I revamped this classic for the VCE Chemistry study design. Download it now: We Lied to You (2019 edition)

we lied to you cover 3d

This book is a collection of lies we taught to our Year 12 Chemistry students in their graduation year.

The lies include well-meaning simplifications of the truth, mistakes in the textbook, and, in a few extreme cases, blatant falsehoods.

This book isn’t a criticism of the VCE Chemistry course at all. In fact, I wrote this book to demonstrate the overwhelming complexity of Chemistry and the consequential need to make appropriate omissions and generalisations during our teaching as we tailor our lessons to the appropriate year level of students.

Rules taught as true usually work 90% of the time in this subject. Chemistry has rules, exceptions, exceptions to exceptions and so on. You’ll peel pack these layers of rules and exceptions like an onion until you reach the core, where you’ll find physics and specialist maths.

Click here to download We Lied to You (2019 edition).

I asked a robot to write about 26 topical issues. Here’s what it wrote.

NOTE: This entire post was written by GPT-2, an artificial intelligence writing robot. The opinions in this post are not necessarily my own.

I asked GPT-2 to write about 26 topical issues, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. The bold text was the initial prompt that I fed into the robot… and the rest was written by the robot itself.


Autism is on the rise because we’re not paying attention to all the signs of a potentially deadly brain disease. We’re not using our senses of sight and hearing as they are intended. We’re not teaching children about what causes autism and what we can do to prevent it. We’re not talking to our families about the needs of other people. We’re not helping kids learn how to protect themselves when they’re in trouble.


Brexit must be resolved by the British people, not by Brussels. The UK must stay in the EU, and the EU must remain a union of free, democratic nations. If we leave we must have the courage to make our own choice. No government can change the will of the people of this country and therefore the will of the people must prevail in the referendum. I am very pleased that, as a result of the discussions I have had this morning with a group of people, some of whom I will mention to you later, there is agreement that a vote on whether to leave the European Union must be held on 23 June. The people of this country will have the final say and if they vote to leave then the government must be prepared to negotiate a new relationship


Cryptocurrencies should not be regulated. They are, in my opinion, a fad that will eventually be seen as a scam,” he said. “The regulators should leave us alone.”

He further added: “A lot of people are putting their money in cryptocurrencies, but I do not see any value.”

In the future, he sees blockchain technology becoming more widespread, as it becomes more accessible to the general public.

“I believe in the future you will see a lot of people using blockchain. It’s a new technology, and people are now starting to understand its implications,” he concluded.

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain start-ups.


Dyslexia can be mitigated by vernacular-based learning, as it is by English or other foreign languages, but this is not as effective as language training, which can significantly improve the cognitive processing of dyslexic children. Moreover, many dyslexic children in developing countries remain illiterate.

It is also important to consider the individual circumstances of a child. While an overachieving, hard-working individual with a good education and the support of a supportive family is unlikely to become dyslexic, a low-achieving individual is almost certain to become one. The same is true of a single parent with few skills, a single parent with low socioeconomic status, a child with a disability, a young person who is socially isolated, a student who does not get adequate attention, or an alcoholic.


Earth Day must evolve into a celebration of our nation’s history and legacy of environmental progress,” the official website for the event states.

The group also plans to focus on what’s wrong with modern-day industrialism, which includes the “carbon footprint” and the “energy-sucking” nature of “industrial agriculture.” The group plans to highlight the fact that many products and services — such as food — are created in “unabated” industrial operations.

But the day also will include a little bit of light relief: “Plants and animals will be the center of attention — from birds to fish to bees — and will be presented as examples of the incredible and enduring benefits of our food system and environment.”


Financial literacy should be mandatory for all school children. In order to achieve this goal, the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) has proposed a national curriculum with the focus on history and social sciences. This is expected to be approved in the second half of 2016. However, according to research by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the government’s initiative is not being well implemented.

According to the survey, almost 90% of the respondents in the age group of 25 to 64 years and 77% of those 65 and over felt that knowledge about history and social sciences in schools is not enough to be considered the minimum standard.

According to the ICHR, an estimated one in five adults do not have a basic understanding of the social and economic conditions prevailing in the past, and this is likely to worsen with time, which is why the government’s education policy should be implemented.


Greta Thunberg’s most recent climate speech focussed on iced water storage – “I know the people of California have no option but to move to ice.” – while in August, in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the climate activist and author described the situation as “an international emergency.”

“There are so many other ways to put people in harm’s way,” Thunberg said in that speech. “How about putting people in harm’s way by moving them into frozen deserts and turning them into deserts in their own home? That’s not an international emergency, it’s just a tragedy.”

As reported by the LA Times in August, Thunberg’s book is based upon the experiences of a California water-scarce community. The Los Angeles Times writes:

“Thunberg is using the book as a way to make people understand just how badly water is running short in California’s driest state and how desperate the situation is for the people trying to survive”.


Hong Kong’s civil unrest continued to escalate on Wednesday, with an estimated 80,000-100,000 people gathering in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park and surrounding areas to demand that Beijing allow direct elections to decide the city’s leadership in 2017.

In the afternoon, a protester was shot dead by police near Mong Kok, in the heart of Hong Kong’s business district, as hundreds of thousands of people gathered to call for universal suffrage and the government’s resignation.

The death of Lau Ping, 25, was the fifth in a series of police shootings since Monday, with at least four people wounded.

It was unclear who had fired the shot but a police spokesman said that the man was believed to have suffered “non-life threatening” injuries. The police officer involved was taken to hospital.

Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters marched to the government headquarters in Hong Kong’s Central district to call for Hong Kong’s leader, CY Leung, to step down.


