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What Coke Contains (medium.com)
285 points by rchaudhary 1274 days ago | hide | past | web | 137 comments | favorite



Ok, bit of a bragging moment here: my grandpa, with two other gentlemen, created the process for machining seamless cans that is described here. Before them, cans had a lead seam in them. They discovered that you could draw down the aluminum and stretch it to form cans in one piece. He also invented the process for creating the bottom of soda cans, and his friend invented the modern tab on the top of soda cans.


That's pretty damn awesome. Behind everything we take for granted, there's someone who slaved over it and brought it into fruition. Thanks for sharing!


I think about this occasionally. Everything that you see that isn't "nature" was explicitly designed by somebody (and most likely a large team of somebodies). Its truly mind-boggling.


Sort of. So much is the result of tiny incremental design improvements over decades or centuries. I remember the first time I took apart a small engine it seemed to work so well together that it was almost organic. Like it had evolved, which in a way it had


And how those things not only survive but flourish in the same environment. It's mind boggling that those designs can co-exist without immediate repercussions! The complexity through the times amazes me!


I like to think about that too. Like I notice that there's a groove in the latch for a bathroom stall; an engineer decided to put that there, but for what reason?


Wow that's awesome. We live in a society where one person takes credit for something and in this case a Coke can is comprised of many inventions as are many things. You never hear about the guy who helped shape the process of creating the bottom of soda cans or the tab on them. I wonder who invented that piece of plastic that holds store bought bread together?


Loaves of bread were sold unsliced until 1928, when a guy named Otto Rohwedder figured out how to slice bread without crushing it. Rohwedder then wrapped the bread and inserted U-shaped pins on both sides of the loaf to make it look similar to an unsliced loaf. Sliced bread became a hit because you no longer had to worry about cutting pieces of similar thickness when you made a sandwich.

That's where the expression "the best thing since sliced bread" comes from. Obviously, people had been slicing loaves of bread for ages, but pre-sliced bread really is a relatively recent business innovation. The NYT magazine had a page about this in this week's issue.[1] Also, here is a Google ngram of the phrase "since sliced bread". You can see that the saying started in the 1950s. [2]

[1]http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/magazine/who-made-that-sli...

[2]http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=since+sliced+br...


I can not remember where read it, but if I recall correctly, sliced bread did not catch on until the patent on the bread slicing machine expired.


Not the individual inventor, but this company[1] invented the twisty in 1939.

Also twistys are color coated on bread, denoting the day of the week it was put out[2].

[1] http://www.twistems.com/pages/profile.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twist_tie#Color_coding_for_brea...


I love that Wednesday's twist tie color is a complete mystery even with the assembled resources of the internet.


As for why bread is not baked on Wednesdays (Read the comments):

http://main.kitchendaily.com/2011/04/07/color-coded-bread-ba...

"One thing is universal-all bread companies deliver five days a week, with days off being Wednesday and Sunday. Thus, these days have no color coded bread for the deliver driver to remove from the store."

Also, it's not universal the color codes (Which can vary from one brand to another), and in some cases, 7 color codes are used because those bread companies deliver 7 days a week: http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/breadtag.asp


I had a good laugh at that as well. I'm wondering now if it was intentional or the person that added it to wiki really did not know.



Great sleuthing work my friend!


There's a (perhaps surprising) amount of engineering happening in the tabs to soda cans.

(http://www.enotes.com/aluminum-beverage-can-reference/alumin...)

(http://www.engineerguy.com/videos/video-pop-can.htm)

Also, Pinjarra is doing the teal-orange thing too (https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Pinjarra,+Western+Australia...)


> They discovered that you could draw down the aluminum and stretch it to form cans in one piece. He also invented the process for creating the bottom of soda cans

Aren't these both part of the same process? Whatever is being done to force that piece of aluminum into the correct shape, it involves the same piece of metal.


Sort of, the can's bottom is flat (potentially with specific varying thicknesses) after the drawing. A punch then shapes the bottom to what it needs to be.


And this is why I love HN. There are so many interesting people lurking about. Thanks for sharing.


I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write. http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html


I find it unfortunate that an otherwise interesting story is used to convey some silly neo-liberal ideas. Try that getting-stuff-over-the-ocean-cheaply trick without harbors.


