Real Scientist Breaks Down Chemistry in Iconic Cartoons Like ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ [Video]

Are bananas actually that slippery? Could spinach give you superhuman strength? And what the heck is Toon Acid? This week, watch some cartoons alongside Reactions writer and host, Sam Jones, and learn whether their chemistry checks out:

[CREW] Whatever this is, take whatever. [SAM] That wasn’t necessary.

Hi, I’m Samantha Jones, I have a PhD in biomedical science, and today we’re going to be looking at some cartoon chemistry.

[SPONGEBOB] Patrick, banana peel, don’t!

[SAM] Ah yes, Spongebob. My sister and I watched so much Spongebob growing up. Sorry mom and dad.

Slipping on a banana peel is definitely something that you see in a lot of cartoons. How legit is that, could you really wipe out by stepping on a banana peel?

Actually there was a research group that a few years back asked that question, and so they looked at the slipperiness of a shoe sole on floor board, versus a shoe sole on a banana peel and what they found was that a shoe sole stepping on a banana peel, it was actually six times as slippery. That’s as slippery as a ski is on the surface of snow. And so then they also tested a bunch of other fruits, like apple peels and tangerine skin, and they found that the banana peel still won out.

And so it turns out that what makes a banana peel so slippery is the mucus. If you look through a microscope at the inside of a banana, so that white part, you’ll actually see cells, and when you step on a banana peel those cells will burst, and then you’re left with this layer of slippery mucus. So scientists think that that probably comes from sugars, and I guess that would make sense because a lot of really sweet fruits are the ones that produce the thickest mucus.

Will a banana peel make you slip and do a back flip? Probably not, but it can definitely do some damage, so, beware.

All right, bring on the next one Oh, Popeye! He’s a crazy-looking dude. So could I get super jacked, super muscly, if I ate as much spinach is Popeye? No, definitely not. It’s actually kind of a myth within a myth. So why did Popeye eat spinach?

[POPEYE] Ya has to eat it to get health, strenth, and vitaliky!

[SAM] I grew up thinking it was because of the iron in spinach that he was eating it, but there is actually no account of Popeye saying it’s the iron in spinach that makes him strong. What he does mention, once in a drawn cartoon, is the vitamin A that makes him strong.

Yeah, spinach is a good source of vitamin A. It contains beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in your body, and it doesn’t make you strong, but it is really good for you. Too much vitamin A, though, can also be really dangerous. Beta carotene, which is what you get from spinach, that’s a form of pro vitamin A. So if you eat a ton of it it’ll turn you orange, but it’s actually still pretty safe.

Popeye looks pretty normally colored here, but really if he’s eating that much spinach he should probably be orange as well. Preformed vitamin A is actually the scary version of vitamin A, it’s the form that you get from most supplements and medications, and too much of that is what can kill you, and it can also cause birth defects.

Back to that iron myth. So Popeye never said that he was eating spinach for iron, and if he was, it was a bad choice on his part because even though spinach has a good amount of iron on paper, when you eat spinach, there are actually a bunch of compounds in it that make it really hard for you to absorb the iron.

Actually recently I came across a paper, it’s a study that was done just a few months ago I believe, where they gave athletes spinach extract, and they found that it actually made them stronger. And so that had nothing to do with vitamin A or iron. It actually had to do with a hormone that’s found in spinach extract, that helps you build muscle mass.

Popeye was not taking spinach extract, he was just eating an insane amount of spinach, and that definitely would not have made him Hulk out, definitely not like this. So my best guess is that Popeye’s canned spinach was fortified with a combination of amphetamines and steroids.

Okay what’s up next?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I love this one. Yeah, all the characters in this are so ridiculous. Judge Doom, spoiler alert, he’s a toon.

So from what I remember his goal was to spray the dip, or toon acid, all over toontown to make room for freeways and malls, and essentially create the world that we’re in today. And so I guess the question is, kind of, could the dip or toon acid actually kill a toon?

So first off, this movie was made in a way that’s very different from how animated movies are made today. So this was created, the toons were created by hand which is, like, just mind-blowing.

What they would do is you’d have these cartoons, they would be sketched and then they’d actually be transferred over to an animation cel, it’s kind of like, think of it as a sheet of, kind of like a sheet of plastic. And then from there there would be artists that would come in and they would hand paint, with acrylic based paint, on each of the frames in this movie, or whatever was being made, so you could get you know a few minutes of animation, and it would take thousands and thousands of these painted animation cels, which is unbelievable.

And so toon acid, or the dip, is actually a combo of turpentine, acetone, and benzene. And so actually all those are paint thinners, so individually they would definitely erase an acrylic based toon, so in combination definitely a hundred percent this could kill a toon. Yeah, chemistry checks out.

So that’s a wrap for cartoon chemistry, cue the music, I’m out.

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