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Attributing Undue Significance

May 13, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 19

Having recently become a 50-year member of the American Chemical Society, I am embarrassed to see that C&EN has become a propaganda machine attempting to brainwash ACS members. Strong claim, you say?

The cover of the March 25 issue points to the article about ocean acidification with the words: “Shellfish die-off threatens Pacific Northwest” (C&EN, March 25, page 36). The article says: “Over the past 250 years, the average upper-ocean pH has decreased by about 0.1 units, from about 8.2 to 8.1.” This is the only quantitative data, relative to ocean acidification, in this two-page article.

But 250 years ago an acid was a substance that tasted sour, and a base was a substance that tasted bitter. Fritz Haber and Zygmunt Klemensiewicz constructed the first glass pH electrode in 1906. So the pH scale did not exist before 1909. In 1934 Arnold Beckman began marketing his commercial pH meter, the first manufactured in the U.S.

The convention taught in chemistry was that the right-most digit of a quantitative measurement was uncertain; it could be at least one or two units greater or lesser. Therefore, the data cited in the article should not be interpreted as if any change has occurred.

Relative to a shellfish die-off threatening the Pacific Northwest, near the end of the article it says: “In recent years, the tribe’s natural resources have been threatened by oil spills, overharvesting, and illegal poachers supplying the Asian seafood market.” Maybe it is these three factors, instead of ocean acidification, that threaten Pacific Northwest shellfish.

Jerry L. Krause
Salem, Ore.



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