The International Space Station should be iced and filled with air before it is launched into space to avoid the potential problem of a leak in the station’s cooling system during launch. This problem was experienced with a previous space station mission in 1996.

In order to avoid any problems, engineers are testing the possibility of using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, both highly flammable.

They are also testing the possibility of using ammonia, which is safer.

“In the final stages, as the station’s size is growing to a record of six tonnes, its internal volume will be reduced, meaning that the need for liquid oxygen will decrease and that for hydrogen the need will increase,” a senior engineer told Russian news agencies.

In the past the crew of the Mir space station, which has been orbiting the Earth since 1990, used a supply of water for cooling.


Japanese subway trains have a habit of not letting women on at all on their carriages, but rather using one of two doors. This can happen at any train station in Tokyo, even on the underground and on the Yamanote Line and Hikari Line.

On the subway, women have to show their passport, credit card, or phone number to be let on. They are even given a badge with a red cross and white triangle on it that they have to show to the conductor.

However, a group of women recently got the chance to ride on the trains during a special event. They were let on on at a number of subway stations all around Tokyo.

The group of women used this chance to ask the conductor if they could go to the restroom or get a cup of coffee, because they needed to change their clothes or get a cup of water. They were then given an automatic train fare.


The Ku Klux Klan must be completely dismantled and its members prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Klansmen have been photographed at the rallies by reporters and photographed by the news media, but they have also been seen at protests and gatherings by themselves. At Saturday’s protests, police said Klan members were seen making Nazi salutes.

The Klansmen have also shown up at protests organized by the Oath Keepers, a group of former U.S. military and law enforcement officials. At a rally in New Orleans, the group stood outside a Louisiana Statehouse surrounded by a police cordon.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has appeared at several of the rallies and said he was there because he believes in the right to bear arms and is not racist. The rallies come as the Ku Klux Klan’s white supremacist reputation has been fading for a long time.


Leadership comes from a place of love, not hate. It is from a place of acceptance, not condemnation.”

We’re going to be watching what happens in this country very closely, and the question is, will we live up to that standard and will we show that the country really is great again?

I’m going to bring our country together, and we’re going to make America great again, I will tell you that.


Mentos and Diet Coke for $2.20 (up from $1.49 last year), $2.50 (up from $1.19) and $2.75 (up from $1.34).

In a statement about the price hike, Starbucks said it is “making the changes to align with the rising cost of the typical Canadian household and to align with the changing consumer habits.”

The move comes as the coffee giant struggles to make up ground in Canada. It has been trying to cut its costs to stay competitive against rivals like McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts, while maintaining its high-quality product standards.

Last month, Starbucks announced it would close 11 stores, including six in Toronto, after it announced plans to lay off 730 employees in an effort to cut costs.

The chain is also facing pressure from investors over its decision to acquire Blue Bottle Coffee, a San Francisco-based chain, for $1.25 billion.


Net neutrality should protect freedom of expression, as the First Amendment protects the right to speak, write, and publish in the public domain,” he said. “And it also ensures that the Internet remains an open network for innovation, competition, and free expression.”

But Wheeler said the FCC is also going to make a big push on the issue. “This proceeding is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of good policy,” he said.

“This proceeding is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of good policy.”

The FCC is taking up the net neutrality rules in part because Internet providers have been getting so big that they were able to gain too much power to shape how people use the web, and because the agency had no way of enforcing net neutrality rules without them. The new FCC chair is going to try to get the law passed through a combination of the Title II reclassification and a “fast lane” regulation.


Over-stressing about climate change should be considered a mental health issue that needs to be tackled. The problem here is that this can only be done with the help of scientists who understand the issue and are willing to work alongside us. This will have to include a broad spectrum of scientists, including those involved in the development of new technologies, including nanotechnology, which is the area of focus of Dr. Richard Happer, who was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Happer is a professor at Princeton University. He is also the President Emeritus of the National Academy of Sciences.

The problem here is that we are not addressing the root of the problem. The problem is that we are focusing on one aspect of our planet’s atmosphere, instead of the bigger picture.

As I wrote on Facebook:

“A number of years ago I attended a conference, where a leading climate scientist talked about the possibility that man-made carbon emissions could cause an ice age (an age of prolonged darkness), according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.”

A global warming theory holds that when the Earth’s surface warms up, water vapor in the atmosphere condenses into ice, which can then flow away from the poles to raise global temperatures. This ice, in turn, warms the water that is already on Earth.

“We know the ice sheet on Greenland is losing ice mass, but the reason why we haven’t observed changes in the Greenland ice sheet in the past is a question of how much ice mass is actually being lost,” said the study’s first author, Michael Mann, an atmospheric scientist at Pennsylvania State University in State College.

“The more we know about what the ice sheet is actually losing, the more confident we can be that we don’t have a problem here.”


Pentagon officials made a statement on Wednesday that the United States is looking at “options to improve communication with the Ukrainian government to prevent this loss of life and ensure that it does not happen again.” U.S. Army Capt. Gregory Hicks added that the U.S. is “troubled by the loss of life in Ukraine and condemns all violence. But we will not be distracted from our focus on protecting our own citizens and our allies.” Hicks also said the U.S. is “deeply concerned by reports that some have sought to exploit this tragedy for propaganda purposes. Such activity undermines confidence in the work of the Ukrainian government and its people and undermines efforts to engage constructively with the Russian government to de-escalate tensions in the region.” It’s unclear at the moment whether the Russians are making the same accusations, but the fact that the Russian Foreign Ministry statement was posted just after the Ukrainian government statement on the incident is very telling.


