What is baking soda? What are its health benefits?


Baking soda is one of the most used chemicals in the world. Most of the houses have a pinch of it somewhere, for a wide range of uses. It is known in various names like bread soda and cooking soda. The scientific name of the substance is Sodium Bicarbonate. It is basically a salt composed of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. It is normally found in solid state, either in the form of crystals or as a fine powder. The natural mineral form of baking soda is nahcolite.

Baking soda has been in use for several centuries in different forms, though the industrial production was started in 1846, when two bakers from New York, John Dwight and Austin Church, established a factory to develop the chemical from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. The production process of baking soda is known as solvay process.

As said earlier, baking soda has a great variety of uses and is said to have numerous health benefits. It can be used to kill pests as well as to remove paint and corrosion. It is also used as a disinfectant and fire extinguisher in small scale, not to mention cooking. The name itself is attributed to its use in baking in which the chemical is used as a leavening agent. When mixed with an acid, baking soda reacts to it and releases carbon dioxide gas, which causes the dough to expand and rise.

Some of its properties make it useful in medical fields as well. It is perfect for some home remedies, considering how cheap it is. For example, it can be used as a natural deodorant. It is also used to treat allergic reaction to plants such as poison ivy and the stings caused by insect bites.

Baking soda is often used to remove skin splinters. Applying the it on the splinters daily will produce a result in a few days. It also find a use in exfoliating the skin as well as a soaking bath. The chemical has been found to kill streptococcus mutans bacteria that causes tooth decay and is found in many toothpastes in tiny amounts. It also contributes to whitening the teeth. Another use for baking soda is as a supplement to athletes, particularly in speed-based events.

The chemical is used in treating some diseases as well, such as hyperkalemia. It is an excellent substance to alleviate problems with indigestion and pain related to ulcers. Some even have proposed it as a cure of cancer, but that is yet to be proven.


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What are the causes of and remedies for pot belly?

It is not an attractive feature. That protruding belly antagonizes you and you want to get rid of it. Also known as beer belly, pot tummy or alcohol gut, it is just not a blot on your figure but carries a great risk to your health. The pot belly is associated with obesity, which is unhealthy accumulation of fat around the body. We may call it abdominal obesity. It is not just limited to generally obese people. Slim persons can also have a protruding belly which is no less risky.

The important point to be noted is that we need fat. It is a vital part of our immune system and defends our body against bacteria and viruses. It covers our inner organs, protecting them from infection and trauma.

Apart from Triglycerides, the form of fat in our bloodstream, there are two kinds of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Also called intramuscular fat, subcutaneous fat is what we can see and pinch if we want to. It is located beneath our skin and accounts for about 20% our body weight. This is the form of fat in which energy is stored as for future use. The fat also has blood vessels and nerves and acts as a cushion around internal organs.

However, it is the visceral fat we need to be wary of. Also known as intra-abdominal fat or organ fat, it is accumulated deep inside the body, around and between organs such as kidney, liver spleen and intestines. Limited to only the abdomen, the visceral fat is in a semi fluid state and is a source of quick energy. It accounts for 10% of the total body fat and protects the abdominal organs from trauma. However, an excess amount of visceral fat is dangerous. It will cause the fat to wrap around the organs, preventing them from functioning efficiently. It is associated with various health hazards like type-2 Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke etc.

Bad eating habits are the major reasons for pot belly. When we take in more calories than we can process, it naturally build up. Genetics also plays a significant role in developing pot belly. Alcohol consumption and stress also contribute to the situation. Another reason is the decline of sex hormones along with aging.

Exercises like crunches can strengthen the abs and other muscles, but can not shed the fat that has been stored under the belly. One thing about the visceral fat is that it is the easiest to break up. Cardio exercises like running, swimming and cycling can help to reduce the fat added with a controlled diet. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains and high fiber should be included in the diet.


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Why is smiling forbidden in passport photos?

People like to see themselves smiling or laughing in their photographs. However, the photos we take for various identity cards are another matter, where we need to take in as much air as possible. Especially, the authorities in many countries now forbid anyone from smiling on their passport photos. Countries like the U.S. and Canada have already passed laws adhering to the policy and more nations are jumping on the bandwagon. It is not just smiling, but frowning, glaring and anything that brings a significant change in our facial features are virtually banned from the passport photos.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN agency concerned with air transport has recommended not to laugh in the passport photos. The applicants are supposed to hold a neutral expression. A hint of smile is alright, as long as it doesn't deviate the facial structure too much. A toothy grin is strictly forbidden.

