Confessions of a Youtube Drooler: Youtube Science

burger

A project I’ve recently been working on with a fellow food science friend has us both perusing the depths of Youtube to uncover the latest and greatest of burger videos. Yup! You read that right, upwards of one hundred burger videos – regular grilled hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Epic Meal Time burgers, even ramen burgers – get their own visual, audio, and salivary screen time past our slightly numbed graduate student minds.

The thing that seems to set each and every burger video apart – or rather, clump them together – is the phrase, “the best” or “favorite” or something glorifying of that rendition. After about 15 such videos, the first thought that has continually crossed my mind has been, “Really? What sets you apart from the last video?” What gives you the right to assume (quite egotistically, one might add) your recipe is better than another’s recipe? Do you assume that because you have more subscribers, more comments, a higher “Like” to “Dislike” ratio that your burger extravaganza supersedes all others? (Okay, I digress; Google Analytics does a doozy with this one.) Additionally, if you’re going to claim that your recipe is the best, perhaps you should actually include a recipe. What’s even more fascinating is the extent at which everyone seems to think their specific burger methodology is the “correct” methodology for preserving flavor and enhancing taste; yet, these specific methods tend to be quite contradictory. For example: some videos will strongly suggest smashing down the burger – much like they view some restaurants to do it – whereas others will vehemently declare that anything so much as touching the burger will cause said wondrous meat to fail in magnificent proportions. It begs the question, who to believe? Would you rather watch the video of a restaurant dissecting a burger to its components, or a pro-kitchen chef who is more apt to add a humanizing touch?

Between gastronomy that one could practice at home and Guy Fieri dripping burger juice all over the counters of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”, one thing I’ve learned is there is no end to the saliva my mouth seems to be able to produce.  Now, with the addition of HD (high definition, for all you anti-acronym fellows), the drooling has only increased. The sizzling of the burger as it hits the grill, the juices as it oozes out, the delicious searing, and finally the imagined waft of meaty goodness is just too much for my fragile lab-warped mind to handle. All I want is a burger!

But wait! What’s the catch? Why are we even looking at these videos? Why must we continually subjugate ourselves to this tragic deliciousness?  If these videos are any indication of how things are actually prepared, it is only a matter of time before we are all in for a trip to the hospital. None of these videos ever practice – or even hint at – food safety. In fact, the notion of the proper usage of thermometers, lack of cross contamination, or even the washing of one’s hands is either laughed at or completely ignored. Thus, the point of this is belied: if each video is the representation of “the best” then they ought to be more stringent in explaining to people the benefits or negatives of certain actions. Of course, it is easy enough for you or me to say. But how could we better reinforce the knowledge, nay teach the general public, more about what they can do to prevent the risk of contamination and illness. How does one defeat the invincibility fable?

While you help us think of ideas or solution, that you should leave in the comments below, I shall be throwing myself to the kitchen in hopes of making a delicious and ginormous chive-pork ramen burger topped with kimchi, a sunny-side up egg.

How do you think we can improve food safety communication online?

Photo credit http://fbworld.com/2011/05/23/the-boom-in-premium-burgers/

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+12,000 Tomatoes

Over the weekend, I did a bit of calculations for how many tomatoes I will need over the course of my experiments (assuming I don’t mess up a tomato here and there in the process) … the resulting number was actually REALLY HIGH!! “How high?” you scoff.

Can I get a drumroll please?  *insert drumroll here*

12,312 tomatoes

Here’s the calculations:

Photo: L Yang (all rights reserved)

Photo: L Yang (all rights reserved)

#Patriotism in #Murica

“Are you patriotic? What does being patriotic mean to you?”

As an American citizen, this picture represents American patriotism to its n-th degree.

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Arlington

or also just as specifically…The White House

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White House after 17:00

Or even the Capitol Building – which has now been blown up on a ton of movies (even recently…which in and of itself has led to very racist Twitter and Facebook posts against Asians – we’ll save that for another post, possibly)…

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Capitol Building

All these are symbols of our supposed justice, freedom, and equality. They represent the ideals of ‘MURICA, right? Every time a person thumps their chest and barks that phrase out in both a joking (yet almost serious) manner, we are merely expounding our love for our American nation….no?