OK, I'll bite: which are the silly neoliberal ideas?


"Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand."

/curtains


Are you saying that people don't act according to their own satisfaction (monetary, emotional, romantic etc)? That human activity is basically Gaussian noise?


That's a strawman - disagreeing with the concept of the Invisible Hand (or perhaps rather, disagreeing with the scale some attribute it) is not the same as saying humans are RNGs.


Yes, it's a leading question.

From the other side of the debate I'd attack the concept of subjective value.

Why do people value this? We don't know. They just do.

How do you know they value it? Because of their actions.

Why do they take those actions? Because of their valuations.

But it's also difficult to argue the counter-case. Outside of corner cases such as depression, psychotic episodes etc, if people aren't acting to diminish discomfort or increase their perceived happiness, then what is motivating them?


The problem with this argument is it's too simplistic. When you respond with "people will sometimes do things against their best interests out of a sense of duty", the counter is to reduce the human to a stimulus-response box and say "aha! but they must be doing that because it benefits some psychological issue, so it is increasing their happiness"

The issue comes when that extremely mangled definition of happiness isn't then injected into economic discourse - it becomes a matter of dusting off the hands and saying "well, we proved that people do what's required to be happy" and go back to the simpler definition.

In any case, reducing everyone to a stimulus-response box and stating that on balance, it must be beneficial to choose action X for the organism turns the definition of 'happiness' into something worthless and actually pretty banal.

Edit: I usually see this argument in the sense of 'maximising profit', but occasionally as 'happiness' or other beneficial emotion.


I agree with the shifting sands of the "self interest" view.

Economists, though, don't fuss as much about motives because they're not observable. I mean you can build a reasonably explanatory model by simply assuming people are greedy hyperrationalists. But nobody really does that because it's just too simplistic.

If I had a point, I guess it's that economics thinking is much more textured and subtle than people give it credit for. "Neoliberal" is a label that was invented by critics and so its meaning is basically "whichever strawman fits right now".

If we're naming names amongst the arch-neoliberals, I think these days I prefer Hayek to almost anyone else. I think he really spent time in the stew of ideas and didn't retreat from the revealed complexity of the world into equations.


Isn't a person acting to fulfill one's duty something they do because they feel it is in their best interest? I would not be using the term "happiness", rather say that a person acts to remove a felt uneasiness.

How do you define "happiness"? What do you propose as an alternative to the subjective theory of value? (edit: if you disagree with it, I noticed it was the other guy hinting at being against it.)


Exactly what I was thinking about. Milton Friedman mentioned that story as well in his talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ERbC7JyCfU


The most interesting part of the story lies here:

"coca-leaf which comes from South America and is processed in a unique US government authorized factory in New Jersey to remove its addictive stimulant cocaine"

Consider the implications of one of the largest American companies being singularly authorized to buy and import hundreds of tons of coca leaf, which is banned in nearly every country and produced primarily by illegal drug manufacturers. Does anyone believe there's no funny business going on here?

(For the record, I think coca and cocaine should be legal.)

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/apr/19/20040419-093...


Here's an article on that topic and some excerpts I thought were interesting http://www.uic.edu/classes/osci/osci590/9_3%20The%20Legal%20...

>The Stepan Company (a $400 million American Stock Exchange company) of Maywood, New Jersey imports 175,000 KG of coca leaves into the United States each year. The leaves come from some of the same farms that supply the Columbian drug cartels.

>Flavor scientists say that the mysterious essence has no significant taste of its own , but acts as an 'enhancer' PepsiCo Inc. does not use the coca leaf. Flavor scientist Nicholas Feurstein thinks that the average guzzler might well notice the difference if Coke stopped using it.

>The leaf is ground up, mixed with sawdust, soaked in bicarbonate of soda, percolated with toluene, steam blasted, mixed with powdered Kola nuts, and then pasteurized. The Coke-Cola company, forever fearful of the DEA and the drug lords, is a stickler on security and quality. Drug lords have a less formal way to extract cocaine: they use kerosene as a solvent; the drug leaches out like tea from a tea bag. Cocaine is then recovered by evaporation.