Queen Elizabeth II has made a ground-breaking statement about the importance of gender diversity at the highest levels of the armed forces. Her statement came in the form of a tweet and was quickly tweeted by a female servicewoman. Her tweet said “Women make amazing soldiers. It is time we had more”.

The Queen also retweeted a comment from female soldier who said that “there should be more of you and less of them”, the BBC reports.

She has not yet commented on the tweet, but she has now been congratulated on her message by fellow royals and MPs.

The Royal Family were also quick to comment. The Queen’s husband the Duke of Edinburgh tweeted “thank you for the message”. Prince Philip said: “We all need to welcome diversity.”

The Royal Household was also quick to praise female servicemen and servicewomen.

The Royal Navy tweeted: “We welcome the fact that a female Royal Navy ship officer has been appointed to her first command.”


Raccoons living in trees are generally quite cautious of people and they have a strong instinct to avoid them. However, some people have the ability to read a raccoon’s mind and predict where they are going to go next . To the raccoon, people look the same as a tree. If you are in a location that you are comfortable with, you are safer from a raccoon than in a location that you are afraid of. Don’t believe me? Consider this story from a woman who lives in the mountains of Wisconsin. A raccoon got up one evening and decided to leave the area where she was staying. She made an unsuccessful search of the trees surrounding her home and eventually found the raccoon near her car. The raccoon tried to get into the car, but the woman grabbed a pair of scissors and held it to the raccoon’s face. The raccoon left with no problem and the woman went back to her car.


Sesquiterpenes in essential oils is used for skin-conditioning. Its action, similar to that of aspirin, is to lessen the pain of inflammation. Many plants have been found to have antiseptic properties. This plant, Salvia divinorum, is often used in traditional medicines to treat gout and rheumatism. It is also used to treat asthma and arthritis.

Salvia lavandulifolia is known to stimulate the immune system and is commonly used in traditional medicine to prevent colds and influenza. It also possesses analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties. Salvia officinalis is also an effective anti-inflammatory. Aromatic plants, such as Salvia officinalis, contain many components that have a therapeutic effect, including aldehydes, aromatic acids, and terpenes. This plant also has many beneficial properties, especially in treating respiratory conditions, such as allergies.


Transgender people in the military should not face the same discrimination as gay men and lesbians. However, transgender people have been discriminated against throughout U.S. history, from the 19th century onward, with transgender people often excluded from the right to vote, held in inferior military service, denied the use of women’s bathrooms, and denied access to health care and housing. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which banned pay discrimination based on gender, did not specifically include transgender individuals, who were still subject to exclusion from all forms of civilian employment.

Transgender people in the military need the same protections and opportunities as everyone else, as outlined in the 2014 policy and in Defense Department Instruction 1320.18. The Department of Defense has determined that transgender people are able to meet the physical, mental, and moral standards of military service. However, given the unique characteristics of transgender individuals and the limited information about their medical and surgical needs, the Department is not in a position to provide additional medical treatment to people undergoing gender realignment.


The United Nations sustainable development goals were not created in a vacuum and they must be based on a genuine international consensus.

The United Nations has worked hard to make the Sustainable Development Goals the first major global development agenda since World War II, but its efforts have come under attack from those who believe that only market economies and free market policies should be used to achieve the goal.

This is a serious error. A sustainable development goal needs to be built on the basis of a genuine international consensus.

As the UN secretary-general and the Sustainable Development Goals Commission have stated, “it is up to all of us, including governments, civil society and civil society organisations, to work for a new vision and the implementation of a new development goal” (Sustainable Development Goals Commission, 2012).


Vacuum energy in the universe could, in principle, provide the necessary power to run an entire starship,” said study lead author Professor Zoltan Istvan. “However, the most important thing is not so much the power source as it is the vacuum itself. We have calculated how to create a vacuum environment so strong that even the most powerful lasers and fusion reactors would fail.”

Istvan and his colleagues believe that their new idea could open up a new world for exploration.

“When we look back into the distant past, it is obvious that the universe is much older than we had imagined,” said co-author David Grinspoon. “This discovery has opened up an entirely new frontier of possibility. The power of the vacuum is not simply a physical force, it is an expression of the universe’s nature. By understanding the force of the vacuum, we are able to see into the deepest depths of time and space, where we can observe the birth of the birth of the universe from the time of the Big Bang.


Water shortages in the Middle East and North Africa and a prolonged winter are expected to be the most serious threats to the region’s food supply. These events have led to shortages of basic foods such as wheat, sugar and dates, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization expects the worst to hit in October, when winter crops are at their peak.

The UN believes that food shortages will worsen with climate change, which has resulted in rising temperatures in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

Crop yields in Egypt are currently estimated at 9.4 bushels per acre, while production in Saudi Arabia is estimated at 9.7 bushels per acre, according to the World Food Programme. The latter country is particularly at risk from a drought this year as a result of El Niño, which is predicted to affect the whole of the Middle East and North Africa, with severe impacts on farmers.


Xenophobic people tend to be anti-immigrant, and I think it is because they see their own cultures as somehow inferior, which is an important element in how these kinds of arguments start. The anti-immigration argument was pretty much the first argument to pop out of the American Right at the end of the nineteenth century. It is a very interesting and important issue, but it is not an argument that any rational person should take seriously. It is a sort of racism, and a sort of xenophobia, and a sort of misogyny. I think it has much more to do with anti-Semitism and anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment than it does with racism in the broad sense. I’ve been very much struck by the way that some people in the West have made a lot of noise about the fact that this kind of thing is really a sort of expression of racism and xenophobia, and it is the most anti-White argument that is being made.


