Friday, December 30, 2011

Poison in Baby Shampoo Update

Did you know I use Johnson Baby Shampoo?  I use it to avoid an allergy that I have to some preservatives used in shampoos. I often get rashes from the cheap hotel shampoo.

I was really surprised when I learned that Johnson's Baby Shampoo has two strikes against it for health and safety.

One is that it is using Quaternium-15 a preservative that emits formaldehyde as it degrades, and the second is that it contains less than 4 ppm of dioxane. It should be pointed out that dioxane, a carcinogen, is not dioxin. Dioxin is the short name given to chloronated dibenzodioxins which are very toxic, but not very similar to dioxane, but it sounds similar.

Dioxane; found
in shampoos

Dioxane is an unintended biproduct of ethoxylation processes; these are used to make milder detergents. To make a gentle baby shampoo, sometimes this is needed.

Quaternium 15, is a complicated amine that many people are allergic too. It degrades into formaldehyde, because it was made from formaldehyde and simpler amines.

Susan Nettesheim from J&J says that there are only tiny amounts of formaldehyde and dioxane in the product, and that they will try to get rid of the problematic preservatives. I know that in polymers the industry has been switching away from these preservatives for years, and that J&J is behind the curve, although the replacements might be too irritating for a baby shampoo. J&J promised advocacy groups to do this.

In the meantime, I am going to continue using the Johnson's product, though I am worried about Quaternium-15.  I have no way of finding out which products have it, and which don't.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How Organic is Organic?

A central entertainment at Holiday dinners at our family is an argument about what food is healthy, and what isn't healthy.

This year so-called "organic" food was in focus, pushing aside vegetarianism, hi-carb and lo-carb.

There are two ideas: that the "organic animals" are better treated, and that organic food is healthier.

Being a chemist is completely natural to me to divorce the question of animal treatment from the additives used to make the agricultural product. Organic advocates are always saying that organic animals are treated better by their "loving owners" as opposed to "evil corporate wage-slaves" raising other animals. I was surprised to learn there are animal husbandry standards in the FDA organic regulations. I still don't think that organic farmers love animals more than other farms. For example, egg farmers have standards on how to treat chickens in their large cage-based  chicken farms. Here is something similar for dairy cattle from a farmers group.

I downloaded the approved additives in organic foods lists from the FDA. This puts forth when synthetic materials can be used in "organic" foods, and still be organic. There are actually two lists, one of synthetic materials that are OK, and another of bio-derived materials that are not OK.

One surprise is the amount of antibiotics that "organic" beef can receive, for example Atropine -- which is a weak toxin and dilates the eyes.

Another is a list of synthetic or non-organic biomaterials that can be used in organic foods, for example, like hops or pumpkin juice for color.

The bottom line is that "organic" does not mean what most consumers think it means. Food is actually a more technical and more complex product than anyone cares to know. Having said that, organic food is not any less healthy than standard foods, although it is less healthy for the wallet.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Novel in Six Word Shopping List

I found this shopping list in my shopping basket at Wal-Mart this morning, which is Christmas Eve morning.  It is a whole novel in six words. Who wrote the shopping list, and what is her story?  Just three items, probably in a woman's handwriting:

Egg Nog
Shoes (Dad) 

p test 

Egg Nog -- sounds like a Christmas Party. Or is it a treat just a treat for herself? Hard to think you'd make a special trip to the store for Egg Nog to drink alone.

Are the shoes a gift for Dad? Probably, looks like she only has one more gift to buy. Dad is going to get his new shoes from Wal-Mart. I have looked at the shoes at Wal-Mart, and they are not fashion-forward, but they are practical and cheap. On the other hand, maybe Dad is sick and can't buy shoes for himself for some reason. 

I think she going to give the shoes to Dad at the Christmas Party.

Most interesting is "p test," which has to be a pregnancy test.  There are other things a "p test," could be, but only a pregnancy test is available at Wal-Mart.

How old is she? I'm guessing she was shopping by herself, and so she is old enough to drive. Is she 16 and hoping to be not be pregnant? Is she wondering what she is going to tell Dad at the Christmas Party? Maybe she is she 38, and wishing to be pregnant instead.

Maybe she is a little ashamed, and that is why she wrote "p test," instead of "pregnancy test." The list is torn out of a spiral notebook, and usually students have those, so most likely she is younger than 23. 

Is she poor?  Not too poor, she has enough money to buy shoes and Egg Nog. If she were wealthy though, she'd be buying Dad's shoes at Macy's instead of Wal-Mart.  

