Was Mom Right? Is Eating Carrots Good for the Eyes?

Chemistry, Food
From childhood, Mom admonished me, "Eat your carrots! They're good for your eyes." Now, I wore glasses. Later, with Mom's approval, I became an organic chemist. Since I listened to Mom, I eat my carrots. In fact, with lots of butter and salt, I rather enjoy them! But throughout my youth, I always wondered if they really are good for our vision. Here's what I learned. Carrot Chemistry Carrots contain the organic compound β-carotene. It's chemical structure is seen in the image below. The chemical formula of β-carotene is C40H56. In addition to imparting the orange color to a carrot, if a molecule is split down the middle and the cleaved double bond is hydrated for both halves, the result is two molecules of retinol, C20H30O. See the image. Carrots…
Read More

How Far Can Perfect Eyes See? An Ideal Earthly Scenario

Logic, Mathematics
[caption id="attachment_26540" align="alignright" width="480"] Image by Meg Learner[/caption]I once met a fellow in Virginia who said, 'The human eye is an amazing thing. Why, if there were no mountains in-between, we could see California!' Of course, he was referring to perfect eyes... Of course, that is just plain nuts. Nevertheless, it raised the question, "Just how far away could a person see an object if nothing interfered? Let's consider the answer to that question. Conditions First, we need to set conditions or ground rules. Earth is sufficiently round to call it a sphere, so we treat it as such. In fact, we assume it is perfectly smooth even to an ant. Further, we assume the atmosphere is perfectly clear, and the observer has perfect eyes. When we look out toward…
Read More

Seed Potatoes: Plant Only Seed Potatoes

[caption id="attachment_7288" align="alignright" width="440"] White Potatoes at harvest time.[/caption] As a child, we would eat some form of white potatoes pretty near every day. I wasn’t a fan. I wished Mom would make just about anything but white potatoes. We had ‘em boiled with butter, mashed, baked, fried. The mashed potatoes were made using a potato ricer and a small electric mixer—a lot of work and a lot of noise. The potatoes were lumpy. Tastes Change We had a small garden. We never grew our own potatoes. Instead, we’d buy them at the local A&P grocery store. When I left home, I ate relatively few potatoes. Eventually however, I overcame my distaste of eating the things and even grew to love them. Eventually, I realized how tasty they were. So…
Read More