Yesterday’s news came as no surprise to local experts. “We had no idea that this would occur. It was a surprise that this could happen so quickly,” said Richard Loughlin, chief of emergency services at South Central Florida Hospital.

Loughlin said there were no reports of the incident until this morning. “This has a direct impact on our staff. The staff is upset, they are distraught, there are a lot of questions,” he said.

The hospital is offering counseling to staff.

Loughlin also said that the hospital has taken steps to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again, and that a plan has been put into place to provide for the staff involved in the incident.

According to local media reports, the accident occurred at the hospital in Orlando, Florida, where the two children were being treated for a severe allergic reaction to an over-the-counter product.

The children were being treated by the emergency services.


Zoos are ethically and scientifically responsible when they release animals into the wild. But we can’t allow a situation where a zoo is killing an animal in the wild and we can’t find out about it because the animals are too expensive or they have an endangered gene in them.

We can’t let animals in the zoo be killed to satisfy the financial demands of a corporation or to fulfill a political agenda. These are both wrong.

We need to be aware that there are people in power.

There are people in power who have no interest in the well being of the world’s animals. We know this because they are the ones who have said it so many times.

That’s why I think it is so important that people in power speak out for the animals.

For example, the government of New Zealand is now paying a corporation millions of dollars every year to kill endangered animals to satisfy their demands.

This essay was written by AI (artificial intelligence)

The essay below was written by GPT-2, an AI writing bot. I typed the first sentence in blue… and the machine wrote the entire rest of the essay.

Chemophobia is defined as the irrational fear of compounds perceived as synthetic.  Some people feel like they are being sprayed with an unknown chemical, and their eyes, nose, and skin are inflamed, burning, and itchy.   This fear of unknown chemicals has led to several incidents where people have reported being exposed to chemicals they thought were harmless.

The fear of synthetic chemicals is not new, but it has recently increased in popularity. The concern about synthetic chemicals has been exacerbated by a rise in sales of synthetic fragrances, cosmetics, and personal care products. This is partly because companies can now make chemicals that do not have to be tested for safety before they are marketed.

The term ‘synthetic’ is often used as a blanket term for any chemical with an unknown origin. The American Chemical Society, a scientific and professional organization based in the US, defines synthetic as an “electronic or chemical compound that is produced artificially” and is “comparable to a natural molecule” but with the added ability to be made more stable, more potent, and more easily manufactured. These synthetic chemicals, which include plastics, fragrances, pharmaceuticals, and other everyday items, are the latest and the greatest in the war against nature and the destruction of the environment, and we are witnessing their impact in the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.

In order to be considered as synthetic, the chemical must meet one of two criteria. First, the chemical must have been produced artificially. A drug that is made by genetically engineered organisms is a synthetic chemical. Another example is a chemical used to make certain pharmaceuticals, including the antibiotics used in humans.

A third definition of synthetic is that the chemical is synthetically produced. This means that the chemical is not naturally occurring or derived from a naturally occurring source.

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for approving or withholding approval of substances for use in food. This includes both foods and drug products. The FDA will consider many factors in determining whether a substance is a drug or food. These include, but are not limited to: the presence of the substance in the food or drug product, the strength, purity, potency, and composition of the substance; and whether it is necessary for the safety and efficacy of the food or drug product.

A drug must have been approved by the FDA. It is also important to note that if a substance is being used to treat a particular disease or condition, the FDA has the authority to regulate the use of that medication to protect the health and safety of those taking it.

If a drug or food is used in the treatment of cancer or to increase fertility, the FDA may require that the substance be registered for those purposes.

Synthetic chemicals are considered safe by the EPA. Natural chemicals are considered safe to drink. This is a good thing, in my opinion, but there are no tests to prove it. We have no way to know that they are safe to use, and we have no way to know that they aren’t.

When you read the labels on all of the chemicals found in pesticides, you’ll be left with a feeling that you’re eating poison.

In the book ‘Walking Through Toxic Walls,’ author and toxicologist Michael Dourson describes the effects of pesticide residues on humans. He writes that:

“Even low concentrations of pesticide residues are toxic and can cause chronic effects such as infertility, cancer, and reproductive dysfunction. We are all exposed to the same chemical cocktails in our everyday lives, and if any of them cause harm, we need to know about it. We need to be sure we are eating safe foods, using safe cleaners, or using safe household chemicals.”

For some people, organic is not sufficient. They want to be sure their food is healthy, and they want to make sure they are using clean, safe products. Some organic products are organic in name only, and they do not guarantee the quality of the product. The USDA Organic seal is an imperfect means of ensuring product quality, but many people still want to use organic because it means they are doing what’s right for the Earth.

Organic foods are not necessarily healthier. This is why we believe in “Food for Thought.” If you think about your food choices and where you are spending your money, you are spending too much on foods that are processed or chemical laden. And we all know that junk food is just not good for us. So how do you choose to buy organic food?

Our website has a list of organic produce stores, and many of them offer a large variety of organic products. You can click on the logo of any of these stores to learn more about what they offer. The links to the stores are listed in the green bar below, in the “Organic Products” section. You can also check out our list of recommended organic food places and blogs to help you find organic foods closer to home.

(Written by GPT-2, an AI writing machine.)

Fighting Chemophobia 4th Edition is now on Amazon

My fourth edition of Fighting Chemophobia is now available on Amazon.com.

This edition is paperback and black-and-white throughout… hence the low price.

