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Five everyday problems and scientific solutions

Are you fed up of the dripping tea, teary onions and fogy glass? Here are some scientific solutions to these everyday problems,

The spilling teapot

To avoid the frustration of making a pot of tea, pouring a cup and finding half of it has dribbled on to the table, apply a bit of science. The definitive French research on this subject has three solutions. First, pour the tea more quickly, as more speed of the liquid means less dribble. Second, teapots with a sharp lip on the spout, like metal ones, dribble less. Finally, apply a bit of wax to the inside bottom of the spout lip to create a water-repelling surface.

Tearless onions

Onions make you cry because a bunch of chemistry starts as soon as you slice them. The result is a gas that floats to your eyeballs and turns on pain nerves, making you cry. To avoid tears you need to stop the gas getting to your eyes. To do this, cut them quickly using a sharp knife and put the onions into a lidded saucepan to trap the gas, or switch on an extractor fan. Otherwise, wear swim goggles.

Clearing the fog

Do not turn your heaters on full blast to demist your car windscreen on a cold morning. Since the car is cold, and the heaters take time to warm up, this won’t help. Instead, turn the air conditioning up high, directed towards the windscreen. This not only cools the air, but dries it as well. Cold, dry air will demist the window more quickly than hot air that’s not yet hot.

Keeping it fresh

Never put bread in the fridge. The flour in bread is almost entirely made up of a chemical called starch, which can take a number of slightly different forms depending on the temperature you keep it at. In a fridge at 5oC, the starch changes and sucks up and locks away some of the water in the bread. So if you store bread in the fridge it may keep longer, but it will taste stale more quickly. Either store it at room temperature or freeze it.

Make everything taste better

If you want to give anything you eat a rich, mouth-filling, meaty taste, add a bit of umami. We’re taught that there are four basic sensations of taste – sweet, sour, bitter and salt – but there are at least five. The fifth taste is called umami and is found in tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, fish, meat and Marmite.

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