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What Coke Contains (2013) (medium.com)
410 points by fmela on Sept 19, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 178 comments

> 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

According to Wikipedia "The Stepan Company is the only manufacturing plant authorized by the Federal Government to import and process the coca plant, which it obtains mainly from Peru and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia. Besides producing the coca flavoring agent for Coca-Cola, the Stepan Company extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which it sells to Mallinckrodt, a St. Louis, Missouri, pharmaceutical manufacturer that is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use."

Medicinal use clarification--an official from Mallinckrodt who "asked not to be named" had this to say:

"We purchase a crude extract and purify it further into one chemical form, cocaine hydrochloride U.S.P."


I looked that up because I don't work in health care:

"Cocaine Hydrochloride is used topically to produce local anesthesia of accessible mucous membranes of oral, laryngeal, and nasal cavities. It is often used for emergency room sutures and outpatient nasal and facial surgery.

Because Cocaine Hydrochloride is readily absorbed from mucous membranes and can cause severe adverse effects, the drug should be used with caution, and careful attention should be given to dosage and administration technique.

Repeated topical application of cocaine can result in psychic dependence and tolerance."


Cocaine is a local anaesthetic that also restricts blood flow in capillaries hence its very useful in nasal surgery.

Yes, I went through a time in my teens when I suffered from bad nosebleeds and I remember the 'cocaine liquid' that was put up my nose on cotton wool before a couple of cauterization sessions.

Worth noting that powder cocaine used recreationally is usually (or always? not sure) Cocaine Hydrochloride too (though cut with non-cocaine as well, of course)

Does this mean I cannot open my own company to process coca-leafs? Can I sue the government due to monopoly practices? Why this factory is any better than any citizen wanting to open coca-leaf processing plant??

Bureaucracy, not conspiracy. I'm sure it's theoretically be possible to bid for the procurement contract and apply for the license and whatnot, but this would take years, cost lots of money, and leave you with an incredibly heavily regulated product and thus (presumably) not much of a profit margin.

presumably beng the keyword ;)

It would be interesting to see how the cocaine supply line works. I imagine they'd need armored vehicles and a lot of security for the entire trip from NJ to MO.

> [Stepan employee] O'Brien runs a network of agents in Peru and Bolivia who get coca leaves from some of the same farms that supply the Colombian drug cartels. When a shipment arrives in the U.S., a high-security convoy of trucks ferries the leaves from the docks of Manhattan to Maywood, where it is greeted by a rifle-toting guard. After production, armored cars leave the building loaded with barrels of high-quality cocaine.


No more so that the security used for painkillers like Oxycontin. I haven't seen armed guards doing deliveries at CVS, but you never know. There are a lot less suspicious ways to acquire cocaine than to hijack a semi.

It's not unheard of for even more common drugs to travel by armored car with armed guards. Sudafed, for instance. Especially in rural areas with known meth problems.

For what it's worth, regular-looking tractor trailers loaded with valuable stuff pay visits to the US Mint and Federal Reserve buildings in downtown Philadelphia. If they take any special precautions, they aren't evident.

In reality it's likely a comparatively small supply. Flying it would also present less issues.

The Stepan Company slogan: "LET'S DO THIS GUYS"

I wish Coca Cola would make a acid free version of coke. The Phosphoric Acid adds a slight tang to the drink, but in exchange absolutely destroys your teeth over years of consumption.

For regular drinkers like myself I'd happily pay a small premium to buy the "acid free" version of the drink. The sugar still does damage but with both the acid AND sugar it is like a double whammy of "badness" (acid which destroys your teeth's natural protective coating, and sugar to feed the bacteria which actually eat away at your teeth).

No amount of brushing can really undo the amount of damage acidic soda does to your teeth, trust me I know! Even with prescription toothpaste with fluoride 5x times stronger than normal (5000 ppm toothpaste Vs. 1100 ppm) you're only slowing down the progression.

The problem is, the acid is a vital component of the flavor. Try mixing water with sugar to see what I mean...it is sweet, but it's not particualy good. To make it taste better, the best approach is to add some acid (lemon juice naturally gets you lemonade, but other edible acids would get you a similar effect.) Even fruit juice follows this basic flavor formula (most fruits are acidic, though watermelons are basic)

Watermelon is definitely not basic, it's just less acidic than most other fruits. But it's more acidic than distilled water (<7.0), therefore it's not basic.

Yup, looks like you're right! I stand corrected.

Try drinking water and eating fruit when you feel the urge to have a soft drink. Maybe you do already. It worked really well for me.

Seriously I think outright rejection of all sweetened drinks is probably the best ROI for a dietary change one can make.

