Acids & Bases
If you had a choice between a glass of lemon juice or apple juice, most folks would pick the sweeter one – apple. Did you know that apples are loaded with malic acid, and are actually considered to be acidic? It’s just that there is so much more sugar in an apple than a lemon that your taste buds can be fooled. Here’s a scientific way (which is much more reliable) to tell how acidic something is.
Acids are sour tasting (like a lemon), bases are bitter (like unsweetened cocoa powder). Substances in the middle are more neutral, like water. Scientists use the pH (power of hydrogen, or potential hydrogen) scale to measure how acidic or basic something is. Hydrochloric acid registers at a 1, sodium hydroxide (drain cleaner) is a 14. Water is about a 7. pH levels tell you how acidic or alkaline (basic) something is, like dirt. If your soil is too acidic, your plants won’t attract enough hydrogen, and too alkaline attracts too many hydrogen ions. The right balance is usually somewhere in the middle (called ‘pH neutral’). Some plants change color depending on the level of acidity in the soil – hydrangeas turn pink in acidic soil and blue in alkaline soil.
There are many different kinds of acids: citric acid (in a lemon), tartaric acid (in white wine), malic acid (in apples), acetic acid (in vinegar), and phosphoric acid (in cola drinks). The battery acid in your car is a particularly nasty acid called sulfuric acid that will eat through your skin and bones. Hydrochloric acid is found in your stomach to help digest food, and nitric acid is used to make dyes in fabrics as well as fertilizer compounds.
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