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November 20, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 46


Letters to the editor

Data visualization

I enjoyed the subject article on data visualization (C&EN, July 17, page 22). It was well written and informative but left me wishing for much more on the broad topic of data visualization.

I am a retired chemist from the polymers and coatings world, where I extensively used data visualization to communicate in both my R&D and business interactions. I will even go so far as to suggest that data visualization is the crux of communicating effectively in the scientific world and with other disciplines, including business.

Data visualization is an afterthought in the standard curriculum, so most of us learned on the job after leaving university settings. Such learning started with just seeing one’s results, usually on a timescale, such as the progress of a chemical reaction. Then the issue of error was introduced in analytical chemistry, and various means of illustrating it were provided. That naturally led to questions regarding accuracy, reliability, and validity of results and various means of illustrating the issues involved.

The largest consumer of time and effort was centered on the simple question: Is emerging data part of an existing distribution or part of a newly emerging, different distribution? In other words, what constitutes a meaningful difference in experimental data? And this is quickly followed by the question of whether a statistically significant difference has any practical significance. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, hinges on this key question.

I have two requests: (1) Develop a future article for C&EN that reviews the myriad ways that we use data visualization in our world, and (2) consider forming a new division of ACS on the subject of data visualization. I’m serious on both points—data visualization is that important! And the potential for misuse and outright fraud is vast.
F. Louis Floyd
Independence, Ohio

From the web

Re: 3-D printing: A tool for production

A reader online agreed with the article’s description of new uses of 3-D printing.

This article is spot-on. Three-dimensional printing is totally uncompetitive with injection molding for mass production volumes and likely always will be, but for making prototypes, fixtures, etc., it is a complete game changer. At two in the afternoon I realize, ‘Hey, I need a jig shaped like this,’ draw it out before 5, set the printer up to print overnight, [and] I come in in the morning to a finished jig (or sometimes a misprint). That process used to take several weeks with the model shop, meetings, etc., and frequently my jobs were bumped. The quality is lower than stuff done on high-quality machine tools, but for a fixture it doesn’t matter. It has made my life much easier.

The hype for 3-D printing was so over the top that it was bound to fail to live up to expectations, and I don’t think it will ever make much of a dent in the consumer space. But these things are amazing tools, and we’re really indebted to the hobbyists and tinkerers who made cheap printers mainstream and open source (e.g., RepRap Foundation).


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