Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mmm, Silica

Slate's Explainer answers a question that has surely puzzled generations: what happens if you eat silica gel, the tiny pellets of stuff in those little packets that come in your shoes?

It turns out, nothing much will happen, as silica is non-toxic, so I will plan to chow down on the next package I see, disregarding the sternly labeled "Do Not Eat".

One question Explainer does not address is, why is it called silica gel, when it's clearly a kind of sandy, grainy, or tapioca-pearly substance (depending on your specific packet)?

Is not a gel something soft and squishy and midway between liquid and solid? Not something grainy or pearly?

The internet is no help, merely noting, on various descriptive pages, some variation of the phrase "despite the name, silica gel is actually solid."

Yeah, thanks. Got that part.

Also, I suddenly feel like some tapioca pudding. The kind with the big pearls, that we called 'frog eggs' when I was a kid. I wonder how tapioca pudding would be with those really huge pearls they use in 'bubble tea'? Mmm, frog eggs.

Anyway, obviously 'gel' in this case doesn't refer to the word as commonly defined (for example, by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary), so maybe it's short for something. Say, the person who invented it's name was Gelvine and he or she was called Gel for short.

"Hey, Gel! We're naming this grainy silica product after you! I'm sure it won't sow any confusion in the minds of earnest folk reading about it on some sort of vast information distribution system in years to come!"

Or, it's short for 'gelastic,' which means laughable, and calling the product 'gel' was a very roundabout joke.

Those are my best guesses. I know, they're both pretty terrible, but when the internet fails you, what are you supposed to do but make something up?


1 comment:

brian said...

now you got me thinking about one of my fav deserts - tapioca! I love it.

I would use the silica as a cheap alternative to "bath salts" - there you go