Chemophobia is an irrational fear of chemicals. It includes the fear of aluminium in vaccines, methylparaben preservative in cosmetics and formaldehyde residue in shampoo. Since the early 1990s, advances in toxicology have allowed scientists to detect traces of adulterant substances in everyday products – even down to parts per billion concentrations. Toxicological research has shown most of these substances are in such low doses that they pose zero threat to our health.

Nonetheless, we get scared. We overreact to harmless, negligible sources of contamination and buy “natural”, “organic” and “chemical-free” alternative products at elevated prices because we’re psychologically pre-disposed to think they’re safer. Consumers are victims of aggressive marketing and misleading labelling from “natural” and “organic” companies, who exploit our psychological quirks to expand their market share.

The supposed onslaught of toxic chemicals that special interest groups describe simply isn’t happening. Our products are safer than ever, yet people are becoming more scared. Consumers suffer from guilt, anxiety and mental stress of being coaxed into paying a hefty price premium for “natural” skincare products that are neither safer nor more effective than conventional ones.

This book explores the history of chemophobia and the recent events that amplified it; and describes how consumers, teachers, doctors, lawmakers and journalists can fight chemophobia by tackling the social issues that underpin it.

James Kennedy is the creator of the All-Natural Banana ingredients set of posters and the T-shirt store sporting the same designg. James is a British-born Chemistry teacher currently working in Australia. Since graduating from the University of Cambridge with a Masters degree in Natural Sciences, he has pursued a passion for science communication and science outreach by using festivals, lectures, posters and T-shirts to make chemistry more open and accessible for the public. He is a vocal pro-chemistry advocate and writes articles online and speaks occasionally in radio and podcast interviews. James’ first published book, Fighting Chemophobia, stemmed from a need for people to understand and cure chemophobia by seeing chemicals in a more rational light. He has been teaching for 8 years and researching chemophobia for 3 years. He lives with his wife and daughter in Melbourne, Australia.

Sincerely, Chemicals season 2 is online

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting the second season of Sincerely, Chemicals. It’s just me and a camera this time. Very simple.

Subscribe to the Sincerely, Chemicals YouTube channel to receive a new video each week.

Why was Bisphenol A (BPA) discontinued in baby bottles?


Bisphenol A, or BPA, is used to line food cans and also to make strong plastic baby bottles. Eating large amounts of canned food – particularly canned soups or drinking hot liquids from baby bottles – can result in elevated amounts of BPA being detected in people’s urine. BPA acts as an estrogen mimic – albeit a very weak one – and some research has suggested a link between large doses of BPA and an increase of blood pressure. While this does sound worrying, remember that the dose is extremely important and that the molecules of BPA that do leech into food are too few to have any measurable effect.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) conducted a four-year review of over 300 scientific studies and concluded that the traces of BPA that do migrate into canned food are so tiny that they have no effect on human health.

The decision to abandon the use of BPA in baby bottles was therefore based on public pressure not based on safety or on scientific evidence.

The science never suggested there was any safety concern with BPA.

Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more videos from Sincerely, Chemicals.

Annotated VCE Chemistry data book for the 2019 study design

Each year, the VCAA subtly upgrades the VCE Chemistry data book. Each year, I print it and annotate it to show students the wealth of useful information hidden within it (most of which, is in plain sight).

This year, the VCAA has changed some “constants” and added some interesting functional groups to the spectroscopy tables. Smaller things are changed, too. All the protons in the 1H NMR table are now in bold; not just the ambiguous ones.

Free download: James Kennedy’s Annotated VCE Chemistry data book 2019 edition

Too big? Download the low resolution (4 Mb) version here

Start using this annotated version of the data book for your year 11 and year 12 chemistry homework exercises. While you can’t take this annotated version into the final examination (or into most SACs), seeing the annotations frequently throughout the two years will help you find things faster in the final examination.

Do you have feedback? Any comments? Do you require 1-to-1 chemistry tutoring? Email me at jameskennedymonash@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you personally.

making an annotated vce chemistry data book 2019 thumbnail

“Organic” is a farming practice…


I started a YouTube channel called Sincerely, Chemicals. It’s inspired by the workshops I’ve been running since 2017 so you can now review the content at home.

Video 2 is below. It’s called “Are Organic Products Safer?”… you already know the answer, but play the 2-minute video to find out why.

If you like these videos, please leave a comment, like and subscribe. That way, I might be encouraged to make more 🙂

P.S. I hope you like the cartoons!

My latest book, The Naturalness Fallacy, is out now


The Naturalness Fallacy 2018 v1 cover 3d
The Naturalness Fallacy by James Kennedy (2018)

The Naturalness Fallacy is my latest book in the chemophobia series. It’s a quick read that introduces the causes, effects and solutions to the chemophobia problem.

Download this free book as a PDF here.

Fighting Chemophobia is now available on Amazon worldwide

fighting chemophobia print run 3 cover
Third edition of Fighting Chemophobia is now available on Amazon.com and Kindle Store

After several hurdles, I’m happy to announce that Fighting Chemophobia is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions for international delivery. Amazon.com and three other independent online book vendors have signed up to stock Fighting Chemophobia.

Buy your copy by clicking the links below – or search Amazon.com or your Kindle device for Fighting Chemophobia to download the book.

Signed copies are of this new third edition are of course still available via this website. Click the PayPal link below to order your signed copy.

I’ve been working on some exciting things in the last few months. Watch this space for teasers.