From what I recall, a non polar solvent such as kerosene is used in the crude extraction of cocaine. However, it's very very unlikely that "cocaine is then recovered by evaporation" since kerosene is obtained by the fractional distillation of crude oil starting at 150C. Even if it were possible to evaporate off the kerosene to obtain freebase cocaine it would be amazingly dangerous.

The actual cocaine refining process, I believe, is a fairly typical polar/non-polar acid/base extraction.


It's a bit conspiracy theory: but is it really a coincidence that this factory is in NJ? the home of the sopranos?!


Where does pepsi get theirs?


They don't.


A more famous, and perhaps more interesting version of this observation can be found here: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html


Curious as to why there's no mention of the secret formula, since the author is wrong about kola nut being an ingredient of the syrup: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/pr2001447 (from the Coca-Cola wiki page), which interestingly is a component in many purported recipes.

It's also interesting to see a picture of a glass bottle coke when the American product rarely exists in such form. I've sworn off the HFCS version after discovering the Mexican recipe with cane sugar - it tastes so much better and comes in a glass bottle. When I was in Tijuana for a Startup Weekend, that's all they served.


I make my own cola based on the OpenCola recipe [1]. The end product tastes better -- fresher, richer, more interesting -- than ordinary Coca-Cola. I use cane sugar, but then that's nothing novel to me since I'm in Europe where most sodas are made with cane sugar.

I investigated kola nut as part of the process, and kola nut is simply not what I have been assuming all these years. The powdered form of the kola nut has an awful, bitter taste that is nothing like the "cola" taste. Rather, the main source of Coca-Cola's "bite" comes from the acid component. Some of it may perhaps also come from the caffeine and/or processed cocoa leaves.

Also, I have not seen any recipe (including the purported original recipe by Pemberton) that uses kola nut.

[1] http://www.colawp.com/colas/400/cola467_recipe.html


This time of year you can buy "Passover Coke." It's made with cane sugar. It has no corn syrup in it whatsoever, while Mexican Coke actually has a ≈70/30 cane/corn mix. You can tell it apart from regular Coke by its yellow cap printed with a circle U (kosher symbol).

It's much cheaper than Mexican Coke (same price as regular 2 liter Coke), although it doesn't come in a glass bottle. And it's delicious! I actually stock up every year since I found out about this.


You should consider making your own cola. It's easy, and very rewarding. Recipe mentioned in my other comment [1].

Incidentally, there are some very good "alternative" colas. My favourite is Fentimans' Curiosity Cola [2], which NY Times once described as "the world's best cola", and which is made with a small amount of fermented ginger (fermented juices is their thing). I also really like Boylan's Cane Cola [3].

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5311790

[2] http://www.fentimans.com/

[3] http://www.boylanbottling.com/products/cane-sugar-sodas/boyl...


Fentimans' sounds awesome. I've had a lot of other cane sodas like Boylan's. My kids and I used to raid Bevmo's soda aisle once a week to try new things. That gets expensive though. Passover Coke is nice and cheap by comparison. I never thought about making my own. Maybe I'll give it a try.


Where do you live? I've heard of Passover Coke for years but never actually seen it. Judging by the name, it must be a regional thing in places like New York that have a higher Jewish population.


I live in Southern California. I thought it would be hard to find when I first went looking, but the first Albertsons I went in had a giant stack of it. Do you have any grocery stores with a kosher section or an "international" section? That might be a place to look.

I've read it's available some places now; I haven't seen it myself yet this year.


AFAIK the use of high-fructose corn syrup is illegal in the EU and a number of other regions (thankfully), hence why Coke is made with actual sugar in most areas outside the US.


HFCS is not banned in the EU, but its production is limited to 5% of total sugar production.

"Which foods and beverages contain GFS?

Because of the limited availability in Europe, the products in which GFS is used, are those where the sweetening power and other qualities are needed simultaneously. Examples of this can be found in baked goods, cereal products, confectionery, jams and preserves, yogurts and other dairy products, condiments (e.g. mustard and ketchup), canned and packed goods. The use of GFS in soft drinks has been limited as this application needs a fructose content of 42% or higher to give the desired sweetness and GFS is not available in sufficient quantities to be widely used in soft drinks. In the EU, soft drinks continue to be sweetened mostly with sucrose, when in the US, they are sweetened with HFCS."

http://www.eufic.org/page/en/page/FAQ/faqid/glucose-fructose...