Many people are vexed over these restrictions, which were imposed to make it easy to implement the security measures. The new regulation was started to put in place at the turn of 21st century with the introduction of biometric system. All the major airports in the world use advanced biometric devices to scan the photos. The scanning software compares your face against a database of obtained photos. The biometric scan works identifying various points on your face and comparing them. Hence, the factors such as the shape of our eyes, nose and the distance between eyes play important roles in the process.


Any expression that alters our facial features significantly can trouble the system in identification process. A smile, frown or anything can change the configuration of our eyes and it will reflect in the biometric details. When the position of our face changes, the biometric points shift as well, making the process difficult. So the system has it easy when we sport a calm and neutral look.

The restrictions are not just limited to our expressions but other features as well. You are not allowed to have hair hanging before your eyes. You can't cover your hair unless it concerns religious practices. The primary facial features should not be hidden from view. Glasses are fine, as long as they are in correct angle and your eyes are showing clearly.

The increasing terror attacks and consequent paranoia have made the authorities leave no stone unturned in imposing security measures. Although many see the reason behind this, it hasn't prevented them from asking why they look like some escaped convicts in the passport photos.


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How do mosquitoes find people in dark?

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Mosquitoes are among the most annoying pests for humans. It might be when you are enjoying a summer evening outside when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by mosquitoes buzzing about you. Despite your swatting, they persist and bite you, rewarding you with welts and stinging sensations. If it was only the pain, we could have at least tolerated. But mosquitoes are transmitters of several life-threatening diseases like malaria and dengue fever, which make them dangerous. Millions die from these diseases across the world every year.

Contrary to popular belief, mosquitoes don't drink blood as meal. They feed off mainly plant nectar. Only female mosquitoes bite people, and they do that to get the protein needed to develop their fertile eggs. They have an acute ability to spot their targets and attack them.

Like many other insects, mosquitoes are also attracted to the smell of carbon dioxide. They have a group of nerve cells called cpA neurons which contains a receptor to detect carbon dioxide. These receptors also sense skin odor, according to experiments carried out by a group of scientists at University of California. The human body emits nearly 300 types of odors, most of which attract mosquitoes.

In another series of experiments conducted in the California Institute of Technology, the scientists found out that mosquitoes use a combination of different senses – visual, olfactory (relating to smell) and thermal – to determine their target. The researchers placed mosquitoes in a tunnel filled with carbon dioxide plumes which attracted the insects. They also found that in the presence of carbon dioxide, mosquitoes zeroed in on objects more, especially warm objects.

According the tests, the mosquitoes can detect the smell of carbon dioxide as far as 50 meters. They follow the smell and from 15 meters they begin to see the human. They have a keen sense of vision and can spot movement. However, they rely on visual cues only after using the olfactory senses which helps them in time management.

Upon reaching very close to the person – within a meter – they can sense the body heat and pick up the odors emitted by the body. They waste no time in attacking their target then. Once they have locked onto the target, it is hard to get rid of them short of killing.

Chemicals emitting odor unattractive to mosquitoes can be used to repel them. There are also chemicals that emits attractive smell which can be used to lure the insects into traps.


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Why do mosquitoes bite some people more than others?

Suppose you are enjoying an evening with friends outside. Suddenly you find yourself victim to mosquito bites while your friends seem to be spared by the insects. And you can't figure out why. It is indeed a case for a fair number of people. Some people seem to attract the attention of mosquitoes almost like a magnet. In fact, around 20% of the people in the world fall under that high attracting category. While scientists have not been able to pinpoint the exact causes of this phenomenon, studies have emerged, coming up with various factors that might be playing major roles.

Sight and smell are regarded to play the seminal role in mosquitoes' selection of their targets. As mentioned in another post, mosquitoes use their visual, olfactory and thermal senses to spot their target. The creatures are very visual and they can spot dark colors easily. People wearing dark clothes often find themselves surrounded by mosquitoes rather than those with lighter clothes. In a study, it was also found that there is a correlation between blood group and the mosquito attacks. Those with blood group O are more favored by the insects, about twice the number of those with type A blood.