The whole truth about what soda pop and other heavily engineered processed foods do to one's metabolism and general health is going to be shocking to people when it is finally revealed, and I think tooth enamel is the least of your worries.

I did a test one year where for a full 365 days, I completely removed all sodas from my diet and changed nothing else, kept my regular doses of exercise the same. Only drank water or tea/lemonade at meals. Easiest 15 pounds I ever lost

Drinking sweetened drinks is exactly what makes the difference for me between losing and gaining weight.

Sodas are sugar water. We already know what sugar does: provide clean, metabolically efficient, allergen free calories. If you're on the road or out and about and hungry, a coke is often the healthiest choice you can make. The quality of options such as fruits and meat and baked goods are typically atrocious at convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Just get a coke and some milk. Available at McDonald's and gas stations nationwide.

This is borderline insane. Pure sugar results in huge swings of actual blood sugar levels. Coke has zero fat, protein or complex carbohydrates all of which are much better macronutrients than pure sugar.

If Coke is your only option, sure, but I've never seen a doughnut so terrible that I'd take a coke instead.

Let me get this straight: you're advocating commercial dough deep fried in corn or soy oil over some sugar? You have no idea what you're talking about.

Sugar does not produce major swings in blood sugar levels unless you're diabetic. Have a working pancreas? Good, then sugars are a perfectly healthy source of calories which your system will merrily mop up into glycogen. Anyway, starch produces a larger insulin response than sugar, so the sugar phobes are laughably ignorant on this count.

As for your concern with nutrients, the fact is an adult male needs 2400+ calories a day. Protein and other nutrient needs are very easily met with some servings of foods such as eggs and milk and potatoes, still leaving a large calorie deficit. Sugar is a perfectly viable way to add four hundred or so calories to your daily diet. Sugary fruit is best, but high quality perfectly ripe fruit is surprisingly difficult to find. Low quality, unripe fruit has many allergens and toxins. In this context sugar is a very good choice.

Personally I daily have about 12 tsp of sugar (in coffee) and a coke. I'm shredded, btw.

How on earth is it hard to eat 2500 calories?! What do you eat? Paper and cardboard? If you find yourself 400 calories short, try a pork pie. If you're 800 calories short, eat two. If you're 1200 calories short, stop skipping lunch.

Who eats 1200 calories for lunch? A whole Chipotle burrito and a drink is only 900 and you'd have to eat that much for breakfast, dinner, and lunch to get past 2500 calories.

>> Who eats 1200 calories for lunch?

1 big mac 540 calories, 1 large fry, 500 calories 1 large Coke 32 oz 310 calories total

Well, perhaps my post was mildly facetious. Just that going by my recollection of the period I was monitoring my food intake, 2500 calories per day didn't seem that hard. Though having consulted the spreadsheet I kept in order to double check, I have to admit that it looks like it isn't that hard to eat less either :)

Snacks can add up surprisingly quickly so if you do have a shortfall I'm not sure it's necessary to resort to eating sugar. For example, 2 bananas and a tin of salmon will be something like 500 calories. That's 20% of your budget right there.

I thought it was known by now that carbs are the Problem and not the solution.

>Let me get this straight: you're advocating commercial dough deep fried in corn or soy oil over some sugar? You have no idea what you're talking about.

1) He wasn't advocating for either.

2) Coke doesn't have sugar. It has HFCS. So your comparison should be - commercial dough deep fried in corn oil over water with coca leaf flavoring and corn oil.

3) I'm sure lots of books say males need 2400+ calories a day. They are probably wrong. Just as "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is wrong. There's plenty of studies that say that second hand smoke isn't bad for you. But these studies are from the early 90's and subsidized by tobacco companies.

> Personally I daily have about 12 tsp of sugar (in coffee) and a coke. I'm shredded, btw.

That's what I was like too, before I turned 25. That's just how it goes, independent of your diet (within reason).

I have never had any issues meeting my daily calorie intake, quite the opposite really. And while not all fruit is in optimal condition for eating raw, I don't know what you mean by "unripe fruit has many allergens and toxins" - allergens are specific to what your own allergies are and "toxins" is an overused word that I don't understand in this context. Mercury is toxic. An unripe apple is not very tasty and may cause a little gastrointestinal distress. At any rate, yes, I'll take a donut over a coke if we're having a false dichotomy contest.

Besides, I don't have to know what I'm talking about as I can go read actual data. Coke has a glycemic rating of 63 (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_gl...) - this list doesn't include donuts and yes, you are correct that things like white bread are actually higher than a Coke but if we take iced vanilla cake as a proxy for a donut the glycemic rating is 44. So yes, to me that seems preferable. Even better would be actual food which is why I don't get most of my nutrition in remote gas stations.

