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Rudy Baum Redux

May 20, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 20

Rudy Baum’s review of Al Gore’s recent book “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change” caused me to hark back to the Robert Gunning Fog Index, a measure of the readability of written English (C&EN, March 25, page 44). A 68-word sentence by Gore left Baum saying, “Huh?” An earlier sentence by Gore contained 65 words and yet another, 58 words. Those garnered a double “huh?” from me.

Baum, though, wrote one 53-word sentence in the review and then an 82-word blockbuster (half was a quote), indicating that the need for calculating the Gunning Fog Index is alive and well in editing circles.

Basil Constantinos Doumas
Fredericksburg, Va.

Baum’s retirement as C&EN editor-in-chief gave me hope that the frequent liberal spew from the magazine might end. Alas, that hope was dashed when I saw that he is back as a book reviewer.

His review of Al Gore’s book is predictable—one liberal praising another. Baum opines that Gore is a “thoughtful, well-informed commentator” and a man of “prodigious talents.” What nonsense.

Gore’s book is hardly a sage prediction of the future. On the contrary, it is best described as a compilation of progressive policies that have failed in the past and will continue to do so.

The issues we need to push, according to Gore, are interconnecting the world’s economies and other systems (globalism); restricting greedy corporations and rich people (redistribution of wealth); controlling human population and the use of natural resources (sustainability); reducing human impacts on the environment (such as climate change); restricting the ownership of weapons (gun control); and more.

Why is Baum reviewing Gore’s book for C&EN? One looks in vain for the word “chemistry” in Baum’s essay. Book reviews on pertinent chemical topics are fine, but partisan political essays should be published elsewhere.

Baum makes at least one true statement about Gore’s book: “Conservatives of a certain stripe won’t like it at all.”

Robert Lattimer
Stow, Ohio



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Bob Buntrock (June 11, 2013 4:34 PM)
@Basil Doumas: I won't comment on the sentences cited but I think the Fog Index is overrated. In my previous employment, I used to feud with our technical editor who stressed the need for internal memos to be written for management with executive summaries as the first page and a Fog Index of no more than ten. That may well be apporporate for that audience, but I don't beleive it should necessarily apply for all technical and journal writing. If Baum's 53 word sentence included a long winded quote, he should be able to get by with it.

@Robert Lattimer: obviously Baum's prediction about the reception of his review by conservatives was spot on, but it was far from his only true statement. Your politicization of the issues are exemplified by phrases like "liberal spew" (as I recall, you've had similar critiques previously) and detract from your thesis. I would not like to read any of your reviews as they would be excessivley political tracts. Even though Gore may not have cited chemistry per se, his book (and reviews thereof) do pertain to chemistry (after all, it is the Central Science). The chemistry involved in AGW should now be obvious, especially to chemists. I recall hearing a lecture by Sherwood Rowland before he passed away on AGW and he showed the abosorption spectra of various greenhouse gases. I had doubted the comparitive effect of methane but was amazed to see the very large extintcion coefficients. Chemistry is definitoley involved. However, the solutions to the problems are technological and political.

I hope you don't think that the sniping of you and other conservatives were responsible for Baum's retirement. Such demands of the ACS and their piblications are uncalled for and counterproductive. We may all be chemists but are hardly homogeneous in our opinions (thank goodness).
Mick Russom (September 22, 2015 6:24 PM)
@Bob Buntrock
"We may all be chemists but are hardly homogeneous in our opinions (thank goodness)."

Seems when CEN publishes anything that is not about Chemistry it appears like Pravda-style propaganda for left of center points of view. If an organization such as CEN is going to have a member or editor on staff who has such a clear bias (but who hides behind being a journalist and a scientist and claims no bias) then there should be coincident rebuttal or alternate point of view presented.

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