Monday, August 17, 2015

This week's C&EN

This week's C&EN is a double issue, focused on how the Internet has changed chemistry:

23 comments:

  1. My understanding is that 'extremely high levels' of beryllium were recorded on the Animas River after the EPA's "accident" ("accident" my eye, this was deliberate and malicious) in Colorado earlier this month. Unfortunately Andrea Widener's article only covers airborne exposure levels.

    What happens when an agency charged with "environmental protection" misuses its authority and deliberately poisons a huge swath of the environment? Apparently there is no outrage unless you live there.

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    1. Apparently this post is irrelevant and I have been told that I am on "thin ice" and invited to talk about the EPA somewhere else.

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    2. Hey, good news; the X-Files is coming back so maybe that anti-government conspiracy theory stuff is back in vogue again.

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    3. This happened, it's been reported in the mainstream media, and the EPA's excuse was "we were mindbogglingly incompetent." The EPA ignored local input, and ignored scientific expertise published before the "accident."

      Think about that when the government offers to help YOU out.

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    4. What part of "we were mindbogglingly incompetent" do you find hard to believe?

      "Apparently there is no outrage unless you live there"--is that why you keep riding this horse?

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    5. I find it very difficult to believe that "we were mindbogglingly incompetent" is the EPA's very first go-to excuse unless the real story was far, far less palatable. It is far more likely that the EPA purposefully sabotaged existing containment in order to ensure a Superfund designation and related EPA jobs, while gaining support for WOTUS legislation that would even further empower the EPA. I find it especially difficult to believe the "mindboggling incompetence" excuse given the area history (and the EPA's prior involvement), the prior published warning on their anticipated action, and the EPA's history of dictatorial overreach and control jockeying in general.

      The opinion of this area geologist, delivered a week before the "accident":

      EPA Plan is Really A Superfund Blitzkrieg (7/30/2015, Silverton Standard)

      http://www.silvertonstandard.com/news.php?id=847

      The fact that the EPA delayed reporting the "accident" for over a day is absolutely unacceptable from an agency that purports to be concerned with environmental quality and safety and is in itself an extremely hostile (or unproductively and selfishly defensive - and therefore unworthy of a government agency) action. They continue to withhold assessments of the related damages from affected governments in four states and several reservations, and this is unconscionable.

      http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_28651849/navajo-nation-angry-at-epa

      http://www.hngn.com/articles/118861/20150812/navajo-nation-epa-trying-cheat-over-mine-spill-plans-sue.htm

      An independent prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the EPA. Also, the Navajo Nation should sue the US government for damages in international court. Those responsible should be fired, face criminal trials, and be barred from receiving any government benefits.

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    6. This American Council on Science and Health article tells a lot about the arrogant, power-mad EPA in the context of its recent "accident" and also suggests it must be stopped.

      http://acsh.org/2015/08/epa-earned-its-animas-river-backlash-because-it-earned-a-reputation-for-abuse/

      In related news, the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which would trade affordable power generation in the nation's most marginal regions (including many Indian reservations) for carbon emission reductions, has been the last straw that pushed prominent coal energy stocks down to low price levels - and George Soros, architect of the US coal industry's downfall, has now purchased a million shares of Peabody Energy and 553,200 million shares of Arch Coal on the ultra-cheap, making him a significant investor in the US coal industry after he spent years and beaucoup bucks opposing fossil fuels and championing clean energy. What? Collusion between the #8 Democrat donor and the EPA allowing the donor to become a big-time coal player? (fake shock) Say it ain't so! I guess with the current administration you get what you pay for.

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    7. Wow, thanks EPAJobber. Please do go on. You're not boring us or anything.

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    8. @Anonymous 08.19.2015 12:04PM, I'm sorry you're not more entertained by the appalling corruption and disgustingly abusive and power-crazed behavior of your government, or the spectacle of the sainted EPA (deliberately) causing one of the worst groundwater contamination disasters in the US, under the administration of "Mother Nature's Son" himself.

      As for relevance, this started with the article on beryllium safety standards. Anon 08.18.2015 6:44 PM asked a couple of questions, which I've answered.

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    9. I don't deal in far-fetched conspiracy theories, just obvious out-in-the open and readily verifiable government behaving badly.

      I see you've already bought yours, though. No doubt you think I'm part of some fictitious vast right-wing conspiracy, and I wish you joy in your choice of headgear.

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    10. Also, perhaps the EPA can bring your water supply up to their exacting standards. Then you can address the issue of aqueous beryllium contamination from personal experience.

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    11. This discussion is not productive. Move along.

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  2. I love how a series of articles on how chemists use the internet is completely broken for me on both my home PC and my work PC. All I see is a bluish checkboard pattern and some unlabelled icons that don't respond when clicked.

    I often find that ACS websites simply don't work, probably due to all the unnecessary flashy garbage they burden them with. Perhaps they need to fire some more coders. That'll fix everything.

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    1. I was wondering if that was just my computer. It's a shame; it seemed like an interesting article.

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  3. There's no link to the Poliakoff piece.

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    1. The PTOV is really fun. Much better than actually performing demos for a classroom full of secondary students when budget, waste disposal, and safety considerations are an issue. Elementary kids seem to like them, too.

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    2. But don't you lose the "That was some Harry Potter shit, dude" effect of the actual demos?

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    3. I look forward to seeing more of the PTOV. However (perhaps sadly) the more obvious issue is, were Sir Martyn and Phil Spector twins separated at birth?

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    4. Yeah that adds to their entertainment value. Definitely works for the high school set. What I wouldn't give to shake Sir Martyn's hand.

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  4. I confess to being disappointed by the article on "online serendipity." A couple of college friends of mine, who were 2/3 of one of the early Internet start-ups, were talking about this issue not long ago.

    One (now an academic on internet matters at an engineering university in Cambridge, MA) was of the opinion that the Internet is constructed in such a way as to confirm the users' personal tastes /predilections/ opinions/ prejudices and the other (recently, apparently, retired from computing) commented that it was easy to generate product suggestions based on past browsing and shopping behavior, but very difficult to construct an out-of-field connection to a product the consumer would really love. Both seemed to agree that serendipitous discovery on the Internet was something that could be improved on and was perhaps something to be aimed for. Anyway, (based on my personal opinion) I concur, and suspect engineering the Internet for serendipity is a more complex and involved matter than simply directing Twitter feeds.

    Unlike my yesteryear colleagues, though, I am older and rather more conservative, and view the Internet as substantively inferior to library browsing. This is for several reasons - 1) topical organization in stacks tends to ensure groupings of relevant material, frequently in 2-3 places - which fuels discipline-based serendipity; 2) the depth of coverage of what is physically there is greater; 3) this coverage does not require assembly from a vast quantity of disparate sources with (frequently) unverifiable accuracy or legitimacy; 4) the issue of provenance is consequently less vexed; 5) the organization of the books themselves fuels a certain amount of discipline-based serendipity (e.g. via bibliographies, notes, lists, etc.); and 6) the library is "free" (although increases in use fees have changed that) relative to using several hundred dollars worth of equipment to access fee-based services. This contrasts with the Internet, where searches tend to be somewhat more sub-topically or even issue-directed and consequently more focused, where much information is of questionable provenance and sometimes very badly phrased, where a great deal of information (especially in academic publishing) is restricted to fee-based consumption and/or institutional affiliation, and where interdisciplinary links may be harder to discern.

    Regardless of how you view these distinctions, I think we might have expected the article to go into greater detail, or perhaps to list some online resources that are either more specialized or haven't already pervaded late night television years ago.

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