Fighting Chemophobia is now available in the Kindle store!Fighting Chemophobia buy chemistry book

Natural pesticides in a cabbage

natural pesticides in cabbage

There exists a myth that organic fruits and vegetables are healthier because they’re free from harmful pesticides. Bruce Ames, one of the key founders of the field of toxicology back in the 1970s, wrote a landmark paper in 1990 called Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural), in which, he showcased some of the many naturally-occurring pesticides we ingest every day.

Because plants can’t run away, they attack predators with chemical weapons instead. All plants produce natural pesticides called secondary metabolites that deter predators to varying extents. The production of these secondary metabolites is upregulated during predatory attack.

Some of the natural pesticides that plants produce are toxic. Some are carcinogenic. Some studies have even suggested that if synthetic pesticides are not sprayed onto the surface of the crops, as might be the case in some types of organic farming, plants increase their production of natural pesticides to compensate for the resulting increase in herbivory attack.

Proponents of organic food fail to realise that everything we touch, eat and breathe contains miniscule traces of toxins. Our bodies evolved in a pretty dirty environment and can cope with low levels of toxins being ingested. Some studies even suggest that ingesting these tiny amounts of harmful substances might not only be harmless but beneficial to our health.

Contrary to popular belief, natural foods (wild varieties) are not safer, more nutritious nor more delicious than conventionally-farmed foods. Organic farming is an unsustainable luxury that offers no benefit to consumers’ health.

For more information on organic food, check out my latest book, Fighting Chemophobia, which is available by clicking the link below.

Fighting Chemophobia is now available in the Kindle store!
Fighting Chemophobia buy chemistry book

It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been working on some things that will be revealed in the next few months.

Second batch of Fighting Chemophobia is printed in Qingdao, China.


The second batch of Fighting Chemophobia books are finished! After a long search, we have finally found two great companies for printing and distribution in China. Dianzan design and printing company has laid the book out with great care and precision and turned Fighting Chemophobia into an excellent-quality product in both hardback and paperback editions. The 80 gsm Dowling paper feels great, and there are even some full-page colour images scattered throughout the book. Shunfeng Express is handling cheap, quick shipping and is currently achieving 2-day deliveries within China. They predict  7-day delivery times internationally.

This second batch is higher quality than the first. I’m sure you’ll love what these people have produced.

Working with a publisher could have saved me the search for an editor, a printer, a distributor, a marketer and a translator. Self-publishing has been more rewarding in this regard: not only have I selected the people I’ve worked with to bring this book to completion but I’ve probably learned more this way about the process of writing, editing, printing, binding, marketing and distributing a book than if a publisher had handled the entire process on my behalf.

You can buy your signed copy of the second batch of Fighting Chemophobia using the PayPal link below. Click subscribe on this page to receive future (approximately fortnightly) email updates.

Fighting Chemophobia pay now button

Signed Copies of Fighting Chemophobia

banana book.jpg

Chemophobia is an irrational fear of chemicals. It includes the fear of sugar in food, formaldehyde in shampoo and aluminium in vaccines. Fitness bloggers, quack doctors and even small cosmetic companies take advantage of these quirks to sell fake-natural products at elevated prices. Almost always, the same people who spread a fear of ‘chemicals’ also have ‘chemical-free’ products for sale.

Some companies sell “natural”, “organic” and “chemical-free” products to combat the supposed onslaught of chemical pollution in conventional consumer products. Most of these alternative products are no less synthetic, and no safer, than conventional versions despite commanding much higher prices.

Chemophobia is spreading despite our world becoming a cleaner, safer place. People are becoming healthier, and product safety regulations are becoming stricter. The supposed onslaught of chemicals that these special interest groups describe simply isn’t happening.

Perpetrators of chemophobia create unnecessary guilt, stress and anxiety as consumers worry about making the right choices for their family. Consumers are the victims in this battle as pro-natural and anti-natural businesses spread fear about each other’s products.

This book analyses psychological quirks, evolved millennia ago, that prime us to fall victim to chemophobic ways of thinking such anorexia, a fear of vaccines, a fear of fluoridation or a dangerous fear of synthetic medicines. It explores how consumers, teachers, doctors, lawmakers and journalists can fight chemophobia by tackling the social issues that underpin it.

Order your signed copy of Fighting Chemophobia nowbanana book inside.jpg

Fighting Chemophobia pay now button

Aniline Yellow (1861)

yellow powder

Unlike purple and pink pigments, which were rare and expensive enough to be reserved for royalty and high-ranking clergy, yellow pigments were abundant throughout ancient history. Yellow ochre, a powdery mixture of iron oxides, has been used in cave paintings around the world for up to 80,000 years and was still being used by artists in the early nineteenth century. Saffron and turmeric were also used as yellow dyes throughout ancient history. Vincent van Gogh was using mineral yellow pigments such as cadmium yellow and chrome yellow in his mid-nineteenth century paintings. By the mid-nineteenth century, people looking for yellow pigments already had plenty of options. Despite there being no pressure from consumers for a new yellow dye, chemists trying to replicate the fame and fortune that mauveine brought to William Perkin in 1856 were experimenting eagerly in pursuit of that goal.

In 1861, Mêne was reacting aniline with cold nitrous acid to produce a diazonium salt solution. He then added more aniline to the resulting salt solution and shook the flask vigorously and noticed a yellow precipitate formed at the bottom of the flask, which would later become known as ‘aniline yellow’ – the first ‘azo dye’. [1]

The reaction mixture must be kept cool (at around 5 °C) because different temperatures cause different products to form. If the same reactants are mixed warm, then smelly liquid phenol and inert nitrogen gas are formed, both of which are colourless, and neither of which are useful as pigments!