Corn syrup is also cheaper than sugar in the United States due to large tariffs on imported sugars and large subsidies for domestic corn production. I'm pretty sure this is the original reason for use only in the USA as opposed to laws forbidding it outside.


This paper:

http://goranlab.com/pdf/Ventura%20Obesity%202010-sugary%20be...

(Linked from here:

http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/28/study-hey-hipsters-mex... )

Explains that the Mexican coke tested had fructose and glucose in it. It could have been bottled with HFCS or perhaps the cane sugar split in the bottle.

That doesn't in any way account for all the possible differences with Mexican coke though.


An interesting derivative of "I, Pencil":

http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html


> The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero

While I understand what the author is trying to say, I don't think that is true at all. I'm pretty sure that if they had a good reason, any number of advanced economies could get it together enough to produce the cans themselves. Seems like the main hard part is the aluminium.

While I'm nit-picking, I believe natural cryolite has not been used in aluminium processing for decades.

Thought-provoking article, though; I typed this with a can of Diet Coke on my desk.


It's the same reason natural cryolite isn't used - it's not economically viable. Lots of countries grow all the agricultural products. Aluminum isn't hard, just potentially more expensive.

> While I'm nit-picking...

Me too, Pinjarra is where the refinery for the largest producing bauxite mine is. And the refinery operates today because of cheap coal in Australia.

As is the case with many industrial minerals, it's often far cheaper to ship raw ore or concentrates to smelters built where electricity is cheap. Aluminum is no exception, and electricity cost is the reason there is a refinery in Iceland, despite being far from any bauxite mines.

The story really isn't that no country can't make a can of Coke, but why they don't. It's a fascinating story, unfortunately mostly told through feasibility spreadsheets.

I'm in the industry and it's not hard to think of all the steps ranging hundreds of millions of years to put an apple on my desk (there's volcanoes and inland seas! Dinosaurs if you stretch your mind!). This is a good summary. If he got any deeper, it'd be a book.


Lots of countries grow all the agricultural products

Who grows cinnamon, vanilla, coca, and kola? How many countries grow all four, because I doubt it's "lots". Do they also have some form of sugar and aluminium industries? (or steel/tin industries for different kinds of cans, or glass industry for bottles (with something for caps)?)

Besides, saying "oh, but countries could, they just don't" is having your cake and eating it too - the fact that countries don't because it's massively uneconomical means that yes, it does take multiple countries to produce a can.

It's a bit like saying "it takes a superpower to land men on the moon". Oh, sure, you could say "no it doesn't - throw enough private enterprise together and get someone there", but the point remains, no-one will - it still takes a superpower to land men on the moon.


>I'm pretty sure that if they had a good reason, any number of advanced economies could get it together enough to produce the cans themselves.

It's not just the metal, it's the ingredients of the flavouring. Coca leaves don't grow everywhere (although, sure, you could put the plant in a greenhouse).


A more accurate way to say it might be that no individual nation could produce a can of coke so cheaply.


An enormous and sophisticated 'tool chain'. Surely it could never be implemented in a one-day-to-be-invented universal fabricator? One is reminded of those 19th C ppl who thought recorded music was impossible since any player would have to contain miniature versions of all the orchestral instruments (or things that resembled them: "humanity's choir") together with a horrendously large paper roll punched full of holes


If you have a large enough supply of electrons, protons and neutrons, and you can combine them at will, you can make anything.


Anything except for quarks.


If you bang some of the electrons hard enough into some of the neutrons or protons you'll even get quarks.


No you won't.

You need to bang protons or neutron together. Electrons don't participate in color force and can't make quarks.


Hehe, trust me for getting it wrong, you are absolutely right.


I think Mr. Ashton is trying to illustrate Sagan's dictum, "If you wish to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." Except it's coke, and he doesn't go past bauxite.


>>The top of the can is then added. This is carefully engineered: it is made from aluminum, but it has to be thicker and stronger to withstand the pressure of the carbon dioxide gas.<<

Eh? The pressure is greater at the top of the can?


