Friday, January 29, 2010

Is margarine one molecule away from plastic?

I have addressed the issue as to whether margarine is close to plastic several times on my blog and because I continue to questions from readers, I will continue to address it. The myth that margarine is one molecule away from plastic seems to be one of those Internet rumors that permeates the World Wide Web. Here's a great explanation from "Ask Doug" in the Abilene Reporter News.

Q. Is there any fact in margarine being one molecule away from plastic?
And, if it in fact, why isn't it stopped?

A. No, probably.

I found a number of references to this question online, and I think the most authoritative came from Todd Whitecombe, who according to the site - MadSci.com - is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Northern British Columbia.

He says you can't just add a molecule of something and make margarine into a substance with plastic-like qualities.

Here's his explanation:

"...if you were very persistent, you could likely find a way to ploymerize the double bonds - the 'unsaturation' - of the fatty acids in the margarine and in so doing make a long chain polymeric substance that would be similar to other polymers. But 'one molecule away' implies that margarine is 'essentially plastic' and this is far from the truth. Margarine is 'not plastic' and making it so would be difficult."

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