The essential boron | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 82 Issue 14 | p. 6 | Letters
Issue Date: April 5, 2004

The essential boron

Department: Letters

The essential boron

The article "Boron Flat Out" by Stephen K. Ritter was quite interesting (C&EN, March 1, page 28). Being a plant scientist, I did notice an overgeneralization by the author.

He states, "Carbon, with six electrons, is essential to life, while boron, with only five, is not." Boron is an "essential" plant nutrient for higher plants and is classified as a "micronutrient"because it is required in very small quantities (1 lb per acre is usually sufficient). A plant cannot complete its life cycle without boron, and without plants, we animals would be out of luck.
David L. Terry
Lexington, Ky.

Warming to a consensus

From the wealth of letters about "Climate Change" by Bette Hileman, there appears to be no consensus among scientists on the potential threat of man-made climate changes (C&EN, Feb. 23, page 2). The mixed messages from the scientific community are undoubtedly resulting in public and political ambivalence. Yet logic dictates that the lack of leadership on environmental issues and energy policies over the past few decades will eventually have a high impact on our economies–and perhaps substantial global consequences in the not-too-distant future. The scientific community needs to send a unified message to the world in order to jump-start political action. But what can that unified message be?

Can we not all agree about the following?

◾ Oil, coal, shale, and other carbon-based fuels are limited resources that are being depleted by an expanding industrial world.
◾ These fuels spew many gases and/or organic and inorganic chemicals (for example, mercury) that have a negative impact on the air we breathe, the acidity of our waters, the food we eat, and our general global environment–although the threat posed by any single hazard may be debatable
◾ Ozone holes, increasing global temperature trends, increasing greenhouse gas levels, the melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, the effects of warming on the Arctic tundra, and so on are indicative of global change that are due, at least in part, to man-made activities.
◾ Water, too, is a limited resource and needs to be protected from depletion, pollution, and contamination.
◾ Historically, there have been oil embargoes that have crippled economies and caused particular hardship among the working poor
◾ Oil, coal, shale, and other carbon-based fuels are limited resources that are being depleted by an expanding industrial world.
◾ These fuels spew many gases and/or organic and inorganic chemicals (for example, mercury) that have a negative impact on the air we breathe, the acidity of our waters, the food we eat, and our general global environment–although the threat posed by any single hazard may be debatable
◾ Ozone holes, increasing global temperature trends, increasing greenhouse gas levels, the melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, the effects of warming on the Arctic tundra, and so on are indicative of global change that are due, at least in part, to man-made activities.
◾ Water, too, is a limited resource and needs to be protected from depletion, pollution, and contamination.
◾ Historically, there have been oil embargoes that have crippled economies and caused particular hardship among the working poor–and even now, without an embargo, the cost of fuel is a heavy burden on this class.
◾ Finally, the world's high dependence on oil causes nations to make political decisions that may not be in the best interests of humankind.

With a strong and united voice, scientists should encourage the global community to work together to formulate a long-term, well-funded, and comprehensive peer-reviewed energy and antipollution research program that is structurally designed to be resistant to political whim and short-term thinking. Furthermore, scientific organizations should publicize a list of recommendations for technologies, which should be implemented immediately (or at least within this decade)—such as a minimum requirement of 45–50 mpg (for example, the Toyota Prius) for cars, pickups, and sport-utility vehicles—;and antipollution devices for the smokestacks of coal-burning industries. If our voices are unified, we can change the world for the better.
David A. Marsh
Fort Worth, Texas

The pride of Zurich

As a graduate of the university of Zurich (Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1944 under Paul Karrer), I read with great interest and pride "Zurich Pulls in Chemical Talent" by A. Maureen Rouhi (C&EN, Feb. 23, page 27). I would like to add a couple of historical remarks. While Karrer might have been a bit authoritarian, he was also kind and understanding toward his graduating students. I will never forget that on my final examination with him he greeted me with a smile and said, "Not only you, but I also had to prepare myself for this examination." This remark put me completely at ease. The rivalry between the University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH), was legendary, and extended well beyond Karrer and Leopold Ruzicka. The faculties of both institutions treated each other with contempt, and each thought their chemistry was better. Nevertheless, the chemistry students in all of Zurich thought that, at this time in history, Zurich was the "World Capital of Chemistry."
Geza Szonyi
Lexington, Mass.

 

 
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