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Piercing the veil

October 9, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 41

I agree with most of the points made in the article "Piercing the Veil of Creativity" except for Anthony J. Le Storti's views on skunk works (C&EN, July 3, page 40). It has its place when there is a clearly defined goal and very competent corporate management. It has no value as a "showplace" with only vague goals of good science. It also has become difficult to recruit team members because it is usually an ad hoc mission, and membership means you do not fit into a line organization.

James W. Reeves
Wilmington, Del.

"Piercing the Veil of Creativity" reminded me of professor Colin Fink in my 1940 electrochemistry course at Columbia University. He told of the problem of corrosion of copper bus bars preventing electrical contact with the plating racks. The problem was solved by a worker with no scientific training who suggested greasing the bus bars. Engineers would not suggest this because they know grease is an insulator. It is an example of the "provocative jolt" cited in the article. It is why Fink said we should always have an untrained employee to come up with "no-sense, stupid, impractical ideas," which often work.

Saul Ricklin
Bristol, R.I.


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