Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reading assignments, vol. 3

Some reads from the internet are below. I should have some organic synthesis-oriented post(s) on here this coming week, so for anyone who likes organotrifluoroborates: stay tuned.

Three themes for this week, as discussed below.

Research in practice:

Science and the public:

  • Via Talk Nerdy to Me, a good video commenting on anti-science politicians, including the House Science Committee. One of my favorite topics, so watch it.
  • Karen Kashmanian (a dean at the WPI) recommends that science (and access to science via technology) be formally deemed a human right.
  • Rebecca Harrington comments on a UC Berkeley study on the dialogue surrounding environmentalism. The rhetoric used to promote environmental protection (i.e. the wording, not necessarily the factual arguments) is critical in shifting conservatives toward environmentalism. Should be of interest to those fighting denialism.
  • An excellent post on Slate about the public's perception of conservation and ecology. Turns out white tigers are inbred mutants, and their breeding causes harm to animals as well as depletion of valuable resources otherwise useful for conservation. It's an important read for any scientist or conservationist.

Graduate chemical education:

  • Chemjobber points out that now even the higher-ups in ACS are acknowledging that there are way too many chemistry PhDs. In a separate post, other surprising assertions by the ACS leadership are noted.
  • An opinion piece by Stacey Patton at the Chronicle of Higher Education (posted also to HuffingtonPost) discusses the combination of student debt and poor employment prospects in the context of graduate school (more geared toward humanities but this applies to science to a degree). She and others recommend that graduate programs warn prospective students and offer guidance.
  • A commentary by science writer and Earth science professor Scott K. Johnson makes the case for a different model of science education in order to better teach critical thinking to science and non-science students alike. He argues against the current (failed) paradigm that thinking abilities come as a byproduct (side product?) when you teach the basics. He's right.


  • Greg Laden points out the convergence of a fake study and a real study on the conclusion that Fox News viewers are, on average, unintelligent. 
  • Because See Arr Oh likes odd things in chemistry, there's a post on Just Like Cooking about the use of Sweet 'n Low in an Org. Lett. procedure. At least it found a use in chemistry, because it tastes gross.
  • A brief New Scientist interview with Tom Knight about synthetic biology. On a somewhat related note, see this Scientific American post about complexity in science/engineering.
  • Derek Lowe (In the Pipeline) points out a scientist angry to the point of legally claiming defamation over not being awarded the Nobel Prize.
  • Chemists generally know about the helium shortage (better learn to do NMR without magnets!). Here's a piece that talks about it on Starts With a Bang.