>If you're on the road or out and about and hungry, a coke is often the healthiest choice you can make.

Most people, particularly most biologists and health-care practitioners, would disagree with that.

Uh, just do yourself a huge favor - grab the milk and forget the coke.

Try plain old soda water. It takes awhile to get used to it, but it's the most refreshing drink ever!

It helps to start by adding a little lime juice to the soda water, but after a few months you won't need it.

I started out bringing my own bottles from Safeway to the office, but other people started drinking it and now we go through about 40 liters a week.

I used to drink 1 liter or more club soda most days for several years. At some point I cut back considerably (at most .25 liter in a day), and just drank plain water most of the time. Anecdotally, I felt much more refreshed throughout the day. Comparing how I feel now to then, the soda would have a temporary feeling of being very refreshing, but I would feel thirsty much sooner than drinking plain water.

Time for a home carbonator like SodaStream

Not that it's terrible advice, but note that many fruits are just as bad as coke when looking at acidity.

I'm no chemist, but couldn't you just add a base to neutralize the phosphoric acid (e.g. calcium carbonate)?

You would make a phosphate salt. Depending on its solubility, it may precipitate. Depending on the log K, your cola might no longer be acidic at all, and as others have suggested, not taste as nice, making the addition of both the phosphoric acid and calcium carbonate pointless.

2 H3PO4 + 3 CaCO3 -> Ca3(PO4)2 + 3 H2O + 3 CO2

The calcium phosphate phase listed above may not be the stable phase in cola solution at NTP, but is the simplest example.

How about intentionally adding a base that creates a very water-insoluble salt? Then the process is just 1) add base 2) filter 3) re-carbonate it, and you have non-acidic coke.

Yes, but it'd probably alter the flavor for the worse.

if you were interested in adding salt and water (the by products of a neutralization reaction) to the drink, then yes.

Salt? Sodium chloride? Or you mean the salt of phosphoric acid?

A salt, not salt.

Salt: sodium chloride (NaCl, table salt, etc.) A salt: an ionic compound from an acid-base neutralization

Impossible. Plain old carbonated water is acidic.

This is an important issue as well

> I wish Coca Cola would make a acid free version of coke.

Good luck with an acid-free version of a carbonated beverage.

If you're referring to carbonic acid, it's too weak to cause tooth decay (at least, according to my reading of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_erosion).

But, in addition to phosphoric acid, Coke also has citric acid. I'm not sure you could remove both and get a drink that's still tasty enough...

EDIT: See below. Carbonic acid may not be as meek as I thought.

Yeah, that's definitely wrong. It looks like it's been an unsourced fact in there since the beginning of 2008.

Enamel erosion due to acid is tied to the acidity of the mouth, which, if the pH drops low enough, starts the demineralization of teeth (note, however, that this is a dynamic process, with systems in place to remineralize teeth, and that this dance happens every time we eat or drink something).

Typically carbonated water alone will be well under a pH of 4, which is itself well below the "5.0–5.7...known to trigger dental erosion effects" in the actually cited fact in that article.

You're right. Looks like Wikipedia disagrees with itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonated_water#Chemistry_and_....


"Dissolution levels with all of the mineral waters were very low and for several still waters were undetectable. Sparkling mineral waters showed slightly greater dissolution than still waters, but levels remained low and were of the order of one hundred times less than the comparator soft drinks. De-gassing of a sparkling mineral water reduced its dissolution, but the total levels were still relatively low suggesting that carbonation of drinks may not be an important factor per se in respect of erosive potential."

I can't access that article, unfortunately, but it's odd that they would suggest that when the next three sentences are about how the mineral content of mineral water can help protect against dissolution:

"The complex and heterogeneous mineral compositions of mineral waters could influence the dissolution equilibrium of apatite in enamel and controlled addition of several ions to ultrapure deionized water was investigated. Calcium ions led to the greatest reduction in hydroxyapatite dissolution, but their effects were moderated by other ions including magnesium and sulphate. Thus, mineral waters appear to offer a safe alternative to more erosive acidic beverages and their complex mineral ion compositions may positively influence any dissolution processes at the tooth surface."

This effect can be surprisingly strong, e.g. here's a study from a few years later showing "that fortifying apple, orange and grapefruit juices with calcium prevented enamel erosion and decreased root surface erosion (P < .01)."[1]

In fact buffering is well known to protect calcium phosphate in teeth from dissolution (e.g. an older study here[2] which points to the saturation of the same calcium and phosphate ions that the study you cite does as the source of protection), so it's actually quite odd that they would suggest that minimal dissolution from sparkling mineral water would suggest that the carbonation may not be an important factor of erosive potential.