The top needs to be thicker because of its geometry. The curved sides and domed base can resist pressure better than the flat top.

Another interesting fact is the can is narrower at the top to reduce the size of the lid, saving cost and mass.

Lots of details and photos on aluminum cans at http://www.chymist.com/Aluminum%20can.pdf so check it out.


It may also be a result of greater stiffness required for the captive pop-tab opener to work properly.

There's an interesting Slate article[1] about the complexity of what appears to be a such a simple feature; in order to achieve the force necessary to rupture the can opening, the tab pivot transitions between a first and second class lever. There's a good video somewhere showing the principles, but I can't seem to find it.

Returning to the 'pressure' argument, recall that most drinks cans have a domed bottom which provides comparatively greater strength than the flatter top.

[1] http://www.slate.com/articles/life/design/2012/09/can_tabs_h...


Here's a link to the mentioned video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekv0kprA3AY


Pressure is the same on both ends, and the bottom of the can is already thicker than the sides of it. The top of the can is thicker than the sides, but thinner than the bottom, because you need to be able to open the can easily. So in order to make it thinner than the bottom but at least as strong, you use a different alloy.


Good point, though I suspect it is down to the ring pull being the weakest part by design of being able to open it along the indented outline of the tab. Though it could also be so possibly from the aspect of the carbon dioxide want to rise to the top and that extra force would only incure more pressure towards the top (assuming the can is upright). There again thats a bit of a wild guess, but the only plausable explanation I can find as to why that would be so. Or it could be wrong in some way and mixed the ring pull tab area as the weakest link and worded it to impley the whole top.

Though I do know with most certainty that if placed in a freezer and left then it will expand at the top and the bottom and mostly rupture a bit around the ring pull tab in the process.


> Though it could also be so possibly from the aspect of the carbon dioxide want to rise to the top and that extra force would only incure more pressure towards the top

Pressure inside an enclosed volume is equal everywhere.


I would guess this has more to do with the need to stack the cans than pressure internal to the can because of carbon dioxide. But it is just a guess.


Thicker and stronger is about the pull-tab.

Smaller is about cost. They save a bit (say $3 per 1,000 as per link I posted elsewhere) by making the top 1/4 inch smaller.

Over 70 million cans a day that's some cash.


This instantly reminded me of:

http://www.gburnett.unisonplus.net/Perma/indexp2.htm

(The Industrial Cup Of Tea)


For those who might be interested, here's a fantastic Scientific American (back when it was still good) article about the aluminum can and how it's made: http://www.chymist.com/Aluminum%20can.pdf



It's incredible to me that an essay as detailed as this one had not one single citation. Regardless, it was a fascinating read.


This sounds something like an astroturf for a brown chemical drink which sure as eggs is eggs will rot your teeth and kill you sooner than if you drink clean water (or moderate amounts of wine for that matter). We can make the globalisation and connectedness point a lot more clearly and ideologically neutrally without promoting useless Lowest Common Denominator products that merely waste our resources and do not add to the total sum of human happiness.


>This sounds something like an astroturf for a brown chemical drink which sure as eggs is eggs will rot your teeth and kill you sooner than if you drink clean water (or moderate amounts of wine for that matter).

...Did you just make that up on the spot?

>We can make the globalisation and connectedness point a lot more clearly and ideologically neutrally without promoting useless Lowest Common Denominator products that merely waste our resources and do not add to the total sum of human happiness.

Oh, good grief, I responded to your exact type of comment by another person further down, but I'll repeat the summary here: Your comment makes no sense.

I don't know if you're just the type of guy that needs to cut down everything to justify your ego, or maybe this is just a form of the engineer humble brag, but honestly, "Lowest Common Denominator products that merely waste our resources and do not add to the total sum of human happiness." Really? You going to stand by that? Did you even read the article?

I'd say the fact that it requires all of the distribution and production means describes in the article to keep up the demand of its product a tick in the "Brings Happiness" column. I myself very much enjoy having a Cherry Coke Zero when anytime I visit the theater. Have I, along with the rest of the world, been deluding myself? I didn't actually enjoy that product, and got no happiness or enjoyment out of its consumption? Who knew!

