Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

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Q: After reading your articles on post-truth  and the-science-of-politics , I am asking this question: How do people of religion, politics etc. manipulate things to make people make bad decisions on issues like climate change, GM foods etc.?

Krishna: In the scientific community, we give some examples to make general public understand how this Manipulation could be done. One of these examples is the story of Dihydrogen Monoxide Hoax.

A student wanted to test how people's opinion can be manipulated. 

In 1997, a 14-year-old boy did a science-fair project around this. He surveyed 50 random people, and asked if dihydrogen monoxide should be banned.

He told them that this chemical:

  • Causes skin burns in its gaseous form.
  • Is a main component in acid rain.
  • Can be found in cancer cells.
  • Can kill if inhaled.
  • In its solid form, was a major contributor to the Titanic sinking.

Not only does Dihydrogen Monoxide have all of the negative effects listed above, it has so many more harms.

  • It is found in all unhealthy fast foods
  • Overconsumption of it will kill you
  • Prolonged exposure to its solid form can damage your skin
  • It’s given to terrorists before their missions
  • It is found in human urine and faeces
  • It’s an industrial strength cleansing agent
  • It’s extremely addictive; quitting the addiction can often cause death
  • In the United States, around 10 people die from inhalation of Dihydrogen Monoxide every day: from 2005–2014 there were 3536 fatal incidents of Dihydrogen Monoxide Inhalation in the U.S.

It’s just as dangerous outside of human contact

  • It is widely agreed that the main cause of the Titanic’s sinking is Dihydrogen Monoxide, though the fact is not widespread outside of scientific communities
  • It can contaminate many chemicals
  • It accelerates bacteria growth, so care is sometimes taken to remove it during an experiment

It’s also everywhere.

  • All of our water resovoirs have been found to contain this substance
  • Newborns are found to already contain Dihydrogen Monoxide in their bloodstream
  • Traces of Dihydrogen Monoxide has been found in clouds
  • It is a component of contrail - “jet trails”
  • Not even the distilled water you buy from chemists is safe as they often contain this substance
  • It has been found in ancient glaciers
  • The level of Dihydrogen Monoxide is high for most sources of groundwater tested
  • Dihydrogen Monoxide can be found on the ocean floor
  • Traces of Dihydrogen Monoxide has even been found on Mars!

The majority of people who had consumed Dihydrogen Monoxide had been found dead at some point.

A resounding 47/50 people the student surveyed  after telling them these 'differently told truths' said that it should be banned totally!

2 people were undecided, and 1 was a strong supporter of dihydrogen monoxide.

Now...get ready for the twist in the tale...

Guess what dihydrogen monoxide is also called?

H2O. Also known as…Water. 

Obviously, water should be banned, according to 94% of the population, the student surveyed.

Why did they think so? Because the student tried to trick them into believing that water is harmful. Please go through once again what the student had told about water to manipulate their minds. Each point is correct in 'certain conditions' but not that relevant in our right use of water daily!

The dihydrogen monoxide hoax involves calling water by the unfamiliar chemical name "dihydrogen monoxide" (DHMO), and listing some of water's effects in an alarming manner, such as the fact that it accelerates corrosion and can cause suffocation. The hoax often calls for dihydrogen monoxide to be regulated, labeled as hazardous, or banned. It illustrates how the lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears in the scientifically illiterates. 

That is what happens if you are not aware of scientific facts. People can manipulate your mind in any way they want and that is what politicians and people of religion in certain countries are trying to do.

 In the late 1990s when a 14-year-old student, Nathan Zohner, collected anti-DHMO petitions for a science project about gullibility (1). The story has since been used in science education to encourage critical thinking and avoid the appeal to nature fallacy ( is an argument or rhetorical tactic  in which it is proposed that "a thing is good because it is 'natural', or bad because it is 'unnatural' .

We, the science communicators, are fighting a tough battle to make general public realize this.

Importance of science literacy ...

(i) science literate citizens have greater knowledge to make evidence-based right judgements about everything

(ii) are better equipped to  take advantage of ideas that may improve their quality of life, and

(iii)  are able to recognize frauds effectively and avoid harm associated with them.

After reading this article people asked me to give more examples. So here are some...

Q:Your article "How scientific illiteracy can harm you" gives a good picture of our state of mind. Can you give more examples to convince more people? 

Krishna: Sure. People 'mistake' one medical condition for another one. One person had a severe kidney malfunction. His feet were swollen. When I asked him to visit a doctor immediately after seeing his symptoms,   he said, ' No need to visit a doctor. Last night I was sitting at my desk the whole night. That's why my feet look like this. Today I would go to bed early, the swelling will disappear by tomorrow morning!"  And when they didn't, I had to convince him a lot to go to a hospital and when he finally did, his condition required immediate dialysis as he had a severe kidney malfunction.

Another one had a heart problem. As he has asthma too, he  didn't take his 'breathlessness' seriously. Again I had to goad him to see a heart specialist after noticing his symptoms which told me he had more than 'mere asthma' when they didn't respond to regular-using inhalers and nebulizers.  My hunch was correct. He had pericardial effusion and the resultant irregular heart beats. 

These are life and death situations. Scientific illiteracy can kill you sometimes.

 This 's also a real story told by a resident doctor recently...

Most people in India don't donate blood thinking it leads to perpetual weakness!

So In India, if someone needs blood from blood bank, the protocol in a government hospital is that someone from the side of person requesting blood needs to donate blood (a relative or a friend).

A pregnant female brought to our hospital recently required blood because her haemoglobin was less than 7g/dl.

The obvious choice in such cases is husband. But he refused point blank.

The reason - he had sex yesterday with her. If he donates blood - it will cause even more weakness that he won't be able to do it again ever!

This is the state of mind most people are in not only in our country but in several parts of the world.

That is why we stress on science education. 


Dihydrogen monoxide  from Urban Legends Reference Pages, retrieved September 25, 2006.

Read here what scientific literacy means:

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