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September 18, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 37


Letters to the editor


Communicating objectively

I appreciated President Allison Campbell’s comments in the July 31 issue (page 39). I would agree that we as chemists/scientists have a communications problem and a problem sorting out fact from fiction.

As a student studying chemistry, I was always encouraged, no, perhaps even threatened, to focus on the scientific facts: The pH of distilled water is not 7.0; it is 7.0 at 25 °C and 760 mmHg pressure. Conditions can matter.

And so, in the 1960s when global cooling was threatening, and Hollywood made movies about the Statue of Liberty disappearing in a glacier, I didn’t panic. Nor did I panic when the global warming movies came out showing the same Statue of Liberty disappearing under the rising tides due to the ice caps melting.

Facts and data are important. We need to focus on the wonderful effects chemistry has to offer—equilibrium conditions and what/how much energy it takes to upset that equilibrium.

I worked for an oil company, and every product price was driven by the cost per Btu—a gallon of gasoline, a distillate product such as kerosene, lubricating oils, and greases. The price of everything was driven by the cost per Btu. My point is that everyone has an agenda, and sometimes separating the agendas from the science is difficult. This is why communications concerning facts need to be objective.
Kenneth Whisler Jr.
Edinburg, Pa.

Stats and chocolate milk

I read your editorial from July 3 entitled “Stats, stats, stats” (page 3). I would like to add some comments about your first paragraph. When I saw the initial media reports about the 7% number, I pointed out to two of my colleagues (one an MS chemist and the other a ChemE) that those 7% were not wrong, as the media (and your editorial) would have us believe. Here is the question: Does chocolate milk come from brown cows? The answer is most definitely yes; it can also come from white cows, black and white cows, black cows, and even goats and yaks. It is not wrong to say chocolate milk comes from brown cows. However, it may be more accurate to say that chocolate milk may come from brown cows, after the addition of chocolate coloring and flavoring.

Now that I have your attention and maybe reached a deep area of thought in your mind, here is the real point: You say, “Could it be that 7% of U.S. adults have such a sense of humor?” I say that maybe 7% of U.S. adults are able to think outside the proverbial box. I personally do not believe in the “box” and have stated many times that when someone, usually a boss or a job applicant, tells you that they think outside the box, that they most certainly do not. If you recognize that there is a box, it is because you are hopelessly trapped inside it. I do not recognize the existence of a box, and that freedom has allowed me to develop many solutions during my career. I encourage you, your staff, and chemists everywhere to tear down the proverbial box and allow their natural thoughts and creativity to show.

So, don’t judge us 7 percenters on the lack of imagination of the 93 percenters.
Richard Walton
Monroe, N.C.

Science of climate change

I noticed that ACS did not sign the letter to EPA director Scott Pruitt regarding the science of climate change and endorsed by the leaders of 16 other major scientific societies (C&EN, Aug. 7, page 15). As the largest scientific organization in the world it is very disappointing to see the ACS reluctance to sign this letter. ACS should be the leader in opposing this Administration’s attack on science in general and global warming specifically. Physics, biology, and chemistry are the key drivers of climate change science and without chemistry the science is incomplete.
Thomas Whelan III
Richmond, Texas

From the web

Re: EPA and ACS

A reader commented on ACS’s decision not to sign a letter on climate change.

Bad things happen when people who know better do nothing. The EPA “process” ignores the scientific literature, pretends the scientific process adds nothing, equates scientific effort with gamesmanship, and is led by an Administration that has announced the conclusion. There is no point to “let it run its course” and pretend it is going to … yield a useful conclusion [to someone]. By even conducting this exercise with government resources under the guise of objectivity it is simply a way to try and pretend there is some reason behind this Administration’s total contempt for objective climate realities they don’t like and the scientists that bring the public that news. It is beyond naive to pretend there is any value in that process, and it is important for ALL science societies to stand together and try to reason with Pruitt, to name and shame the bad process, and to show the Administration it can’t cynically fracture the community of scientists so as to marginalize what that community has found.


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