Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Pickle Molecule

If there is one thing I don't care about, it is muscle cramps. Yet I read this whole article on a "blog" of the New York Times. Something in the first paragraph grabbed me: "In a 2008 survey, a quarter of the athletic trainers interviewed said that they regularly dispense pickle juice to cramp-stricken athletes." How did it come about, that widespread use of pickle juice? Who thought of it first, and why? Who was like, "Stay right there, I am going to grab some pickle juice"? Was there pickle juice handy the first time it happened? There must have been. Where did the original cramp occur? A deli? The article does not say. But it describes some scientists wiring up some people with gadgets to make them cramp and then feeding them pickle juice and then, I guess, standing around with clipboards, watching what happens. The whole scene makes me happy for some reason: guys in white lab coats "zapping" people (the article uses the word "zapped") and breaking out the pickle juice with, I don't know, these deadpan looks on their faces. Better still - and this is in the article, not my imagination - they are hypothesizing a miraculous pickle molecule! Look: "'The pickle juice did not have time' to leave the men’s stomachs during the experiment, Mr. Miller points out. So the liquid itself could not have been replenishing lost fluids and salt in the affected muscles. Instead some other mechanism must have initiated the cramps and been stymied by the pickle juice... Something in the acidic juice, perhaps even a specific molecule of some kind, may be lighting up specialized nervous-system receptors in the throat or stomach."