It's hard to judge too much from just an abstract, however, and I can't find a full copy anywhere. That suggestion may just be an off-hand one.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18056104

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9831784

I don't think pH works the way you think it does.

Neutral pH is 7, things with a lower pH are more acidic Things with a higher pH are basic. So Carbonated water, with it pH of ~4 is a much stronger acid than something with a pH of 5

ah, I can see how you could read my last statement like that, but we're actually in agreement.

Carbonated water's acidity puts it at a lower pH than the acidity needed to start demineralization, so carbonic acid can cause enamel erosion.

Coke only contains phosphoric acid, not citric acid. However, in some countries, Coke is indeed made with citric acid instead of phosphoric.

Coke changes ingredients around to fit local regulations. In Europe, Diet Coke uses acesulfame potassium ("ace-K"), aspartame and sodium cyclamate. Cyclamate's effect is to neutralize some of the bitterness of ace-K and aspartame, but it's banned in the US and some other countries in the 1950s due to research determining it to be harmful. The ban is being upheld despite later research showing that the original science was flawed.

Actually, the Diet Coke I have in front of me lists both acids in the ingredients. Not sure if only the diet version has both.

Well, I did say Coke, not Diet Coke. Diet Coke contains citric acid (but less than phosphoric), Coke does not.

(Downvotes, really?)

I have a friend with pretty big health problems (gout and other problems). I don't know if it is because of gout or any other disease, but he says he shouldn't drink acidic drinks. He cut Coca Cola and is drinking now Red Bull Cola.


I don't like Red Bull Cola and think it is a pretty poor substitute - but he enjoys it.

What's wrong with water?


When I was a kid in the 1970s we had pop on Friday nights a 750ml bottle and a large bag of potato chips shared between my family of four.

Now you see people who drink pop for every meal and for a snack between meals and a huge drink at that 750ml or even a liter for one person is normal. People complain about HFCS and acid, weight gain as if their human rights were being violated! Well excuse me for pointing out the elephant in the room people but stop drinking so much pop! It's a dessert like cake or a candy bar it's not a substitute for water.

In my province for many years cans were banned and all pop came in 355ml bottles, sure you could buy a 750ml but it was a big heavy glass bottle. There weren't any big 2 liter bottles and nothing larger than 355ml for single-serve size. Then one day the ban was lifted and cans were allowed but cans were not put in the pop machine 600ml single-serve plastic bottles were. At first people couldn't drink it all and the break room fridge was full of 1/2 filled bottles of pop, then slowly people learned to drink a full 600ml bottle in one sitting.

It fills you up and offers no nutrition, making it harder to eat enough calories in one day.

At least in my neck of the woods, people seem to have the opposite problem. (i.e. too many calories in their diet) Water is probably a good choice for them.

I think replacing one soft-drink with another similar won't solve many things.

Unless there's a specific component in Coke that increases Uric Acid (the cause of gout)

My Grandfather used to use it to take the rust off his car.

In my country Coke is used by plumbers to unblock drains and pipes. Just knowing that has always discouraged me from drinking it.

I'm not sure why knowing that would discourage you. I'm sure stomach acid would be even better at those tasks, yet your body handles it just fine. Vinegar is great at getting hard water spots of paint. That doesn't mean I stop dousing my fish & chips in the stuff.

Stomach acid is pretty awful on your mouth though. And you would never drink raw vinegar.

This sounds like the old "Leave a penny in a glass of Coke for 12 hours and it starts to dissolve." saw. Apple juice will do the same.

Not that I'm a fan of Coke, I rarely drink it. Although it IS great for an upset stomach.

A million times this. I was ill for a long time. Coke was the only thing that settled my stomach.

Unless you're a little backed up...

Which country?

There isn't any scientific evidence that soda's acid rots teeth. Sugar, yes, but not the acid. It turns out that the acid is too low and not exposed to your teeth long enough to cause any damage. Sugars do stick, however, feeding bacteria and causing rot.

During seltzer water with a spritz of any flavor your like. Healthier and cheaper.

0.5k vs .1,k isn't '5x' though i can assume your end goal

Of course you realize that if there wasn't any Phosphoric Acid in the drink, you would vomit due to the intolerably high concentration of sugar. The acid is fooling your body into drinking the stuff and besides damaging your teeth depletes calcium ions.

No, this is really not true. It's so odd how tenacious these "facts" are when just putting them in context shows how they couldn't possibly be true (let alone actually trying them out).

Simple syrups have a ratio of sugar to water much higher than a coke, and if you try one directly, you'll find it just tasting sweet. Or just eat some sugar or a sugar cube, which has a totally insane concentration of sugar.

You certainly won't be in any danger of vomiting.

