Student responses to the DHMO spoof

A classic science spoof is Craig Jackson's Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide. A botanist colleague used it to test his students' critical thinking. He was at that time encouraging student-instructor interaction through e-mail. He asked his students to retreive a copy of the article from his subdirectory, then e-mail back to him their reaction to it.

The responses include those who caught on to the spoof. Others expressed varying degrees of alarm and outrage at the dangers of DHMO, wondered why it hadn't had more publicity and why the government wasn't doing anything about it.

A few got the joke, and responded in kind. They make it clear that they were not taken in. Some others might have gotten the joke, but failed to make that obvious. However, that's unlikely, since they surely thought their response might contribute to their grade, and would want to be certain that the prof know that they saw though the deception.

None of thouse who caught on bothered to discuss the style of the spoof, and how it mimics and parodies that of real activist groups' propaganda.

Another theme comes through. Some responses seemed trite and suprficial—emotional reactions, and reactions of the `pollitically correct' type. Perhaps some were saying what they thought the instructor wanted to hear.

These are college students, majoring in a technical field which requires a course in biology. Frightening, isn't it?

I have edited these to remove names, substituting initials. Spelling errors have not been corrected.

    —Donald Simanek, Lock Haven University.

Date: Sat, 11 Nov 1995 14:32:13 -0500 (EST)
From: A.P.
Subject: DHMO
     I have read the article on Dihydrogen Monoxide and I also found it 
very disturbing.  It was a very informative article and I feel that 
something should be done about all of this pollution of our water and 
other resources.
                            T. P.
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 1995 21:20:52 -0500 (EST)
From: DJ
I read the DHMO message again.  I am writing a response just to remind 
you that (with a little help) I did eventually catch on.  See you on
                                        -> DJ
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 1995 16:29:59 -0500 (EST)
From: A. M.
Subject: your mail
I was appauled when I read the article on DHMO.  My father used to work 
in a factory in Philly that probably dumped it into the streams and 
rivers.  It is amazing that our own government would basically try and 
kill us and others around us but unfortunately this is an everyday 
occurrance and the more I think of DHMO the less shocking the whole story 
actually becomes.  We live in a world of power, hatred, and dollar signs 
and this article is a prime example.  My children will someday be scared 
to go outside because of the carcinogens that we have continued to pump 
into our air day in and day out.  In my eyes it is really sad but 
unfortunately a reality that my freedom lies in the hands of people who 
do not care about anyone else except themselves.  
I just wanted to touch base with you briefly about the exam on 
Wednesday.  I am a little confused about the life cycles.  I know the 
wheat rust life cycle will be in the completion section.  I was wondering 
if we needed to know specific organisms' life cycles or just groups 
such as algae, mushrooms, and liverworts.  
A. M.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 09:29:19 -0500 (EST)
From: D. R.
Subject: DHMO
Botany Prof,
        Just out of curiosity, how many people actually fall for DHMO 
contaminant.  If your not careful you might cause a local group to form 
an organization against it.  I have to admit I didn't figure it out until 
I got to the end of the message.  By the way did you hear that we may get 
12" plus of frozen DHMO on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I hope we do.  Talk to 
you later.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 11:37:37 -0500 (EST)
From: A. F.
Subject: Response to article
        I thought the article was very informative.  I never really 
thought about DHMO to be that a serious problem but the fact that it is 
used in harming innocent animals really upsets me because the animals of 
the world have taken enough abuse form humans and that I feel shoul 
really stop.  I just have one question about DHMO,  if it is so hazarous 
why is it still being used?  I mean there has to be some alternative in
all that it is used in to help to reduce and try to eliminate all the 
pollution to the earth.  To me it makes little sense to pollute the only 
world we have to live on with a chemical just for the convience.  And for 
all the illnesses it causes and death, they should more time looking for 
an alternative than polluting our world as much.  This really upsets me 
to think that the government would knowingly let research continue 
even knowing that it such a bad and distructive pollutant.  To put any 
life, human and animal, in danger due to the convince for another is 
wrong and I really think that the government should really rethink their 
position on this issue and others like it so that no other needless death 
occurs.  It's so bazar to think that the ones who run this country would 
knowingly help to destroy  it for the future generations to try and
        I think I might get some more info on this topic and do a little 
