The Science of Gum
This chewing gum ad was created in 1905. Clearly, chewing gum is not a recent invention. In fact, chewing gum—or something like it—has been around for thousands of years.
Why It Matters
- Ancient Greeks and Native Americans chewed tree resins. This is still a component of chewing gym. Modern gum dates back to about 1870. One of thechief ingredients of gum at that time was a Mexican rubber named chicle.
- Today, more than a billion pounds of gum are produced each year, and people spend about $5 billion a year for the sticky stuff. The average American chews almost two pounds of gum per year!
- Besides rubber and tree resins, modern gum contains a plastic that makes gum sticky. This is good for chewing but not so good for cleaning up used gum. Used gum poses a sticky hazard on sidewalks and under desks. It is insoluble in water, so cleaning it up is difficult and expensive.
- One approach to cleaning it up involves the use of enzymes. Enzymes are catalysts that speed up chemical reactions.
- To learn more about the ingredients in chewing gum and how gum is made, watch this video:
Show What You Know
Read about chewing gum, including its pros and cons, at the links below. Then answer the questions that follow.
- What is gum base? What ingredients does it contain? What are some other uses of these ingredients?
- What other ingredients are used to make gum? What roles do they play?
- What are possible pros of gum chewing?
- What are some cons of gum chewing?
- Describe three different approaches to solving the problem of used gum.