Actually, the main reason soft drinks like Coke contain so much sugar is to counteract the carbon dioxide.

Carbonation makes soft drinks taste a lot less sweet; compare a "flat" glass of a soft drink with a carbonated one and the effect will be obvious.

The phosphoric acid (or citric acid in some countries) is what (in addition to caffeine, which is bitter) gives Coke its sour "bite", but it doesn't really change the sweetness that much.

Your teeth re-mineralize constantly. They're not inert. This idea that eating acids or whatever permanently scars teeth is wrong.

If your teeth are failing to heal up from a couple cokes a day the problem is serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Also don't brush your teeth directly after consuming soda or acidic juices/fruits!

The same type of story as the classic "I, pencil," published in 1958:


Came here to post exactly this link.

A similar ppiece was written in the context software, Dizzying but Invisible Depth. https://plus.google.com/+JeanBaptisteQueru/posts/dfydM2Cnepe

A story sometimes referenced by Milton Friedman: http://youtu.be/4ERbC7JyCfU?t=19s

I'd love to see the same structure analyzed again by a marxist or something instead of Friedman. Instead of focusing on the pencil getting made by this almost unfathomably complex concert of global labor, you can focus on the few bourgeoise actually profiting from it and how all of these disparate groups of laborers are almost invisibly caught in/exploited by the web. Not that I think either is the whole story, it would just be fun to listen to in the same way that this was.

Thanks. I vaguely remembered a pencil story similar to this, but I'm glad to have the title now.

He edited the piece to note that one. I love this tool chain type piece. Someone should write one about computer tool chains.

Wow, yeah. Explaining how a goofy CSS animation appears on your screen after being sent from a disk on a web server, starting from rare earth metals and silicon purification.

The article waxes so eloquently about this beloved product that I would have mistaken it for a paid PR piece. The article is great read nonetheless.

For those who are also interested in the other darker, grimier side of the same coin, might want to check out its use of mercenaries for union busting in South America(by murder of course. In the hands of the right spinners that would be 'terrorism'), similar stuff happened in India as well.



The union-busting incident, while dark, seems to be an isolated incident.

If you saw the kinds of gangsters that become union leaders in South America these days, you'd at least consider using mercenaries.

The local Coca Cola union head here in Uruguay is not a man to be trifled with (Richard Read), he has gotten them incredible benefits (it pays better than programming over here :P ).

And the guys in Argentina are legitimate thugs and crooks (well, so is the government :P )

See for example:


Edit: a side effect of such union power is that Uruguay has the most expensive Coca-Cola in the world, a 2 liter bottle costs 3.5 dollars after taxes (so almost twice what it costs in the U.S.)

Edit: a side effect of such union power is that Uruguay has the most expensive Coca-Cola in the world, a 2 liter bottle costs 3.5 dollars after taxes (so almost twice what it costs in the U.S.)

Does that reduce consumption to the point that there are noticeable population-wide health benefits?

A 2 liter doesn't cost $1.25 here, a 20 ounce does. I can't recall what a 2 liter costs because I don't buy them but over $2 for sure.

Hmmm, they were way cheaper in Toronto last time I was there, not sure about U.S. prices but they should be even cheaper.

Instacart shows them at U$ 1.99 for San Francisco. Ironically the 20 ounce ones are the same price.

Edit: https://www.instacart.com/store/items/98541

Nope, it just means we have a large amount of substitute drinks (and Cola-flavored generic drinks) from lots of local brands.

3.5 dollars? That's what 0.5 liters of cola cost in 7-11 in Denmark!

However, a 2 liter bottle costs between 21 and 26 krone in a supermarket, so, apparently we're even :)

It just feels way more expensive due to the purchasing power differences I guess.

And yes, a 0.5 liter coke in a gas station also costs 3 dollars here :P

Edit: we might need a Coke index in addition to the Big Mac index :)

There's Expatistan.com and Numbeo, but I think it gets outdated or inaccurate sometimes (for example, the Coke price in Montevideo is outdated).

http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?coun...

I can't believe rent in Copenhagen is U$ 2.500/month.

You can make your own almost-Coke... OpenCola, the open-source cola.


our local indie cinema produces its own cola using this recipe, it's very good, so good that they actually produce and sell it in bulk.


Cool :)

Anyone tried it?

Yep, it's great. Better than Coke — you make it fresh, after all, directly from oils. (I suspect Coca-Cola has found, over the years, ways to replace some of the oils with synthetic or otherwise acceptable substitutes.) In our office we used to have it on tap for a while, but the carbonation process is a bit fiddly. So now we have beer instead.

Is cocaine one of the ingredients?

The linked page includes the ingredient list.