further research because I would really like to learn a little more about 
this so if you could suggest and good reading I would really appreciate 
it.  That you for this eye opening info.
                Thank You
                A. F.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 12:13:36 -0500 (EST)
From: T. P.
Subject: DHMO
I just wanted to let you know I read the article on DHMO.  I didn't 
realize how harmful this substance really is until I read this article.  
It also amazed me to read how many items this substance is found for 
example, Junk food.  It's also a concern to me because I live next to a 
power plant, and they are always dumping substances into the river which 
heats up the water.  A lot of kids like to swim in this warm water, it 
now has me thinking about what could be in this water that we don't know 
T. P.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 12:25:26 -0500 (EST)
From: T. K.
Subject: DHMO article
I thought the article was kind of alarming.  I would think that there 
would have to be some sort of substitute to using that.  I also am having 
a hard time with the fact that the government is not doing anything to 
stop it, but are encouraging the use of it by allowing the Navy to run 
tests on it.
I am also wondering why more of the human population is not aware of this.
T. K.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 13:45:12 -0500 (EST)
From: J. D.
Subject: Reply
        Dr. S., I am responding to your request for input about 
the article on DHMO.  The article made me think about all the chemicals 
we use in everyday life and just how safe they are.  This article made 
DHMO look like a tremendous problem facing our country and world.  But 
first I must find a bit more info on DHMO before I can formulate a valid 
opinion on the subject.
                                J. D.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 13:45:15 -0500 (EST)
From: this is crazi!!!
Subject: DHMO
I read the DHMO article that you had put in your sub-directory.  I found 
it to be something that I had not really heard much about in the past.  I 
was aware of the household and car monoxide poisoning but not of the DHMO 
that the article talks about.  It almost sounds as if its a drug or it 
has similar effects as a drug does when it states that withdrawl can lead 
to death.  A couple of questions relating to this article that I have are 
these:  Is this in any way related to the household/car monoxide 
poisoning that you hear about so often and are recommemded to test for?  
Also, how can they use it as and additive when it is known to cause 
cancerous tumors?  How can the Gov't justify research and the spending of 
millions of dollars in producing such a substance when they are aware 
that whether or not they will ever need to use it in chemical warfare, it 
has and will relentlessly cause us all harm in the long run--forget about 
killing the enemies they will be harming us in the process!!!  I just 
don't understand.       
                                        Thats my opinion on DHMO
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 14:33:47 -0500 (EST)
From: T. N.
Subject: Dihydrogen Monoxide
        Dihydrogen monoxide is H2O and that is water which every living 
thing needs to survive.  We must not get rid of dihydrogen monoxide.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 14:57:37 -0500 (EST)
From: Nice Guy E.
Subject: Hydrogen Monoxide
Well, I honestly did not think that anyone was so vehemently opposed to 
water. It is a rather valuable molecule in the world in general.
I must admit that i had to read the article a second time to realize what 
was being written about. Reading articles at 11:30 at night kind of cuts 
down on my ability to read carefully. I was very annoyed when I realized 
I had over looked the name of the compound itself. Anyway, the article 
was a tricky little one for people who don't pay attention (or read it 
late at night).
B. R.
"Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow." -- Oscar Wilde
"Is man one of God's blunders? Or is God one of man's blunders?" --
"It's true that clothes make the man. Naked people have had little or no
        lasting impact in society." -- Mark Twain
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 15:33:52 -0500 (EST)
From: T. L. D.
Subject: how horrible!!
   Dihydrogen monoxide being colorless, odorless, and tasteless is a 
matter that should be carefully addressed.  Because of the contamination 
of this pollutant, the government should ban the production and use of 
this chemical.  It is obvious that this chemical is not safe in our 
environment if it causes tumors in cancer patients,and if it contributes 
to the greenhouse effect and if it is a componet of acid rain.  There are 
too many negative effects related to this chemical for further prolonged 
use and therefore should be considered illegal.
T. D. -  in the "Try harder" section
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 20:01:45 -0500 (EST)
From: C. K.
        The author is obviously an extreme activist.  They present the 
reader with life and death situations which are not founded.  They don't 
reference any source or study for their claims.  It's hard to believe 
DHMO is so toxic.  They stated that people who become dependent on it 
die.  It sounds like a drug.  Also, how can people know they're dependent 
on it;  it's obviously in the air and water.  The whole article seems a 
