Hello, do you like science? Well, no, me neither — or at least, I often have a frustrating time processing concepts such as molecular compounds. But science as explained to me by an 8-year-old, like for example Blue Ivy Carter? Sure, okay. That sounds manageable.
On Saturday, Blue Ivy — daughter of Beyoncé and Jay-Z — made an Instagram PSA to demonstrate “how washing your hands fights the virus,” as her grandmother Tina Knowles put it in her post. In the video, Blue Ivy corrals together a small bowl full of soap, and a larger bowl of water sprinkled liberally with black pepper. The pepper, she explains, represents “the coronavirus, or any virus,” and when she sticks a soap-coated finger into the water, it suddenly zooms to the edges of the bowl. Magic?
“This is why it’s very important to wash your hands,” Blue Ivy explains, authoritatively. “If you wash your hands, your hands will stay clean, but if you keep your hands dirty, you might get sick.”
The soap and pepper experiment has gone viral in recent weeks, after a Florida kindergarten teacher posted it to social media. And while I accept Blue Ivy’s takeaway — handwashing is good and helps keep the coronavirus at bay — I do not know what kind of witchcraft causes pepper to scamper that way.
Indeed, I am still grappling to revive my memories of surface tension and lipid bilayers, the ghosts of science classes past, but I have gleaned from internet-combing that soap molecules have hydrophilic heads (love water, attract it) and hydrophobic tails (hate water, repel it; seek to bond with oil and fat). Meanwhile, some viruses, like for example the coronavirus, have an outer membrane made of fatty acids; the soapy tails insert themselves into the membrane and pry it apart. So it appears Blue Ivy’s ultimate conclusion stands: “Wash your hands extra and please stay at home.” Check and check.