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On Language And Units

January 19, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 3

The article on activated carbon contained some outdated language and units that C&EN should be proactive in converting to more modern terms (C&EN, Oct. 27, 2014, page 18).

A mixed-units phrase such as “One gram . . . has a surface area equivalent to . . . nearly 13,000 sq ft” might be rendered by surface scientists today as “nearly 1,200 m2/g,” and the reference to activated carbon as being an “ideal absorption medium” might more appropriately be rendered as “ideal adsorption medium” since physical and/or chemical adsorption rather than pore filling is generally involved, especially “for purifying water, gases, chemicals, and air.”

Similarly, since C&EN should be following the lead of other scientific groups in adopting SI units to replace the English units no longer used by the great majority of the world, “lb” should be replaced by “kg” or at least “metric tons.” If so-called customary units are deemed essential to communicate with some of us “dinosaurs,” then C&EN could follow the lead of ASTM International in placing those in parentheses in apposition to the more appropriate units.

I’m disappointed that the official news organ of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest single-science society, lags behind in use of what is considered appropriate terminology today.

William H. Flank
Chappaqua, N.Y.


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