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    Coming Soon: Scientifically Modified Potato Chips
    By Hank Campbell | September 6th 2012 08:53 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    If you, like me, are possessed with that gene that makes people eat the whole bag of chips (don't laugh - somewhere in that 100,000 words of ENCODE public relations blitzing, I saw it), there is good news; not all of science is busy curing cancer and solving the big mysteries of the universe.

    Earlier this year, researchers discovered that a lot of the salt, and therefore the flavor, of chips isn't released until about 20 seconds after insertion into the mouth.  Now, if you are still eating a potato chip 20 seconds after you put it in your mouth, and you are not in a laboratory test, there is something really wrong with you.  Somewhere, a social psychologist is taking surveys that will show you are a serial killer.  Or a Republican. Whatever is worse to the social sciences. 

    Luckily for pro-science people, a group has set out to create a potato chip that does not need 20 seconds to get 'er done. As the saying goes, while an optimist sees that glass as half full and a pessimist sees it as half empty, an engineer says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

    And so it may be that potato chips don't need all that salt if the sweet spot for salt is after 20 seconds. Ian Fisk and Tian Xing from the University of Nottingham used flame photometry to find the peak salivary salt level in the human tongue and chip relationship. Now they want to modify chips and accelerate the burst of salt for the tongue from 20 seconds to normal chewing and swallowing time - in my case, a millisecond, especially if I am watching D.O.A. or some other bit of highbrow cinema (1). That could be healthier, especially for people who are still trapped in 1987 and think that salt and eggs cause heart attacks.

    Now, for the food concerned people out there, organic soap buyers and other savvy consumers, I understand your worries about science optimization of potato chips.  Man does nothing but make food worse any time we try to improve it, as bananas and seedless watermelons have shown us.  There can be untold consequences to mucking around with nature's salt release plan for thin, crispy snacks, and who knows what life-threatening proteins might be expressed in our bodies when dopey mad scientists mess with the salt embedded in the surface oil of chips.

    Fear not. Science is 40% sure they won't create an abomination of nature. We should be fine.

    Greedy multinational corporations have already begun negotiations to foist off these experimental chips on third world children in order to develop effective salt reduction strategies and solve technical problems to insure that the 1% who can afford to shop in Whole Foods have a safe product.

    Citation:Xing Tian and Ian D. Fisk, 'Salt release from potato crisps', Food Funct., 2012,3, 376-380 DOI: 10.1039/C2FO10282J

    NOTES:

    (1)