At the time, the ‘aniline yellow’ powder he discovered was considered useless because it didn’t dissolve in water. However, it did dissolve very well in oil. The dye eventually gained some niche uses as a microscopy stain (like fuchsine) but was never utilised by the garment or pigment industry.

After staying relatively unused for over a hundred years, aniline yellow left an unfortunate legacy for itself by becoming the culprit molecule in the Spanish ‘Toxic Oil scandal’ of 1981. A batch of Spanish rapeseed oil had been denatured (deliberately adulterated) with 2% aniline yellow so the company could report it as “machine oil” and take advantage of certain tax breaks. One local refinery obtained the denatured rapeseed oil and attempted to remove the aniline yellow dye so they could sell it on as “pure olive oil” on the market for profit. They sold the oil around much of north-western Spain in unlabelled 5-litre plastic containers.

yellow powder OO PAP map

The first casualty was an eight-year-old boy who died upon arrival at a hospital in Madrid on May 1st, 1981. The rest of his family then presented with an unusual set of symptoms: headache, fever, itchy scalp, lethargy and interstitial lung disease. The hospital diagnosed the family with “atypical pneumonia” and treated them all with antibiotics but they showed little improvement. [2]

Across Spain, 20,000 patients presented with similar symptoms within one month of the incident. Thinking that an unexplained pneumonia outbreak was unfolding, a children’s hospital in Madrid conducted a randomised, double-blind controlled clinical trial on the effectiveness of the antibiotic erythromycin, which is particularly effective on infections of the respiratory system. [3] Unfortunately, they found no difference in recovery or mortality rates between the treated group and the control group and decided to keep looking for potential treatments.

Attempting all avenues, the researchers conducted lifestyle surveys on many patients, which included (among many other things) questions about cooking oil. Sadly, even though the source of the problem was staring them in the face, the results of the oil usage survey questions came back “inconclusive”. [4]

A baby ultimately solved the puzzle. Prognosis for young children was generally worse than for adults after they contracted the strange set of symptoms. Oddly, babies under six months were unaffected even if the entire rest of the family had presented with the pneumonia-like symptoms. Their infants were completely symptom-free. When one baby did get sick, however, this prompted deep and urgent questioning of the parents involved to find out what they did differently from others. One unusual aspect of the baby’s upbringing was that the baby’s grandmother had been ‘supplementing’ baby’s formula powder with cooking oil that was sold in an unlabelled 5-litre plastic container. [5]

Spanish government agencies acted quickly. The Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs issued a recall of all oil sold in unlabelled plastic bottles within 40 days of the first casualty reporting with symptoms (the 8-year-old boy). Rates of patients presenting with symptoms of Toxic Oil Syndrome, as it would later be called, plummeted after the recall was announced on June 10th, 1981.

OO PAP epidemic graph

The aniline yellow had all been removed. The problem was a side-reaction, completely unknown to the scientists who were purifying the “machine oil”, that formed a new, harmful molecule that was large enough to escape their detection methods.

OO PAP molecule Aniline Yellow plus oil
The culprit: OO PAP molecules

The molecule responsible for Toxic Oil Syndrome is called “OO PAP” in scientific literature. Visual inspection of OO PAP’s structure reveals that it’s quite simply an olive oil triglyceride molecule (triolein) with one of its three fatty acid tails replaced with a large aniline group. [6] When the rapeseed oil was adulterated with 2% aniline yellow to disguise it as “machine oil”, some of the aniline yellow molecules didn’t just blend in with the oil but reacted chemically with it to make OO PAP molecules. ITH, the company who sold the de-adulterated product as “pure olive oil”, was likely unaware of this chemical reaction, and therefore (we assume) also unaware of the poisonous OO PAP that had formed in the oil. While ITH successfully removed the aniline yellow, they failed to remove the OO PAP molecules, which escaped their filtration techniques. [3] Sadly, hundreds of people died and 20,000 more were made ill from OO PAP poisoning, and financial damage was estimated by El País newspaper to be 2 billion pesetas (around 16 million US dollars today). [7] Just like the scandal of the pink fuchsine socks, government and industry were forced to work together to respond quickly to a growing public crisis.

Every chemical – regardless of whether it’s found naturally or created synthetically – has the potential to be beneficial, harmful or harmless depending on the dosage and the way that it’s used. Aniline yellow, like all other chemicals, is incredibly useful when used correctly. It’s a fantastic microscopy stain but totally unsuitable for culinary use.

Today, people use aniline yellow to dye specimens for viewing under a light microscope. Aniline yellow’s dangers are stated clearly on its safety data sheets: handling it today requires training, permits, safety glasses, gloves and a lab coat to avoid all contact with skin and eyes. Now that chemistry has given us a better understanding of the aniline yellow, nobody dare use it to dye foodstuffs. [8]


[1] http://www.chemguide.co.uk/organicprops/aniline/makediazo.html

[2] Paz, Manuel Posada de la. 2001. “Toxic Oil Syndrome: The Perspective after 20 Years.” Epidemiologic Reviews 231-247.

[3] Gelpí, Emilio. 2002. “The Spanish Toxic Oil Syndrome 20 Years after Its Onset: A Multidisciplinary Review of Scientific Knowledge.” Environmental Health Perspectives 457-464.

[4] Flores, Juan Casado. 1982. “Sindrome Toxico en Niños por Consumo de Aceites Vegetales: Modelo Clinico de la Enfermedad, en la Fase Aguda.” Pediatrika 22-26.

[5] Flores, Juan Casado. 1982. “Síndrome toxico por consumo de aceite adulterado. Una encuesta alimentaria esclarecedora.” Pediatrika 17-20.