Looks to me like a young woman with a little money, not too much, who might be pregnant, and is going to bring Egg Nog to a party. Maybe she even lives with her parents. 

I wonder a million other things: Is she really pregnant? Is she happy about it? Who is the guy? Does she live with her parents? Is she still in high school? What do her friends think? Oh, and what shoes did she buy, and did Dad like them? Is her boyfriend going to be at the Christmas party? 

Whoever she is, she lives within a few miles of me, and I'll never know her story. 

Good Luck to her this Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What Countries Work the Hardest?

Where do people work the longest? The Organization for Economic Development calculated it all out.

The most surprising thing is that nearly broke nations like Greece work far more than thrifty nations like Netherlands and German.

Not surprising is that France has a short workweek, but suprisingly it is far shorter than places like Mexico or Italy.

It seems that high wage rates enable people to work less. This is data from 2008, so it is from before the recession. No doubt that the work week is shorter now.

It seems to be more important to work smart than to work hard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BASF is Number Five on the Happy Employee List

I was surprised and pleased that BASF has popped to top of the happiest employee list from CareerBliss. CareerBliss is a website that rates employers like Yelp rates restaurants; it also has consulting operations.

This rating should help recruiting at BASF because BASF does not have a lot of visibility. 

CareerBliss interviews employees to obtain its ratings.  How are the winners selected? According to the company: "CareerBliss data evaluates the key factors which affect work happiness, including: work-life balance, one’s relationship with their boss and co-workers, their work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, their daily tasks, and job control over the work that they do on a daily basis."

The 2011 Top Ten.                                       .

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Who Do Americans Like? Me! or Maybe You? Jesus!!

Maybe the political process is broken, and partisans all hate the other side. Who is the person that everyone likes?  Happily, everyone likes someone -- themselves.

A polling company called Public Policy Polling did the study, and found that nearly everyone likes Abraham Lincoln and Jesus -- besides themselves.  I adjusted their numbers so that only people who have an opinion are registered. For example, people who don't know who Mahatma Gandhi are not counted in the Mahatma Gandhi total.

Caravaggio's Narcissus
But people like themselves most. It is too easy to quip that Americans are narcissistic, since I suspect 99% of the world's population think highly of themselves. There are a lot of people who hate themselves too. That would be another interesting poll. 

Everyone on the list, except for yourself, is dead -- although Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela have not been dead that long. 

Why don't we like anyone alive? Some of the answer is the rapid communication we have. Spreading information around makes us think that no one is better than anyone else.  There is always someone to knock down everyone else -- look at the way the Republican presidential candidates keep knocking each other off.  People learn quickly that their hero is just a human like them. 

Superbowl quarterback Aaron Roger does pretty well, at least in Wisconsin with 89%. 

Another interesting statistic is that Santa only has an 84% favorable rating. I will assert that Santa is not a historical person  -- sorry kids. The 21st Century Santa is more complicated than my Holiday English Toffee Recipe. He is a concoction of myth, religion, a poem, a song, and a Coca-Cola ad. He is as real as Ronald McDonald.  How real is Ronald McDonald? 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How Do 3D Movies Work

Barco's DP-2000 Cinema Projector
which can show Real D
I just saw Hugo, which is the best 3D movie since Avatar.

Everyone can see that the Real D system uses polarized glasses, but if you look back at the projector, there is only one lens showing only one image on the screen. (Review what polarized light means here.)

How are they putting two different images on the screen at the same time with just one set of optics? The answer is that the images are switching back and forth at 144 times/sec. So the images are flickering faster than your eye can see it. Movie frames change just 24 times a second, so in a 3D projector each frame is shown three times to each eye.

Another part of the secret is the screen; the screen must not change the polarization of the light. One way to do this is to coat the screen with silver -- like in the old days of Hollywood, the silver screen is coming back! If you used a glass coated screen, the polarization might shift, and blur the effect. There are cheaper alternatives like aluminium coatings and pearlescent coatings.

Real D's web site studiously avoids any discussion of their technology or the specs of their equipment. This is because Real D just licenses technology, the projectors are made by other companies like Sony and Kodak. There are some Real D patents, and they relate to the technology for switching polarizations.

Critics, most notably my DW, say that 3D movies are darker.  3D movies are darker due to the absorption of the filters. A projector system designed for 3D would simply use a larger lamp to attain the target brightness that the theater owner wants.  If a theater owner is upgrading a theater for the premiere of a new 3D movie, s/he will buy a machine that will provide the best experience he can afford. As always you get what you pay for.

It might pay to shop around for a better theater if you find 3D movies too dark.