The Yorkshire Chemistry Outreach Group has launched a new citizen science project called 'Hit or Myth', whose aim is to either prove or disprove some popular 'life-hacks'.
The idea is to subject popular theories to rigorous scientific testing, and anyone can take part.
The project will consist of a series of videos demonstrating how to carry out simple science experiments to test the theories. The results of everyone's experiments will then be collected and analysed.
The first video stars Joanna Buckley, Education Coordinator for North East England, and Mark Lorch, Professor of Science Communication at the University of Hull.
"We are bombarded with hints, tips and hacks, aiming to make life a little easier", says Joanna. “But with so many promising so much, which ones can you trust? 'Hit or Myth' is the answer – a sort of clinical trial for the Internet's top tips."
"We want as many people as possible to turn their kitchens into chemistry labs, and, more importantly, we want to hear what you found out. We've specifically selected life hacks which chemistry tells us might work, but do they?"
The first theory to be tested is the claim that you can remove the smell of garlic from your hands by rubbing them with stainless steel. It’s a popular theory that has even led to a high-street product – a stainless steel 'soap' – but the scientific data on whether it actually works is sketchy.
Chemically speaking, it’s reasonable to think that the trick would work. In theory, the chromium that makes up 10% of stainless steel’s composition oxidises on the surface to form chromium oxide, which would bond to the odorous sulphur-containing chemicals in the garlic. However although the theory sounds plausible there is very little hard evidence to support it.
To find out, the team are asking people to try out the experiment in their own homes and add their results to the website. The website includes detailed instructions, a 'how-to' video, and more detailed explanations of the science behind the theory.
"Hit or Myth is an interactive science experiment,” emphasises Jo, “and we really need your help. We'll report back with your findings and only then will we know if it's a 'hit' or a 'myth'."
"Over the coming months, we’ll be releasing more experiments for you to try,” she says. “We hope to engage with as many citizen scientists as possible in this mass-participation chemistry experiment. What are you waiting for?! Grab some garlic and get chopping!'"
The Yorkshire Chemistry Outreach Group is a public engagement collaboration between chemistry departments at the Universities of Bradford, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York. The 'Hit or Myth' project has received funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry.