Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Rant, Part Two

Okay, there's another web site that's got me frothing at the mouth in anger. I won't link to it, because I don't want to give it any Googlejuice, but it's already on the first search page.

I was searching on the web for safety information on sucralose, one of those sugar substitutes. Sucralose is basically sucrose (ordinary sugar), but with three hydroxyl groups replaced with chlorine atoms. "Chlorine?!," you might think, but then you'll probably remember that table salt is sodium chloride, and your stomach contains hydrochloric acid. Yeah, chlorinated compounds might very well be dangerous, but that's not the point here. The point is that this one web site, in discussing the safety of sucralose, admitted that salt is sodium chloride, but insisted that that's not relevant, because NaCl doesn't become a gas until 1600 degrees, and so the chloride atom is never separate, not like in sucralose.

Hello? Or, instead of heating it to the point of dissociation, you could drop the salt in a glass of water, you moron! Freeing the Cl- atom is far easier from salt than it is from the carbon in sucralose. To quote one of my favorite professors, "You couldn't be more wrong."

Now the second part of the rant is that there is no way I can usefully indicate that this guy is an idiot. He's already a top ten Google site for searching on sucralose, and maybe people looking for information won't know that he's an idiot. If I linked to him in this story, all that would happen is that his Google rank would rise. There are proposals out there for a way to link negatively, indicating that I don't like the destination (sort of like modding down on Slashdot), but that's probably not quite enough information (although it would be a useful first step). What the web really needs is a way for third parties to annotate web sites without the permission of the original web site owner. I should be able to attach this message (or more preferably a clearer one) to that page, pointing out the many ways in which he is ignorant of high school chemistry, and that page should be visible to casual visitors, or at least ones who have somehow indicated that they trust me or want to see annotations.

Next, I'll talk about ways that we could move to an annotated society.