You could say this about any product. I think the essay would be considerably longer if it concerned a typical PC or phone, not to mention a car.

I also think the essay can be written with cynicism instead of wonder, e.g. with an anti-capitalist slant. With one innocuous affordable purchase you can deforest and pollute four continents whilst giving yourself diabetes and dental caries!!!

But I think a primary aspect of the essay had to do with a seemingly simple item costing only $0.50.

Now everyone can afford to destroy the planet!

And just to think, you could have saved that $0.50 and drank some water, but then the human chorus that is coca cola would go quiet..

> The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero.

This reminds me a fact I remember time to time. If civilization collapses after, say, a world war, I most probably can't make a pot, can't grow plants, can't differentiate if one is edible or not, can't dig for petrol, can't make plastic (or even glass), can't reinvent concrete, can't make gunpowder etc., you get the point.

I can only write software and maybe drill with tools and nail with a hammer but that's all.

The english translation doesn't do justice to it but this comic is relevant:


The original French version:


Some people here (including Americans ;) ) do speak other languages. :)

Basic concrete is actually not that complex.

You need to burn limestone until it collapses into a powder, then add sand and water. Done. For stronger cement, add clay powder.

Have you never had relatives who built a house? Sure, usually you'd buy the powdered stone, but I've heard stories of my great grandparent's generation making it on site.

(Rhetorical questions) What does limestone look like? Where can I find it, and what do I need to know about working with it? How hot does the fire have to be, and what do I need to know to build a fire that hot?

Maybe I'm just dumb on some of these points, but these are my personal followup questions that indicate that, even knowing these basics, I couldn't immediately make concrete without "civilization". Even the great grandparents who made their own concrete, may have bought the limestone and not known how to get it themselves.

Limestone is the brittle yellow rock that you can find sometimes. Hmm, now Im interested in how they locate it underground. But there are many naturally occurring open deposits like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Cliffs_of_Dover

Wikipedia is your friend, but the easiest place to get calcium carbonate is from shells. Most parts of the world have earthenware clay from which vessels can be made.

I know I could look it up, that's why I said they were rhetorical questions. The information is appreciated nonetheless.

I'm not saying I'm helpless to learn these things, just reinforcing GP's point that the average first-worlder (or at least programmer) doesn't know the first thing about this kind of stuff. Even when you do know the "first things" from Wikipedia, it's not necessarily going to enable you to just go out and make concrete from scratch in an afternoon on your first try.

Some walls in Australia still contain traces of seashells.

Early settlers used the piles of shells left by Aborigines to make mortar.



Re: the edibility of plants. For this, you can substitute experience and knowledge for a simple algorithm, the universal edibility test. You can read about it here: http://www.wilderness-survival.net/forums/showthread.php?166...

You should at least know how to splice and crimp an ethernet cable.

These books are super dense with that sort of thing. We bought them when we moved out to the country, I've barely scratched the surface. Not really durable though.




Those are some great resources, thanks for that!

This is true, but they kind of over did it with a heavy hand. My local beer company uses locally made beer bottles and local sources for most of its ingredients.

If the international supply chain falls through that has marginally dropped prices, they'll just switch back to the national one. Once they do bottle production will go through the roof, prices will rapidly drop and instead of it being $0.50 a can and $1.50 a glass bottle of coke it'll end up more like $0.75 a bottle.

I also don't think the world will end like people assume. Its not like the mediaeval dark ages, everyone reads and the books containing this knowledge are widely available.

Our biggest issue is the international supply chains, but people should look up the tin trade if they think there wasn't always an international supply chain. We just didn't ship things back and forth around the globe multiple times in some instances.

I think most people would be surprised that if the world ended tomorrow, we would probably be back to the 1900's level of development by the end of an individuals lifespan.

"Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich and that was it." http://www.thetoasterproject.org/

I was relatively unimpressed by this one. Iron smelting can be done manually but he uses a microwave to do it instead. Which skips over a huge chunk of the story.

This is why I read about one or two random thing every day. Of course reading is not doing, but it's better than not knowing.

you knew how to survive a civilization destroying world war tho

> 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, and so it uses an alloy with more magnesium than the rest of the can.

Nope, the pressure from the carbon dioxide pushes equally against all sides of the can. If anything the pressure at the top is slightly lower than at the bottom, at least if the can is standing, because of the weight of the coke pushing against the bottom.

The pressure difference is trivial. The reason it has to be thicker is because the top is flatter than the sides (convex) and bottom (concave). If the top was domed up it could be thinner. Have you ever seen an overheated or frozen can? The top is usually bulging while the rest is still intact.