Perhaps the most important thing that attracts mosquito is the carbon dioxide exhaled by us. They can detect the gas from as far as fifty meters. People who exhale large quantities of carbon dioxide are naturally prone to mosquito bites. Obese people often exhale strongly than others, emitting more carbon dioxide, and mosquitoes relish them. In addition, body temperature plays an important role as well, and it may cause mosquitoes flock to a person. For example, pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to mosquito attacks, due to their fatty frame as well as the additional body heat. People with more cholesterol on their skin also attract mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are attracted to various other smells as well. No wonder why our bodies, which emit various odors, are so desirable to them. Certain types of acids produced in the body, such as uric acid, are known to attract mosquitoes because they heighten their sense of smell. Other chemicals that draw mosquitoes towards us include lactic acid, acetone and estradiol. Our body odors are the results of the work by more than 300 chemicals, and it is not easy to find out exactly which one is most responsible. Some have also come up with the view that it might not be about the attractive smell, but rather about the repelling ones. Those who are bitten less might be producing odor mosquitoes find unattractive, according to that view.


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What is Middle Child Syndrome?

Hierarchy in family sometimes plays a huge role in the development of character in children. Even though it doesn't become explicitly apparent, it can leave lasting impressions on the children, the aftermaths of which would manifest only later. The Middle Child Syndrome is one of the perceived effects of the hierarchy among children in a family, normally with three children. Although it is not a clinical disorder by any means, it may cause some behavioral effects in the middle child and have significant influence on the personality.

Middle Child Syndrome is a psychological condition in which the child feels left out. In most families with many children, we are likely to see some privileges for the eldest and the youngest children. While the eldest would be entrusted with certain responsibilities, allowing him/her to almost step in the shoes of an adult, the youngest one would be considered a baby and would be insulated from all the serious matters. Both of them would have a feeling of importance from these gestures.

Middle children are not privileged to have either, and may develop a sense of isolation and would feel that the parents are not caring enough. They are naturally expected to emulate their elder siblings in most of the things, and their moments of success may not get enough attention from the parents. They would need to do something spectacular to prove their worth among the siblings. They would also need to work hard to make sure their opinions are heard. Granted, it is not the case of all families, but these are circumstances that can trigger such a mental state in children.

There are a few things that may discourage the middle child syndrome. One case is gender. If the middle child is of a different gender than the other kids, he or she is unlikely to develop the condition. It is because that child would be considered still a firstborn in a sense. Also, in a group of siblings with considerably different personalities, middle child syndrome is less likely to be present.

Middle child syndrome can have both positive and negative impacts on the children. While it will inject competitive spirit in some, others can fall into depression and related consequences as well. The parents are who need to be vigilant, making sure all children are treated alike without favoritism.


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Why do Jews write G-D instead of God?

In simple words, it is because of respect. The Hebrew name of God is given a great degree of reverence such that it cannot be erased or disrespected in any means once it is written or printed. Actually, this custom derives from an interpretation of the commandments by Moses, found in Deuteronomy 12:3-12:4. In this part, Moses instructs his followers to destroy anything associated with the gods of their rivals and they are not to let this happen to their own God.

Judaism does not prohibit writing the name of God. The prohibition is against destroying it some way. Erasing, tearing, throwing the paper away and all are considered means of tarnishing God's name. Since anything printed or written is likely to be damaged some point of time, they use the word with extreme care. A convenient way to avoid the chance of disrespect was to refrain from writing the name of God. This applies to the sacred Hebrew names of God, such as YHVH, Hashem and Elohim, found in Torah, the Hebrew Bible.

Even though there is no rule against writing and erasing God in English, many Jews treat the word with same respect as in Hebrew. So when writing, they use 'G-d' instead of 'God' in case it would be destroyed in future. It is actually a recent custom, and prevents others from destroying the name of God. Since the word is not complete but conveys the idea well, there is no risk of defacing the name. It can be erased or damaged later without disrespecting the God. Some use the word G!d as a mean to express both respect and wonder.

The Jews are even reluctant to say the name of God aloud. Instead they use phrases like 'the Creator,' 'the Merciful One' and 'Master of the Universe' to refer the God. Many Jews wouldn't discard paper or books which contains God’s name in Hebrew either. Those books are regarded with a great amount of respect and the believers would rather store such documents in a genizah (a storage place in synagogue) and sometimes bury them in a Jewish cemetery.

The evolution of technology has triggered various debates over the writing of God's name on the computer and other electronic devices. The general agreement is that the rule doesn't apply to the modern devices. The deletion of God's name on a computer screen is not considered a violation of the rule.


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