Friday, September 16, 2011

An Apple A Day Does NOT Equal Death

I’m adult enough to admit that when I was a kid I watched G.I. Joe.  Looking back now the plots were silly and the animation was kinda crude.  They actually did an episode where one of the Joes was freaking out because a “Viper” kept calling; ominously saying he would “be there tomorrow.”  Turns out it was just the window “wiper” with a heavy German accent.  An entire episode based on a lame joke.  It was not Shakespeare by any stretch of the imagination. 

There was one episode that has stuck in my brain.  It was called “The Germ.”  Here’s a synopsis: 
Psyudomondo U Bacteria, better known as Bacteria X, is stolen by the Crimson Guard, when they double cross Destro. In usual Cobra form, the Crimson Guard drops the Germ and a growth formula that Destro was working on, and it forms a giant blob that's eating everything in its path. The Joes throw everything at it from missiles to insecticide, and even send Airtight into the blob with explosive antibiotics. The blob separates in two after the Joes' attack, and one blob is weakened after going through an apple orchard. The Joes figure it's the poison in the apple seeds, so they bombard with blob with apples, which destroys the Germ.

I remember a bizarre scene at the end of the episode where the good guys and bad guys all team up launching thousands upon thousands of apples at this amoeba/blob to kill it with the poison in the apple seeds.  I’ve since learned that apple seeds (and some other fruit seeds) actually do have a tiny bit of cyanide.  (  I’ll leave it for another discussion how unrealistic it was, even to me as a kid, that they were all firing apples out of cannons and bazookas.  I guess what stuck in my mind was the concept that sometimes a little bit of poison won’t hurt the big bad beast, but a thousand times that, all at once, could.  A little bit of actual knowledge among the silliness.  And knowing is half the battle!

G.I. Joe may not have been as science minded as Sid The Science Kid ( or as skeptical as the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You (,_Where_Are_You!), but the idea of that apple-poison story stuck with me. 

I guess Dr. Oz never watched G.I. Joe.  (  I’m not a doctor, but I do know that the body can handle minor doses of many poisons.  Dr. Oz is a doctor.  He’s supposed to know about the dose-response.  He’s supposed to know that some compounds that contain arsenic (or mercury, etc) are actually safer and more easily metabolized than others.  He’s supposed to know better that his arsenic-in-apple-juice story is yelling "FIRE!!!" in a crowded theatre.  Unfortunately these stories just get thrown out there and people don’t remember the corrections.  G.I. Joe might have been a stupid and silly cartoon, but at least this once they got some science correct. 

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