Actually most frozen cans have the bottom inverted, but I've only noticed this happen since about 2010. It used to be that a fully frozen can always used to blow.

Top also needs to be stronger to handle the stress of the flip-top, which -- fun fact! -- starts off as a second-class lever and ends up as a first-class lever.


You are correct, but I read that as "the weakest part of a can is the top and bottom, so it needs to be stronger"

I'm surprised that the author hasn't mentioned the use of toxins (pesticides)[1], to the extent that it is even being used as a real pesticide in various parts of India.

I know some may find this offensive, but sorry, I think I have a moral responsibility myself to let the people around me know of the harms caused by this carcinogen[1].



To clarify, that linked article states that Coke and Pepsi products produced in India tested extremely high in some chemicals used as pesticides (e.g. DDT), not that all coke products contain high levels of them and they happen to be used as pesticides in India. I found the parent's meaning ambiguous in this respect.

I would like to note that they found pesticides only in soft-drinks in India. Tests for the US found no pesticides. I'm not trying to minimize this or anything, it is really horrible but I was wondering if this really was a world-wide problem as the above comment suggests.

Actually, the Pinjarra process creates Aluminium. The process of shipping it to Long Beach CA converts it into aluminum.

Had to read that twice to catch it

> ... the inside of the can is painted too — with a complex chemical called a comestible polymeric coating that prevents any of the aluminum getting into the soda.

I though this was very interesting, so I did a little digging... There is remarkably little information on these 'comestible polymeric coatings', but I was able to find (see below) a reason as to why that is. Apparently these coatings are propriety to the manufacturer and there are competing companies who are constantly in a race to find the best coating.

It's supremely interesting the fact that drinking a can of coke is almost a magic trick right in front of your eyes. It'd be like someone holding a lighter straight to a piece of paper and everyone being baffled as to why it isn't lighting on fire. Yet when someone drinks a coke no one bats an eye as to how it isn't mixing with the metal salts and eating straight through the aluminum can.

"Interior can coatings designed to prevent migration of metal salts into the contained product are called "comestible polymeric coatings". The coatings ars polymers typically used in coil coating. The exact nature of the coatings isn't available since most are proprietary to manufacturers who continuously look for better coatings."

source: http://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=258261

This is good, although I think it reaches just a little too far when it says that the number of nations that could produce a can of coke is zero. If the US so desired it could grow coca leaves, and kola nuts, and use locally produced aluminum, etc.

My favourite version of this is a picture of a boeing 787 and where all the parts are manufactured: http://seattletimes.com/art/news/business/boeing/787/partsen...

Of course if you could break it down further into smaller parts and tools to manufacture those parts, you'd get an even greater variety of countries and companies.

The center where I work actually does work slightly related to this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JC24CBVsdo

I am reminded of I, Pencil. [1]

[1] http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html

This is my favorite sentence of the article:

> Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet.

When we think about colonizing the Moon or Mars with small groups of people with the intention of making the colonies self-sustaining over time, deep, long-evolved tool chains like the one described in the article could be very difficult to scale down and to replicate in other environments.

Not necessarily. The only reason why this toolchain is global is that the bauxite is cheapest in Australia. If you mined bauxite in US, you would have a very local operation. In the case of Moon or Mars, I'm sure they would find it much easier to mine on the planets surface (especially since it doesn't harm the earth's environment that way).

They'd never be truly self-sustaining - that's borderline impossible if you want any kind of quality and growth. There will always be a supply line from Earth and other colonies.

"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, and so it uses an alloy with more magnesium than the rest of the can"

Yes, but the pressure is the same on all parts of the can. Ok, almost the same, still.

Maybe because of the parts that have been cut to make it easy to open?

The top is (basically) flat.

The sides and bottom are curved.

Speaking as somebody who's never even smoked a cigarette or a joint: are there people who tried to recreate the "original" coke recipe? The one with "unprocessed" coca leaves? Is it available on say the latest instance of Silk Road? What is it like?

The book on the history of coke says that when cocaine was removed old timers would stir some in. However it has no real effect, as ingesting cocaine is not particularly effective except in the presence of alcohol. (The original French recipe that Coke was borrowed form had red wine in).

Very interesting, considering the existence of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalimotxo which sounds a little weird but actually tastes pretty good.

I bet it would be pretty mild - like a cup of ephedrine tea (banned for a while now, how stupid). Cocaine, even in its pure form, is not that much of a stimulant and it has a short half-life - methamphetamine or even amphetamine would be much better choices. Or just grab some phenylethylamine while it's still legal.

Not that I want to waste any time on a HPLC-MS machine on this, but I was distinctly under the impression Coca-Cola 7X does not actually contain kola nut?

