to several months. Then, find a way to get rid of those impertinent mosquitoes in your room and have a good night!

Copyright 2018 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.

Photo: By courtesy of Inf-Lite Teacher under the criteria of Creative Commons (Flickr, 4-17-2018).


Curiosities: Why do we have a brief headache and feel pain in the forehead when we eat cold things?

April 15, 2018

By Eddy Montilla.

Our mouth is very sensitive to cold and hot things (not to mention its sensitivity to words!), something that can be clearly seen in the fact that it is one of the places where temperature can be measured in a precise way. The sharp pain that people feel after eating ice cream quickly, for example, or gulping cold food or drink down has its origin in the mouth, to be more accurate, when the cold food or drink reaches the palate, that is, the top part of the inside of the mouth. But how?

Eating too quickly cold foods alters suddenly the temperature in the area of the juncture of two arteries: The artery that supplies blood to your brain (the internal carotid artery) and the anterior cerebral artery. The contraction and dilatation of those arteries because of the cold are the responsible for the sensation of throbbing pain in your head, commonly known as brain freeze, ice-cream headache or, in scientific terms, sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Finally, this pain is momentary (from seconds to a couple of minutes), but really intense. Eating cold things slowly is probably the best way to avoid it. If it was too late for that and you are in the middle of the battle already, some doctors suggest drinking some warm water slowly.

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