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A Riddle of Positive Ion Proportions
January 15, 2013 2:54 AM   Subscribe

What do cell culture, cooking beans, and soft water all have in common? You just gotta get rid of those pesky calcium and magnesium ions. To transfer cells to a new container, use EDTA to CHELATE IT OUT! To soften those bean skins and prevent the beans from exploding, use salt to ION EXCHANGE IT OUT! To keep your shampoo properly beautifying those tresses, DOUBLE-WHAMMY IT OUT!
posted by sunnichka (9 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
In all seriousness, I'm currently in a program learning techniques to culture stem cells. I've been reading a lot about kitchen science lately and as I was learning about ion exchange in the context of brining beans, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the exact concept that had been stressed all last semester in my cell culture class. In both cases, calcium and magnesium are integral parts of the cell structure. To get your cells to unstick from each other and the flask, you have to remove those ions. And to get nicely cooked beans, you need to disrupt the same sort of structures in the bean cell walls. I'm not so sure on the science of these ions attaching to the surface of hair follicles, but I imagine there might be something similar going on there, too.

It wasn't too hard to get an A in my freshman chemistry class way back when, but I've discovered that actually remembering and applying that knowledge to the everyday events in my environment is much more difficult. I'm not used to thinking about these things scientifically--or thinking about them at all. It's beautiful when it all starts to come together.
posted by sunnichka at 3:52 AM on January 15, 2013


Is it correct to assume that this entire FPP should be read in Billy Mays' voice?
posted by ShutterBun at 4:52 AM on January 15, 2013


Hard water is a nightmare. I am convinced that the legendary "cleanliness" of the Germanic peoples are mainly about coping with hard water. Mere water leaves things a mess. You either wipe down your shower every use, or you end up with calcium deposits everywhere, that aren't remotely easy to get off.
posted by Goofyy at 4:57 AM on January 15, 2013


I'm currently in a program learning techniques to culture stem cells. I've been reading a lot about kitchen science lately and as I was learning about ion exchange in the context of brining beans, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the exact concept that had been stressed all last semester in my cell culture class.

Stem Cell Culture + Kitchen Science = Grow Your Own Bacon!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:12 AM on January 15, 2013


Goofyy: "or you end up with calcium deposits everywhere, that aren't remotely easy to get off"

vinegar soaks help a lot.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:32 AM on January 15, 2013


I live in Berlin and there is calcium scale on everything. Tonight I'm gonna throw vinegar all over the bathroom and see if that helps. I'm not sure about vinegar-soaking my hair, though. What's German for "chelating shampoo"?
posted by sixohsix at 6:53 AM on January 15, 2013


I grew up having to use bottled water if I wanted to soak beans--we had well water, and it had so much calcium in it that a 12-hour soak in it didn't make a noticeable difference in our poor pinto beans. When I moved somewhere with better water, I rejoiced at being able to make beans with tap water, but was a little sad that they were so much mushier than canned beans. Then, just this last weekend, I was making chili and stumbled across the Food Lab's vaguely-obsessive chili making process, and discovered that yes, if you salt the water, you get beans in the state between "mushy" and "gravel;" that is to say, the state where they don't suck. It was revelatory.

This is also the third time this week I have referenced this recipe, for completely unrelated reasons. Synchronicity!
posted by Mayor West at 7:09 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bar Keeper's Friend works better than vinegar.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:44 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


To get rid of those pesky calcium ions, you gotta EGTA IT OUT.

Ka-BOOM. Shit's GONE.
posted by benzenedream at 11:41 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


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