Further human happiness is a strange thing to use as a measuring stick for a product's "worth." What is the 'level' of human happiness that a product must bring before it is of value in your book? Obviously, being that coca-cola product represent 3% of all beverages consumed around the world (I looked it up), we need something that, what, hits that 4% mark before we can acknowledge that it actually does deliver some marginal level of happiness to the population?

What is your opinion on restaurants? Those seem to provide the same type of happiness as a coke. Maybe we should tell all those people to go out and do something worthwhile that gives actual happiness. Whatever that fuck that actually means.


I read the whole thing. Yes, wow, impressive supply chain. But then the supply chain for something useful like an aircraft, or mechanical digger would be a lot more useful.

I'm a very positive person... for things which improve the su of human happiness and creativity, in the spirit of the Bay Area, rather than just selling sugar for the sake of finance.

wrt your ad homines, I'd examine the psychological projection of your own ego onto ohters: why get personal when this is jsut an interesting deate about values, economics, production and globalisation? Have a lovely day!


>But then the supply chain for something useful like an aircraft, or mechanical digger would be a lot more useful.

By what metric? Please, do explain. What does it mean to be "useful." Is a chef useful? Is an artist useful? Comments like yours get under my skin because they seem purposefully vague, which allows plenty of room for high browing, and faux elitism.

>rather than just selling sugar for the sake of finance.

Ok, so what is your cut off? Should all food manufacturers switch to aerospace engineering so they can finally contribute something useful? Bakeries? We should probably laud them as well. After all, they are, pretty much by definition, sugar in return for profit. Art is probably out too, I suppose. The film industry, despite is fantastically complex tool chain, at the end of the day, isn't really "useful." It contributes a kind of arbitrary happiness. Feel free to let me know if I'm off base, or if you feel as though I'm strawmanning. It's just that "sum happiness" and "useful" are so vague and poorly defined that I have no idea what you mean.

>jsut an interesting deate about values, economics, production and globalisation?

Dismissing something without reason is not a debate. That is the issue I took with your comment. "sum happiness" means nothing at all.


I didn't realize that they were adding caffeine; I was under the impression it was a natural by-product of the ingredients.


cocaine is the natural by-product. caffeine was the replacement after cocaine was deemed illegal.


I believe most of the cryolite used now is synthetic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hexafluoroaluminate).


eh, I just don't feel like the writer understands or cares to explain how that whole process is actually detrimental to the world despite the fact that it "unites" it. Coke is just addictive sugar water that does nothing for anyone. When has coke given you something other than diabetes?

Kevin Ashton fails at pointing out the impact of this collaboration. Couldn't all of these talented people that made such a sophisticated product put their energy towards something.. I dunno, useful?


Look at yourself - you belong to the elite of our species. You are educated enough to know how to read and write. You are fortunate enough to have a computer,and be connected to the internet. You are fortunate enough to speak one of the most widely used languages in the world. This all implies that you are at the top of our evolutionary ladder.

And yet with all this power in your hands, and with the limited time we have in our lives, you decide to go on Hacker News and comment how other people are not doing useful things? Even though for many people the process of making coke is literally the only way they can survive, and yet, they are the ones not doing anything useful? I think you are being naively idealistic at the very best, and just a hypocrite at the worst.


and you? You castigate a poster for doing exatly what you are doing yourself. Ironically recursive.

It's important that the elites of this world understand what harm they and their tribes are doing, intentionally or not, because awareness comes before action!


Of course I am doing it ironically. That's not the point though.

If you think that someone at Coca-Cola Co. is going to wake up one day and say "you know, we are going stop making soda drinks and lay off thousands of people and cause unemployment for hundreds of thousands because after all,we produce a drink that's no good for anyone", then I think you are(just like OP) being naively idealistic.


Quite possibly. However, great changes only ever arise from apparently impossible tasks! You probably actually know that from things like Einstein's special relativity coming shortly after Lord Kelvin's infamous dictum, or Galileo standing up to the Church...


I've never understood this line of thinking. In fact, it feels a bit arbitrary, because your line of thinking can apply to literally anything -- there's no clear cut off point for "useful." By your logic, should we also hold chefs in a low regard. When has their food ever done anything other than make us fat? What about art? Pretty useless. Those people should become engineers and actually contribute something?

you personally don't find a coke to be useful. However, it is a product that brings many people happiness. That actuall seems pretty useful to me.