I've had Red Bull Cola, and actually found it quite different, but delicious. No accounting for taste, though.

There's a book with a similar theme about Twinkies. It's called "Twinkie, Deconstructed" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OZ0NZS)

A brilliant paean to the free market and the invisible hand. Milton Friedman once described the manufacture of a humble pencil in this way.

(edit: just saw a link to an essay entitled "I, Pencil" at the bottom .. this might have pre-dated Friedman).

This article reminds me strongly of a pivotal passage in the novel Gain, by Richard Powers (which I can't recommend highly enough, although it's a downer). In that passage he describes how a disposable film camera is made.

How can 0 people know what's in Coke while still getitng it FDA approved? Surely this can't be true.. How does the company know how to make a can of coke if they don't know how it's put together?

The article doesn't claim 0 people know what's in Coke. It claims 0 people know how to make a can of Coke, from start to finish, i.e. from mining your own raw materials to make aluminium to extracting the cocaine from the coca leaves to a finished can that can be put on a store shelve.

There are no people who know all the steps - from mining minerals and refining and making the aluminium for the can; through engineering the can; to growing and harvesting and processing the botanicals; etc.

Obviously they know the ingredients.

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

While this is true in that no individual nation could produce Coke with the exact same formula, an individual nation could surely produce a soft drink.

But not too many of those countries also have bauxite mines, coca plants and kola nuts.


The globalization is more about economics and cost minimization than capability. The Australian bauxite mines are the richest and cheapest mines to operate, which makes other sources of aluminum not worth exploiting, but aluminum is still the third most common element on Earth. The plant ingredients could presumably be grown -- albeit far more expensively and perhaps not in large enough quality for full-scale production -- in greenhouses or under grow lights anywhere.

So it's not so much that many nations couldn't produce a can of Coke by themselves as it doesn't make economic sense for them to produce a can of Coke by themselves when the raw ingredients can be had much more cheaply as an import.

I mean, the entire thing, including the aluminium from a bauxite mine.

Just perhaps not the coca plants and kola nuts, unless they want to make a greenhouse.

"[...] and the edges of the can are folded over it and welded shut."

I never thought there was any weld in a soda can... (and I still don't think there is any)

It's true. There are some more in-depth details (with graphics and PDFs) here: http://www.canmakers.co.uk/education

It doesn't talk about welding....

"13.An interlocking seam is formed at high speed. Up to 2000 cans go through the process each minute."


Also tried a site-wide search: https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Awww.canmakers.co.uk+w...

Article title should probably contain (2013).

Thanks, we missed that one.

i wonder what the failure rate on the interior coating is? How often are people ingesting disolved aluminum?

If the soda started dissolving the aluminum, I doubt it would stop until it had dissolved a hole straight through the can.

Is the ammonia dangerous? Or can it be? How much ammonia can a person consume before it becomes dangerous?

Ammonia is a gas at standard temperature and pressure. Unless they are intentionally pumping ammonia gas into the final product there should only be trace amounts. Furthermore it isn't poisonous in small quantities, we have an enzyme that breaks it down.[1]

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbamoyl_phosphate_synthetase

To keep you drinking they add plenty of sodium (50mg+) masked with sugar, HFCS, or sweeteners. They also add caffeine as a diuretic to keep consumers drinking, too. And then they market it to children, lovely people.

Check out Dr. Robert Lustig videos. Also, the book Salt, Sugar, Fat, about food industry engineering.

The amount of caffeine in soda doesn't cause any dehydration. Here's an article talking about coffee (which has more caffeine per unit volume than soda):


He forgot to mention the Colombian paramilitaries that break up Coke bottling plant unions by kidnapping their children. Funny how "globalization" is presented in a saran-wrapped, sanitized version.

Think of all of the jobs the making of Coke provides. Oh here we go......lol

Clean water tastes better.

1 can of coke contains 160% of your recommended daily intake of sugar. But you won't see that on the label because money.

(This is probably pedantic.) USDA recommendation: "It is suggested that the maximal intake of added sugars be limited to providing no more than 25 percent of energy." (src: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI/DRI_Tables/macronutrients.p...) For 2000 kcal, that would be 32.5g. Reads slightly different as a maximal intake rather than a RDA.

The World Health Organization recently halved their recommended sugar intake for adults, from the original 10 percent of total daily calories to 5 percent. For a normal weight adult, that's about 25 grams. A can of coke in the US contains 40g of sugar. Our food labels show daily recommended amounts for everything except sugar. Why? Because putting 160% on the can would be bad for Coca Cola. Too often the USDA protects and defends big business instead of the people. Note the amount of money spent on lobbyists and the revolving door that exists between the USDA and lobbying firms: https://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/search_result.php?agen...

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