Answers to some of the most Googled questions of 2017
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Answers to some of the most Googled questions of 2017

If Australia's top Google searches tell us anything, it's that 2017 was a tumultuous year.

The list is diverse, with searches ranging from slime and sport, to cryptocurrency, covfefe and hurricanes.

The most googled questions of 2017 included "How to make slime without Borax?" and "What is MSG?"

The most googled questions of 2017 included "How to make slime without Borax?" and "What is MSG?" Credit:tomeng

With that in mind, we've chosen three standout Google searches from this year and answered your questions with the help of experts.

1. How to make slime without borax

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"How to make slime" was Australia's most popular "How to" Google search in Australia, with slime appearing four times on the list (1st, 3rd, 6th and 9th).

Right now there are over 6 million tags of slime on Instagram, making 2017 the year of the slime.

The question of how to make slime without borax can be answered quite easily - just mix cornstarch with water.

But the real question is, how dangerous is Borax?

Borax is sold as a household cleaning chemical and sometimes used as a pesticide, but it's also the best binding agent for slime when it's mixed with PVA glue.

Parental fear about Borax was spurred by a news piece from America about a young girl who reportedly received chemical burns to her hands from playing with slime that had borax in it.

Genevieve Adamo, a spokeswoman from the NSW Poisons Information Centre, says Borax is most concerning in its raw, powdered state.

"If it's handled correctly and prepared by an adult then the quantities in the slime is unlikely to pose any risk of serious poisonings.

"There have been a couple of cases reported where people have gotten quite bad rashes or a burning sensation after playing with slime but we can't be sure that borax was the cause."

However, she says ingestion of reasonably small amounts of borax powder can cause harm.

The NSW poison hotline advises parents to lock raw borax away from kids along with cleaning chemicals. Mrs Adamo says it's important that any spare Borax solution is disposed of instead of being stored in the fridge, as it could be confused with water.

She says there has been one case of a person accidentally making pancakes out of an old mixture of water and borax.

The number of calls regarding borax to the NSW poison info line has shot up 76 per cent in the past year.

2. What is MSG?

MSG appeared twice in the list of Australia's top "what is" Google searches of 2017 (1st and 7th).

This chemical is believed by many to be the cause of so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS). The syndrome was first described in 1968 by Dr Ho Man Kwok, who wrote in a letter to an American medical journal that he would get a strange numbness in his neck, back and arms, followed by heart palpations, after eating at a Chinese restaurant.

However, Chinese restaurants are not the only places you will find MSG.

MSG is a glutamate, which is a very common amino acid found naturally in foods that contain protein like meats and vegetables. In fact, our bodies produce glutamates in the process of metabolising food.

Glutamates trigger your "umami" taste receptors. Umami is Japanese for "pleasant savoury taste" and although it's lesser known, it's one of the five basic tastes.

But Dr Kwok's research didn't conclusively prove a link between MSG and the symptoms some claim to experience after consuming it.

In 2003, Food Standards Australia New Zealand concluded in a technical report that there was no convincing evidence that MSG had caused any reactions resulting in serious illness or death.

The real takeaway is this: the current scientific consensus is that MSG can temporarily affect a select few when consumed in large quantities on an empty stomach. But for the large majority of people, it's perfectly fine to consume.

However, nutritionist Tracie Connor says MSG is dangerous for a different reason.

"MSG is added to foods to increase the desire to eat the food while increasing our appetite for it," she says.

"This scenario is not what we need in an age where most Australians are overeating."

She says MSG flavour enhancer is typically added to packaged and processed foods like chips and crackers and is displayed in ingredients as flavour enhancer 621.

3. How to use Snapchat map

"How to use snapchat map?" was one of the most Googled "how to" questions this year (7th), after the release of the new feature fostered both excitement and confusion.

The Snapchat "Snapmap" allows users to view the location of other users, as long as they have consented to their location being shared, however, many users were unsure how to access the feature.

To get into Snapmaps on the Snapchat app, users simply have to swipe inwards on the photo screen, as though they are zooming out.

The feature offers users the opportunity to view Snaps submitted to a communal Snapchat story from across the world, showing off user-submitted posts at spectacles like sporting events, celebrations, and even breaking news.

If the user wants to keep their location services on but not have people know their location, they have the choice to go into "Ghost Mode".

While many embraced the map as an opportunity for relatable memes, others had serious concerns about security.

Founder and director of Future Human Academy, Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie, says the difficulty with new features like Snapmap is keeping track of the information being shared.

"This app didn't have this feature before, so users constantly have to be vigilant about how the apps that they are using are changing privacy settings," she says.

"We are already so busy so to have all these extra things we have to manage can be very overwhelming, especially for parents."

Dr Raynes-Goldie adds that the app doesn't give clear feedback about what information is being shared.

"The way that the app is laid out is confusing," she says.

"Kids and parents might not even know that [the information sharing] is happening because it's not giving them that feedback."

She says since the advent of Myspace in 2008, the discussion on privacy has shifted away from young people towards the population as a whole, due to the increasing use of social media by all ages.

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