Window Seat: Zohnerism

4/07/2020 at 4:15 PM

According to the Urban Dictionary Zohnerism means the use of scientific fact for an unrelated false conclusion. 

Here is how the word emerged:In 1997, 14 year old Nathan Zohner of Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA presented his science fair project to his classmates, seeking to ban a highly toxic chemical from it’s everyday use.The chemical in question was Dihydrogen Monoxide.

Throughout his presentation, Zohner provided his audience scientifically correct evidence as to why this chemical should be banned.He explained that dihydrogen monoxide causes severe burns in while it’s in gas form, corrodes and rusts metal, is commonly found in tumors, acid rain etc., causes excessive urination and bloating if consumed in large quantity and kills countless people annually. Zohner also noted that the chemical is able to kill you if you depend on it and then experience an extended withdrawal.

He then asked his classmates if they actually wanted to ban dihydrogen monoxide.And 43 out of the 50 children present voted to ban this clearly toxic chemical.

However…this chemical isn’t typically considered toxic at all.In fact, Dihydrogen Monoxide is simply an unconventional name for water.

Nathan Zohner’s experiment wasn’t a legitimate attempt to ban water. It was an experiment to show how gullible people can really be.

All the points that Zohner used to drive home his point were factually correct; he just skewed all of the information in his favour by omitting certain facts.

One journalist eventually dubbed this event as ‘Zohnerism’, where true facts are misled towards false conclusions.Zohnerism, thus meanttwisting of simple facts to confuse people. 

And this occurs a lot more often than you think, especially when politicians, conspiracy theorists, spin doctors and charlatans use proven facts to persuade people into believing false claims.

The fact that people can be misled so easily is highly unsettling.


The other day we planted a Jamrul (Syzygiumsamarangense) sapling at the campus I live. The tree is called wax apple or water apple in English, probably because 70 per cent of its content is water.

Jamrul comes in shades of white and pink. The oblong shaped fruit is is mildly sweet. The sweetest ones are usually white or dark pink. I have many sweet memories of devouring dozens of jamrul in my childhood days.

The origin of jamrul is said to have been in Malay and Nicobar islands. It spread to the Philippines and other countries in Asia 30,000 years ago. Some people think that Jambu-dweep—the name by which India was known in ancient times—comes from jamrul.

Apart from India, it is popular in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Taiwan and Vietnam. A jamrul tree is around 12 m high and bears white flowers. Being a summer crop, the tree fruits in May-June.

Legend has it that the size of jamrul in ancient times was as big as an elephant and that it was the favourite fruit of Lord Ganesh. The fruit even finds mention in several religious texts of India, such as the Ganesh Stuti. References to jamrul are also aplenty in folk tales of Southeast Asian countries. In the Philippines, the fruit is considered auspicious.

Jamrul is packed with medicinal properties. In Taiwan, people use it to treat diarrhoea and fever. In Malaysia, dry leaves of jamrul are used to treat tongue ulcers and its bark for treating skin diseases. In Cambodia, a paste made of jamrul leaves is used to treat skin dryness and fever, writes Julia Morton in her 1987 book Fruits of Warm Climates.

In Brazil, it is used to cure diabetes, cough, constipation and headache. In 2003, an article published in the journal Food Chemistry said that jamrul can be used to control cholesterol and sugar levels.

As a diabetic, this was my reason for planting this sapling in our campus. May be I’ll relive my childhood memories as the jamrul would control my cholesterol and sugar levels.

Ekgoli me do shikar. Single act- double profit.

Tailpiece: If a Woman…

If a woman listens to you for 5 minutes, she’s your daughter

If a woman listens to you for 15 minutes, she’s your sister

If a woman listens to you for 30 minutes she’s your mother

If a woman never listens to you, she is deaf. 

Why unnecessarily bring wife into every joke 

Ban on Tiktok

After the ban on tiktok video app, half the beauty queens in social media have just disappeared.

(Courtesy: Social Media)


Journalist turned media academician MrinalChatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He also writes fiction and translates poetry. An anthology of his translated poems has justbeen published.

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