[6] Paz, Posada de la. 1999. “Epidemiologic evidence for a new class of compounds associated with toxic oil syndrome.” Epidemiology 130-134.

[7] El País. 1981. “2.000 millones de pesetas costará al Insalud la asistencia a los enfermos a causa del aceite.” El País 15.

[8] Southern Biological. 2009. “Material Safety Data Sheet: Fuchsine.” Southern Biological. 08. Accessed 12 19, 2016. http://file.southernbiological.com/Assets/Products/Chemicals/Stains_and_Indicators-Powders/SIP4_6-Basic_Fuchsin/SIP4_6_MSDS_2009_Basic_Fuchsin.pdf.

The ‘deficit model’ only works half the time when you’re fighting chemophobia

focus group sitting at a table chemicals

The “deficit model” is a widely criticized theory that suggests that people who harbor attitudes of negativity or indifference towards science (in this case, chemistry) do so because they are uninformed about the topic (Chinese: 无知).

People’s misinformation might come from a lack of interest, a lack of exposure or an experience of poor science outreach in the past, where incorrect messages were delivered.

The “deficit model” stipulates that if people knew more about science, they’d naturally become more interested in it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always seem to work, and the ‘model’ is subjected to routine criticism.

Criticisms of the “deficit model”

  • It is patronizing to the public, which alienates them further from science
  • It implies that there is only one coherent, correct narrative of ‘science’
  • It implies that people who don’t like science are misinformed about it
  • Learning science isn’t always fun
  • Being forced to learn something they’re not interested in could reinforce negative attitudes towards science
  • The public is too varied to attempt to give a “one size fits all” theory of science outreach
  • It ignores the fact that members of the public have individual preconceived ideas about science before they’re introduced to new science information
  • It relies too much on monologue/lecturing the public rather than engaging them in dialogues

Employ alternatives to the “deficit model”

Critics of the “deficit model” tend to advocate solutions that involve dialogue (rather than monologue) with the public. Dialogue works better when the particular public audience in question has pre-existing views about the scientific topic being discussed (called ‘affected/partisan’ public groups).

There are four main types of ‘public’ audiences. The table below summarizes each of these types and how to engage with them, and is adapted from Canek Phillips report from 2013.

table 1 mechanisms of deficit model
Table 1 from Phillips & Beddoes (2013). Click to download.
The general public consists of people with diverse views that represent a cross-section of society. In a group, these views cancel out somewhat, hiding the deviation of views. The “deficit model” of monologue delivery is an effective way to engage such a group.

The pure public is a group of people who have no pre-existing ideas about the topic being discussed. The “deficit model” can engage these audiences as well.

The affected public can only be engaged if their pre-existing views are acknowledged and respected beforehand. Dialogue is an excellent way of doing this. Examples of dialogue-based approaches include science shops, public hearings, citizen judies, stakeholder consultations and focus groups.

The partisan public is sometimes led by charismatic leaders or lobby groups. Their views might have been shaped by influential figures (e.g. Mercola, Food Babe) and the pre-existing views (misconceptions) delivered in this way need to be debunked through respectful dialogue rather than monologue.

In short, before telling your audience something, find out whether they have any pre-existing ideas about that topic. If they don’t, then go ahead with a monologue delivery. If they do, then launch a two-way discussion with them, in which you listen and respect their views. Only then, will they respect your opinion as well. ♦

Our senses are hopeless at calculating risk

We overestimate danger when we're not in control, such as flying as a passenger in an aeroplane.
We overestimate danger when we’re not in control, such as flying as a passenger in an aeroplane.
Humans are irrational beings. Smoking kills 480,000 people per year in the United States, while an average of 170 lives are lost to terrorism each year in the same country. Counterintuitively, terrorism receives more media attention than smoking despite having a relatively tiny risk because we’re predisposed to fear dangers imposed by other people more than dangers with which we choose to engage ourselves.

Another great example is aeroplane crashes. Airlines today have an excellent safety record and flying is usually the safest mode of transport (safer than making the same journey by road or rail). We overestimate the dangers of flying on an aeroplane because someone else is in control.

Conversely, because summer heat waves are a natural phenomenon, we’re prone to underestimating their danger: tens of thousands of people die from excessive summer heat each year in the United States alone.

Irrational: we worry about terrorist attacks more than summer heat waves

Our ‘perceived risk’ almost never matches the ‘actual risk’. In the bubble chart below, the area of the circles above the line represent how much we worry about each risk. The area of the circles below the line represents the actual size of the risk in terms of how many people are harmed each year. In many cases, there is a huge disparity between ‘perceived risk’ and ‘actual risk’.

Our perception of risk almost never matches the actual size of the risk. Adapted from work by Susannah Ertrich.
Adapted from work by Susannah Ertrich
The table below shows the factors that increase and decrease our perceptions of risk.
table1 risks template chemicals

Let’s evaluate two examples. First, smoking:

table2 risks template chemicals

Conclusion: people are predisposed to underestimate the risks of smoking (9:1)

Second example: azodicarbonamide (dough improver) added to bread

table3 risks template chemicals

Conclusion: people are predisposed to overestimate the risks of adding azodicarbonamide to bread (1:9)

This strange psychological quirk is one of the roots of chemophobia that I discuss much further in my upcoming book, Fighting Chemophobia (coming out late 2017).

Try it yourselves: use the table to find out whether we’re likely to over-fear or under-fear aeroplane crashes, climate change and parabens in cosmetics. You’ll find that we overestimate the risks of chemical ingredients in our food and products not because they necessarily pose any danger, but because we have this strangely irrational way of assessing risk in the world around us. ♦