[ home | contact dr. berk | archive | science q&a ] Updated: Niko-Niko Punsuka Hamuemon

Please Pass the Science
by dr. scott berk

Simplistic, misleading, and somewhat condescending. . . but never boring!



say you were camping and you had a small camping stove and for any reason you were heating grease as in grease from say, bacon and steam or smoke came off of the hot grease. Would this steam and or smoke from the hot grease harm the ozone layer? Would it harm any part of the environment? At any particular temperature would the steam/smoke from the grease harm the environment? I urgently need a reply and hope that you could answer and perhaps give me some information in the topic above. Thank-you.



Smoke should not harm the ozone layer. However, the particulate organic matter in smoke and the carbon dioxide released during burning may contribute to global warming through the well publicized greenhouse effect (see http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/global/faq.html).

Note that burning of any kind will add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, not just smoke from a small camping stove. But please try not to worry! Compared to a standard electric-power generating plant, your camping grease fire is about as insignificant a contribution to global warming as I could possibly imagine. In fact, the energy you save by camping (by not living in an electricity-consuming house, for example) more than makes up for any food burning, so consider your greenhouse gas emission debt paid in full. Now if we can just convince the industrialists to think the same way. . .


Does anyone have the directions on how to make a potato clock? I've looked far and wide but with no luck. We would like to do it for our science fair project in a couple of weeks. Can y'all help us? Thanks in advance for any assistance you can offer.

Best wishes, Laurie.


All you need is a normal battery powered clock, two dissimilar metals and some wire. Copper and steel work well, and will provide about a volt - enough to run a clock that normally runs on one battery. You can also wire several of them in series to generate more electricity. Just get a copper strip and a steel or zinc strip, wrap some wire around the tops, plunge the bottoms into a potato (lemons also work well) so they don't touch each other, and connect the wires to the two battery terminals of one of those cheapo LCD kitchen clocks - you'll have to experiment with the polarity - if one position doesn't work, just switch the leads.

If you're not into DIY (that's "Do It Yourself"), then you can order one at:


I do not necessarily endorse this product, but it was the first one that showed up when I did a web search on "potato clock". You can see how easy it would be to make yourself.

Here's another link to more info:


Good luck!


My little boy wants to know why the water in toilets flushed in the southern hemisphere goes counter-clockwise...

Thanks in advance for your answer.

I'm not one to disillusion little boys, but the whole water flushing direction thing is a myth. Cecil Adams, of "The Straight Dope", a mostly excellent column where everyday questions like this are answered, has a nice answer for you. It's right here:


You haven't told him the truth about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Trickle-Down Economics yet, have you?

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