Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where's the Corn in SNOW?

Snow.  That lovely, fluffy white wonderland we awaken to on Christmas Morning (And ideally it's otherwise relegated to ski slopes.) 

Unfortunately, while the stuff you shovel off the driveway and scrape from the windshield poses little more than a nuisance to those avoiding corn, the slopes are considerably more ominous. 

You see, most resorts operate for the sake of tourists.  And people can't make advanced plans around finnicky weather.  In order to keep their slopes ideal, many places are required to supplement natural snow fall with artificial snow.  This doesn't appear to be a problem at first glance, for snow is, after all, simply frozen water.  The trouble falls in the fact that in order to create a soft snow flake instead of a painful block of hail, one needs a nucleating agent.  Originally, they isolated a bacteria (Ironically discovered growing on a corn stalk) which would work.  But there are questions of the safety of using a bacteria, however benign, on snow meant to be utilized heavily by humans. 

So they kept searching.  Silica can be used, but they find it hard on the machinery, since it is abrasive.  (Silica is essentially medical grade sand.) 

Finally they found the answer.  Corn.  That miracle crop not only feeds the nation, fattens the cattle, and keeps our pills from falling apart, it also can be used to create a lovely lacey snowflake.  At least in the form of microcrystalline cellulose. 

And those in warmer climates aren't necessarily safe from the dangers of corny artificial snow.  Those lovely winter wonderlands are often created with corny soap flakes.  Plastic snow has gone green, so that it can last years indoors or degrade quickly in the landfill.  Either way, it spells trouble for the uncorny who comes in contact with it. 

So watch out for snow.  If you plan on skiing or toboganning, or otherwise heading out to a snow-centric resort, find out if they seed the snow and if so...what their nucleating agent is.  (And don't let them look at you with a glazed over smile, keep asking until you get a straight answer.) 

Let's just hope it stays out of the water supply. 


delrond said...


I noticed that you write a lot about allergies and thought you might find this article interesting: 10 Allergies Your Unlikely To Have Heard Of -

If you notice any errors or would like to add anything you think i have missed then please feel free to tell me via email. I will of course credit you with any changes that i make.



Service Sheet Boutique said...

Hi. I have been finding your blog so interesting. I have recently self diagnosed myself as having a corn allergy.

Tonight My hubby made himself some pop corn and my tongue swelled without even touching the stuff.. IS this possible? or is it in my head. I live in a small town and my dr is pretty useless. Im also pregnant and cant take my normal medicine.. are there any natural remedies. If you have time to point me in the right direction that would be great

Thanks for the info.

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