The power of myths


Expert in Surfactants, Belgium


The realm of surfactants is pervaded by myths, and the formulators have a pivotal position in creating these myths. The ethylene oxide-free and sulphate-free campaign are favorite subjects since a few years, yet so far they have not produced innovative, step-changing solutions. This is not the end of the road if the surfactants producers are capable of recognizing true knowledge and vision over superficial short-term approaches.

I do not know how many of the followers of the column “Surfactants alert” had the chance (or rather the fortune) to read the splendid book of Nuval Noha Harari “Sapiens, a Brief History of Humankind” (1). For those who did not, let me make a brief digression. In the chapter 2, “The Tree of Knowledge” Harari argues that a key step that made Homo Sapiens dominating over other Homo and animal species and eventually the world, is what he calls “the cognitive revolution” i.e. the ability to deal with information about things that do not really exist (the “fictions”). Sapiens was not only able to imagine fictions, but to do so collectively. From the “lion man (or woman)” found in the Stadel cave in Germany and dated to 32 000 years ago, Sapiens has continuously created myths like the biblical creation story or the Dreamtime myths of aboriginal Australians, and laid the basis of religions, of the building of empires, of nationalist believes.


The surfactants realm is full of myths, just look for example at the advertising of formulators promising for their products an array of unrealistic, yet appealing, benefits that cannot stand any ratio ...