Further, you completely missed all of the engineering. the modern soda can, the aluminum milling processes, all the high tech tool chains, those happened as a side effect of the mass production of the product you dislike.


You're absolutely right, and it's important to keep raising this point and engaging with the part of your awareness that recognises that there is nothing good about coke and many other products and businesses.

Businesses and the people that work for them need to engage with their consciences, and stop doing work that causes harm, such as producing or marketing a food product with catastrophic effects to human health.

In response to some other comments: 'because I need to earn money' is not a reason to do work that causes harm to other people, 'because i am well off' is not a reason to not challenge what you perceive as harmful.


You are, of course, absolutely correct.

What is needed to redirect efforts in useful directions is a manner of decision-making and reward within our society that trumps economic rationalism based upon paper-profits and a complete disregard for other factors (human rights, environmental protection, etc.).

How we are going to get there is a question worth working on. I posted yesterday on my perceptions of how we are, albeit slowly, marching towards achieving this. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5308525


A can of coke (in the US) gives me 140 calories, every time I drink one. That's 140 calories I would have had to get from somewhere else, or do without. It would be better if I got those calories along with some fiber and other nice things by eating a fruit, but to say that Coke does nothing for anyone is absurd; sugar water clearly has utility.


> That's 140 calories I would have had to get from somewhere else,

Most people are not struggling to get calories. Most people don't have to work hard to eat their 2000 calories a day.


> Coke is just addictive sugar water

It would be somewhat healthier if it actually contained sugar (as opposed to high fructose corn syrup).


I doubt that. Sugar and HFCS are essentially the same thing, produced in different ways. Sugar (sucrose) is a 50/50 split between glucose and fructose. HFCS has more fructose in it, generally around 65/35.

There's a danger from using too much HFCS in the replacement, but really, saying sugar is healthier than HFCS is akin to saying that it's better to be punched kickboxer than a boxer.


In the UK it still uses sugar, and imho tastes a whole lot better than the HFCS version.


Most countries still do, except the US, where we have corn subsidies and sugar tariffs to artificially lower the price of corn and artificially raise the price of sugar (to protect a few growers in the south US).

The other year when sugar prices were near equal to corn, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper distributed soda with sugar only throughout much of the United States. I haven't followed the prices of sugar since, but I would gather the price went back up either naturally or through congressional means.


The commodity price of sugar is ~1.5 cents per can of soda, so I think they could get away with it whenever they wanted (meaning that they would have canceled the products because they weren't making enough volume on them).

Now I looked it up, Pepsi markets "throwback" brands which use sugar.


Useful : Able to be used for a practical purpose.

Useful for what? Making people happy? Killing fire-ants? Repelling purple elephants?

You're gonna need to define a purpose for that to mean anything. (I suspect trying would look a lot like politics)


By that logic, candy is pointless and we should get rid of it?


This reminds a lot of Milton Friedman's pencil story (http://youtu.be/R5Gppi-O3a8?t=15s)


And what Coke no longer contains: alcohol, cocaine. Also without sugar and caffeine if you want, sometimes I wonder what's the point of drinking it.

I remember reading it would be more interesting to use steel cans because it's easier to catch them using magnets. Are we now able to sort and recycle aluminum cans better ?


Reminds me of a passage from Richard Powers's novel "Gain" where the process by which a disposable camera is manufactured, packaged, distributed, ad sold serves to explain everything that is at once miraculous and broken about our world.


First it was an interesting article, but the last paragraph made it an amazing article.


Well, this article gives yet another reason to stay away from sodas.


> on the Murray River in Western Australia called Pinjarra

always jarring to read something you know to be so obviously false so early in a piece. *waves to fellow Sandgropers


I grew up in Pinjarra, and swam in the Murray River almost every day. So I don't know what your point is, exactly - that Western Australia doesn't have a Murray River? It does.



It's jarring because there's a much more famous Murray river "over east".


I know, it borders my state. But the article specifies the one in Western Australia. Seems OK; but maybe I'm just getting too accustomed to the unhelpfully concise style of mathematics papers.

