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Dietribes: Popsicles

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"¢Â Like Band-Aids and Kleenex, Popsicle is a brand whose name we probably all substitute to mean any frozen treat on a stick. The Popsicle brand itself had humble and accidental beginnings: Apparently, in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a mixture of powdered soda, water, and a stirring stick in a cup on his porch. It was a cold night, and Epperson awoke the next morning to find a frozen pop. He called it the "Epsicle," and later in life his own children started requesting "Pop's 'sicle." In 1923, Epperson changed the name and applied for a patent, eventually selling the rights to the brand name Popsicle® to the Joe Lowe Company in New York.

"¢Â What's better than one popsicle? Two! The twin ice pop was invented during the Great Depression, so two children could share an ice pop for just a nickel.
 
"¢Â So just what is it that you chew on after you finish your Popsicles? The sticks are made of birch wood. Or you can create something with them (and not just a paper puppet): using 15 million recycled Popsicle sticks and the help of about 5000 Dutch school children, a Dutch man made a replica Viking ship ... and sailed it to London!

"¢Â Cherry may be the current number one Popsicle flavor, but it may lose ground against Beer Popsicles, which one Washington restaurant has begun to serve, despite some controversial liquor law constraints.

"¢Â The biggest problem with Popsicles? The melting issue. Just ask Snapple: in 2005, the company attempted to beat the 10-ton mark for world's largest ice pop when the giant pop turned to mush ... and slushed into the streets of New York.

"¢Â Lollipops have prizes inside, so why not popsicles? Brazilian ice-cream company Kibon plans to manufacture 10,000 "prop"sicles, identical in size and color to real ice pops, and will contain a frozen iPod shuffle inside.

"¢Â If you thought that handing out vuvuzelas at a recent Florida Marlins game for a promotion was a little crazy, consider Ted Williams Popsicle Night. In June of 2003, when William's body was cryogenically frozen, an Arizona minor league team, the Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings, gave popsicles to the first 500 fans.

"¢Â We humans are not the only ones who enjoy an icy summer treat - here are a few videos of hippos, a polar bear, and a baby panda enjoying some specially designed Popsicles just for them!

"¢Â Finally, a sweet story about a pitbull named Popsicle.
 
"¢Â Do you grown up Flossers still enjoy Popsicles? What are you favorite flavors, and do you ever make your own?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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London's Sewer-Blocking 'Fatbergs' Are Going to Be Turned Into Biodiesel
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UK officials can't exactly transform the Whitechapel fatberg—a 143-ton trash mass lurking in London's sewer system—into treasure, but they can turn it into fuel. As The Guardian reports, Scottish biodiesel producer Argent Energy plans to convert parts of the noxious blockage into an environmentally friendly energy source.

For the uninitiated, fatbergs (which get their names from a portmanteau of "fat" and "icebergs") are giant, solid blobs of congealed fat, oil, grease, wet wipes, and sanitary products. They form in sewers when people dump cooking byproducts down drains, or in oceans when ships release waste products like palm oil. These sticky substances combine with floating litter to form what could be described as garbage heaps on steroids.

Fatbergs wash up on beaches, muck up city infrastructures, and are sometimes even removed with cranes from sewer pipes as a last resort. Few—if any—fatbergs, however, appear to be as potentially lethal as the one workers recently discovered under London's Whitechapel neighborhood. In a news release, private utility company Thames Water described the toxic mass as "one of the largest ever found, with the extreme rock-solid mass of wet wipes, nappies, fat and oil weighing the same as 11 double-decker buses."

Ick factor aside, the Whitechapel fatberg currently blocks a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two fields from London's Wembley Stadium. Engineers with jet hoses are working seven days a week to break up the fatberg before sucking it out with tankers. But even with high-pressure streams, the job is still akin to "trying to break up concrete," says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water's head of waste networks.

The project is slated to end in October. But instead of simply disposing of the Whitechapel fatberg, officials want to make use of it. Argent Energy—which has in the past relied on sources like rancid mayonnaise and old soup stock—plans to process fatberg sludge into more than 2600 gallons of biodiesel, creating "enough environmentally friendly energy to power 350 double-decker Routemaster buses for a day," according to Thames Water.

"Even though they are our worst enemy, and we want them dead completely, bringing fatbergs back to life when we do find them in the form of biodiesel is a far better solution for everyone," said company official Alex Saunders.

In addition to powering buses, the Whitechapel fatberg may also become an unlikely cultural touchstone: The Museum of London is working with Thames Water to acquire a chunk of the fatberg, according to BBC News. The waste exhibit will represent just one of the many challenges facing cities, and remind visitors that they are ultimately responsible for the fatberg phenomenon.

"When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play," Rimmer says. "Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets, but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish."

[h/t The Guardian]

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Thinking of Disinfecting Your Sponge? It’ll Do More Harm Than Good
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Common house-cleaning wisdom advises you to clean your sponges periodically. Some experts advise running them through the dishwasher, while others suggest microwaving a wet sponge. But a new study says that both of those techniques will do more harm than good, as The New York Times reports.

A trio of microbiologists came to this conclusion after collecting used sponges from households in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, a city near Zurich. As the researchers write in Nature Scientific Reports, they asked the 14 houses that gave them sponges to describe how they were used—how many people in the house handled them, how often they used them, how often they replaced them, and if they ever tried to clean them.

Analyzing DNA and RNA found on those sponges, they found a total of 362 different bacterial species living on them. The sheer number of the bacterial colonies was staggering—some 82 billion total bacteria were living in a cubic inch of sponge. (As co-author Markus Egert told the Times, that’s similar to what you’d find in your poop.)

As the researchers discovered by analyzing the bacteria found on sponges whose users said they regularly cleaned them, disinfecting a sponge using a microwave, vinegar, or a dishwasher is worse than useless. It seems that when you attempt to clean a sponge, you kill off some bacteria, but in doing so, you provide an environment for the worst species of bacteria to thrive. Sponges that were regularly cleaned had higher concentrations of bacteria like Moraxella osloensis, which can cause infections in humans. (Though it’s unclear how likely you are to get infected by your sponge.) It’s also the reason dirty laundry smells. By microwaving your sponge, you’re probably just making it smellier.

Sadly, there’s not much you can do about your dirty sponge except throw it away. You can recycle it to use as part of your cleaning routine in the bathroom or somewhere else where it’s far away from your food, but the best way to get a clean sponge, it seems, is to just buy a new one. May we suggest the Scrub Daddy?

[h/t The New York Times]

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