Is it patriotic, therefore, to discriminate based on race, gender, and/or (political) affiliation? Is it patriotic to disavow those who love whom they love? Is it patriotic to scoff and scorn others of a non-Christian/non-Protest religion? Is it patriotic to segregate our cities into little districts with the hopes of containing specific socio-economic classes, while spreading out in non-freeway-intersected suburbs. Is it patriotic to monitor one’s citizens? Is it patriotic to condemn those who expose a government’s corruption (ie: Edward Snowden)? Is it patriotic to call for “closed borders” while refusing jobs that could be yours? Is it patriotic to pay money to watch a “game” (ie: football, basketball) when that money could have gone towards scientific research or societal advancement (ie: NASA, NSF, NIH, public schools, infrastructure etc.)? Is it patriotic to continue to ruin the environment in your gas excessive vehicles?  Is it patriotic to disallow individuals the use of “soft” drugs while supporting huge pharmaceutical conglomerates that will not sanction some drugs that can have a great societal benefit but due to having the ability to “cure” and thereby decrease revenue, thereby never be made? Is it patriotic to send children to private school? Is it patriotic to decry our institutions and still seek to collect Social Security, pensions, etc.? Is it patriotic to continue funding an ever-expanding military, while still making even more cuts to scientific research and/or societal advancement? Is it patriotic to allow companies to patent and control whole genomes (and simple things, too) in order to increase their revenue in the supposed name of science? 

Spoiler Alert – Frozen Food Safety Monitor for your Freezer

It’s only ~$20 on Amazon. This would have been perfect back last year when our freezer defrosted (twice) because I accidentally over-packed it. We ended up having to throw everything out; however, this would have allowed for us to judge better what could have been saved!

According to the Amazon description: ” In the event of an incident (freezer door not properly closed, power outage or anything affecting your freezer), the 4 liquids will independently melt into lower chambers. Depending on the color of the liquids that have melted, you will know the recommended time you have left to safely consume your frozen foods. 4 liquids for 4 recommendations. In the case of an incident the liquids will melt in the following order: Blue = 14 days to consume your frozen food, Blue and Green = 3 days to consume your frozen food, Blue, Green and Yellow = 1 day to consume your frozen food. All 4 liquids: Blue, Green, Yellow and Red: Discard everything. From the last time you verified the FreezCube.”

Too cool! 🙂 Definitely going on my “Wish List”

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Dr. JP Courchia,  Endocrinologist 
Spoiler Alert allows a thorough surveillance of the foods in freezers, which support healthy dietetic programs.”

Nicole S., Teacher
“After a long hesitation, I discarded all of my frozen food when my freezer alarm rang. What a waste ! Later, I came across Spoiler Alert in my supermarket, and I don’t hesitate anymore. I now know what to do in case of an incident and the solution is not necessary to throw everything away! Spoiler Alert is an intelligent innovation that I highly recommend to everyone.”

Dr. Maurice Moutot, Nutritionist
“Essential!…

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Lament of Labwork (1 of many to come)

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cuz ALL THE PLATES! (all rights reserved: L Yang)

Labwork finally started up again. Who knew?

After a fulfilling summer down at NC State doing awesome data-mining, social media, and food safety related projects (which I am still doing now, but on the side), I’m now back at VTech starting my thesis research.

What am I doing exactly? I’m not too sure…and here is where the frustration (more with myself, than not) lies. As many graduate students can relate to, the thing about doing a project is that (a) you never know when/if you will succeed or fail; (b) if you haven’t done something in awhile, the confusion of not remembering certain methodologies (added to the thought that you should already know what’s going on) can be disheartening and even tragic. I’m definitely falling into this latter boat, at the moment.

From the outside, my project seems simple enough. Tomatoes. Salmonella. Things growing randomly? What could go wrong?

Besides that…

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