little ludicrous.  I think they're trying to target ignorant people and 
hope to get some kind of reaction from them. 
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 20:21:47 -0500 (EST)
From: O. L.
Subject: DHMO
Dr. S.,
        I fully agree that the evil chemical dihydrogen monoxide must be 
banned in all forms.  After all I hate to bathe and who cares if over 70% 
of our bodies are made from this substance.  I think we need to ship all 
the Earth's dihydrogen monoxide to the moon, because there this substance 
will no longer cotaminate our planet. 
                        N. R.
(P.S.-- Just kidding!! 
a very interesting article
I wonder how many fell for
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 20:26:31 -0500 (EST)
From: C. S.
Subject: DHMO
I found this article quite interesting and at the same time kinda silly.
Who would have actually thought of H2O could do all of those things.  We 
see it an essential and innocent chemical, but in reality it is the root 
of so many evils.
Though I do not think bannnig this chemical will solve all of these 
problems.  In fact I think it  will cause a few more, like dehydration.
Well that is about I have to say in response to the article.  It was 
clever and inciteful.  I almost did not catch what the chemical really
Could this be sent over email, or is their a way to print it out from 
your file.  Thank you.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 20:34:56 -0500 (EST)
From: K. M.
Subject: Response to article
Dr. S.-
        As a student of biology, I have been taught to be aware of the 
many aspects of the environment; some good and some bad.  As time goes on 
and my knowlege level increases, I become more sensitive to the crisis 
that is happening to our environment.  It also seems to create a great 
deal of anger when I read articles such as the one I just read.  I guess 
the anger stems from the extreme ignorance of those who care not what 
they  do as they dump chemicals into our water supply and from the 
extreme blindess of those who can overlook it as long as the "almight 
dollar" keeps rolling in.  What good is it to outlaw the use and dumping 
of this hazardous chemical as there is no way to completely watch over 
everyone all of the time and besides watching over our government could 
be a full time job.  How many more products are we producing that are 
seemingly harmless today, but will be the cause of great environmental 
distress in the future?  It is a never ending cycle, but if this cycle is 
not changed, life as we know it will be no longer.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest!
K. M.
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 22:53:15 -0500 (EST)
From: J. F.
Subject: DHMO
Oh the horrors!  Never before have I heard of something so horrible!  Is 
the president aware of this threat to the world!?!  Should the U.N. be 
put on a nationwide alert?!  Is it too late to stop this "Invisible
Tune in next time...  Same bat time same bat channel.  
                                J. F.
p.s.  I am really craving a drink of ice cold water for some reason.
p.p.s.  Did you write that article or did you find it somewhere?
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 23:23:36 -0500 (EST)
From: J. B.
Subject: Response to Article
Dr. S.,
        After studying for three hours, I took a break and read the DHMO
article.  I reviewed it twice and asked for some help from a few friends 
before we came to the conclusion that it was about water.  I guess I'm 
not a very good observer.  I learn more in a group.
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 1995 08:50:37 -0500 (EST)
From: N. Y.
Subject: Reply to the artical
Thank you for the information.  It sounds to me like just another product 
that the government refuses to ban because it would make things harder on 
them, even when it is known that the substance is extremely dangerous.  
Who should I contact that would produce a result, or even a reply!
By the way, how are our luminesant cultures doing?
N. Y.
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 1995 08:52:37 -0500 (EST)
From: S. K.
Subject: dhmo threat
Who could we contact to find out more?  I feel that it is really sad that 
the people we trust and ellect for government positions care about money 
more than the people.  I wish that everyonh a real interest it 
future of our world, and that those who are interested would be able to 
access all of the information.  This article has helped me realize 
another major problem we are facing today. (Not that we need more)
                                             Thank you,
                                              S. K.
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 1995 12:09:03 -0500 (EST)
From: R. N.
Well Dr. S., DHMO truly is a very horrible chemical.  But like 
with everything else, money and economics rules what the world does.  
Until the people of the world (especially gov'ts) decide to put the 
wellfair of the environment infront of monetary wealth, it looks like 
this is just another fight for us to educate the people.  This reminds me 
of a quote from some indian chief, Im not quite sure its exact wording, 
but it goes something like, "not until the last tree is cut down, the 
last fish is caught and the rivers run dry, only then will they know that 
they cant eat money". the quote is far from exact, but I hope you get the 
     r. n.