Blogroll: Scary chemicals

Sensational chemophobia and the problems with biofuels

‘Are you scared yet?’ This is the title of See Arr Oh’s post on Just Like Cooking but could equally serve as the unspoken subtitle of the news report he’s blogging about. First highlighted on ChemBark the investigative report from US TV channel Fox29 is about “unlocked chemistry labs and the ease with which a terrorist could steal hazardous materials”. So far, so serious. But, as ChemBark says, “the underlying point of securing labs is a valid one, but the presentation is way Way WAAAAAAY over the top”. See Arr Oh takes the presentation to task more than ChemBark, giving us some random quotes that illustrate the chemophobic sensationalism of the report, which breathlessly reveals the presence of 0.1 M HCl and ether. He counted “26 mentions of the word ‘chemical’ (or once every 14.4 seconds)” – mostly “preceded by a sensationalist adjective”. We can’t deny that lab security is an issue for serious discussion, but perhaps it deserves better reporting than it got from Fox29.

Materials Girl: Beginning of the end

Late last year during the fall term, YouKnowWho dropped a small bomb on my plans: I could write a dissertation using the work for my intended Master’s thesis. What?! In previous bids he had simply asked me to stay for a PhD to work on some project, whereas now there was the claim that I could finish in just another year. (I assume this means two more, bringing the total to a reasonable five years.) It was then the time for waffling. On one hand, staying would save a large amount of time and effort – no need to retake classes, create new networks, and familiarize myself with a different academic system.  Read more