It was surprising to me too, but concluding it to be "so obviously false" seems unwarranted, especially online - where it's so easy to check. Dismissing surprises as incorrect narrows the world into one's model of the world. And to me, the unknown is more interesting than the known.


"The second ingredient, caramel coloring, gives the drink its distinctive dark brown color. There are four types of caramel coloring — Coca Cola uses type E150d, which is made by heating sugars with sulfite and ammonia to create bitter brown liquid. The syrup’s other principal ingredient is phosphoric acid, which adds acidity and is made by diluting burnt phosphorus (made by heating phosphate rock in an arc-furnace) and processing it to remove arsenic."

Hmmm... arsenic

I'd rather there were no lethal poisons at any point in the production process.

I'm never drinking another glass of Coca-Cola. I'm not touching PEPSI either.


There's a lot of stuff you can't ingest, if you'd follow that criterion.


Of all things for him to stop drinking....

But if you are worried about arsenic don't eat rice, and be careful of the ground water (depending on where you live).


I'm curious if coca cola contains real vanilla extract vs. synthetic; seems implausible for them to use the real plant product.


Further reminds me that if you love something, even an everyday item, researching it's origin can be rewarding.


I love these kinds of threads, where software engineers pretend they are experts in economics, etc.


By contrast, you can make wine from a single ingredient. And it's an awful lot better than coke.


The glass bottle, cork, label, etc do not grow on the vine.


Nor do sterilized equipment, reliably dominant yeasts, clarification agents, additional sugars and yeast nutrients often required to balance or complete fermentation, or environments that maintain and/or remove suitable temperature ranges for desirable yeasts.


A good spot to learn precisely how and why you are wrong: http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/


Natural grapes make wine on their own. In fact, most creatures produce ethanol through one or another pathway.


Presence of ethanol does not a wine make.

If you happen to have a certain temperature range, suitable wild-yeast strains present, adequate chemical composition and pick at the right time of year, it is theoretically possible to make a drinkable wine with unprocessed fruits and no chemicals. However, in most environments and with most fruits you are far more likely to wind up with something foul-tasting and undrinkable.


You need grapes and yeast, it just happens that the yeasts are found in the air/on the grapes.


Time is the other ingredient, of which wine requires a lot.


And force (either from a press or the bottom of someone's foot) :)


Out of curiosity, did you actually read the linked article or did you just jump to conclusions based on the title?


An obvious omission: salt.


Well, salt being common (now, not historically) is probably sourced close to production to reduce its transportation costs. There is a large salt mine within 35 miles of my house, and they are located all along the gulf coast in salt domes, a by product of oil exploration.


You make a good point about it not fitting the international narrative, but then water can be sourced anywhere and they mention the word twice.


I read it and then thought "Why Coke?" That's the story of every manufactured product assembled from multi-sourced vendors. It's not news, and it's not unique to Coke. If you think it is you'll probably have an orgasm when you learn how pencils are made.


The process is representative of the complexity involved in something so pervasive that it almost replaces water.

It is the complexity and the pervasiveness that makes it mind-boggling.


Right, this same story gets re-hashed every few months on the popular news sharing sites as a way to "blow people's minds" and there is never a shortage of people who lap it up. It is amazing how stuff is made, but not mind-blowing.


Who said anyone is trying to blow anyone's minds? It's just an article which has been posted which is interesting.


I'll go ahead and ask how pencils are made.


DO NOT CLICK THIS YOU WILL GET VERY EXCITED!! http://www.pencilpages.com/articles/make.htm


I've actually got an educational kit floating around somewhere that looks like that, from when my Mom worked at an office supply business. It was called "How a Ticonderoga Pencil is made kit", and has the raw parts from each step of the pencil making process. I'll see if I can dig it up and post pictures.


a great example of capitalism. think about that the next time you have a knee jerk reaction towards business.


Private enterprise != capitalism. And planned economies have done this kind of thing, too.


They have, but not as well as a rule.

Plus, not every country has every resource. Even the vast internal resources of the USSR needed to be supplemented by goods and services purchased on the open market (and vice-versa, the USSR got most of its hard currency by selling oil).




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