People are, by nature, very gullible, nieve and border on ignorance. There are very few that strive for understanding. Most accept what is told them by friends, the media and the government without question. Take for, instance, the calorie. Millions of Americans read the labels of food containers and worry endlessly about the number of calories that a food contains. This is a classic example of human ignorance. How can one worry about something and not know what it is, where it comes from, and what it does?
A French scientist, Antoine Lavoisier coined the term calorie, actually caloric, in the eighteenth century. Mr. Lavoiser observed that chemical reactions gave off heat. He believed that this heat was some form of fluid, much like water, that carried the heat away from the reaction. (Rothman, 69) Antoine was on the right track; he merely got on the wrong train.
Benjamin Thompson, also an eighteenth century scientist, observed that while drilling through brass with a dull bit he could produce enormous amounts of heat yet not get very deeply into the brass. This led Mr. Thompson to the conclusion that heat was the product of work, not the invisible fluid caloric.
Joseph Black, yet another scientist of the seventeen hundreds, discovered that it took different substances varying amounts of heat to raise one gram of a substance one degree Celsius. He called this specific heat. Mr. Black also noticed that when mercury at fifty degrees is mixed with equal amounts of water at zero degrees the resulting mixture would be only one degree. From this, he concluded that heat and temperature were not the same. In order to give the scientific world a standard of measure Mr. Black termed
the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius a calorie.
The problem encountered here is that the calorie on food containers is not quite the same as Mr. Blacks. The calories referred to by the food and Drug Administration are actually kilocalories. That is one thousand times greater than those Mr. Black discovered. When Americans sit down to breakfast and eat a serving of Frosted Flakes, they are not ingesting one hundred sixty calories but one hundred sixty THOUSAND calories. This is enough heat to boil nearly seven hundred fifty grams of water.
One hundred sixty thousand calories may seem an exorbitant amount to ingest in one sitting until one considers that the human body is comprised of eighty- percent water. The body must be kept at or near ninety eight and one half degrees Fahrenheit at all times, to accomplish this feat enormous amounts of energy are consumed.