Posts Tagged ‘science’

The Antarctic Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided a grant to author Kathleen Keeley to visit the Antarctic and write a novel that helps improve the scientific literacy of young adults. Ms. Keeley writes fiction for a target audience aged 10-13, more specifically for girls in this age group, and has a series of books about the fictional character Molly Finn. Three Molly Finn novels have been published so far, and NSF is funding Keeley’s work on the fourth novel, “Molly Finn and the Southern Ocean”.

Quoting from the NSF site that describes Keeley’s grant,

Through Molly’s imaginary adventures, readers come to understand the delicate balance of life under the sea, the challenges sea creatures face as they struggle to survive in the ocean, the impacts of man on the environment, and the importance of scientific discovery to conservation and the responsible use of our planet’s resources.

In case you are unfamiliar with the NSF grant process, it is highly competitive, and the grants are awarded only to a fairly small percentage of applicants. Furthermore, even “pure science” awards typically have a significant outreach component to them, requiring cutting-edge research scientists to work with local schools and to provide a serious, well-conceived description of their plans to do so. This is very consistent with NSF’s mission to support science education, to contribute to science literacy of the country, and to train scientists for future teaching and research positions. It is now generally required that grantees also provide for some form of assessment, so the impact of their outreach can be determined. The impact of the scientific research itself is also assessed, of course, as part of the process that is required for final reports and new grant applications.

With Ms. Keeley, we find an author who traveled to the Antarctic to view the ecosystem first-hand, so that she could weave observations and important science into her fictional account. The real life adventures Ms. Keeley is experiencing are documented on her blog. In addition to a great photo-diary of her trip to the Antarctic, you’ll find tips on picking fiction for young adults and teens, and many other useful links.

Ms. Keeley has a publisher lined up for the fourth volume of the Molly Finn series, and before long, the new volume will be on the shelves and in classrooms, inspiring children and specifically young girls to explore the world around them, be aware of the environment, and open their eyes to the possibilities that scientific work can provide.

I’m sure that school children around the world will be also be inspired by the author’s real-life adventures as well as the fiction that Ms. Keeley writes, and I certainly hope that Ms. Keeley will be able to visit schools and interact with children personally, because both the books and the author will provide a thrill for pre-teens and more.

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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This is going up in honor of Blog Action Day, 10/15/2007.

One site that does a lot to make affiliations of “dissenters” clear is the Global Warming Forum. Here we find opinion, commentary, quotes and graphics on many subjects, including:

Curious, to say the least, don’t you think?

I recommend reading Global Warming Forum regularly and learning about a variety of things, including who and what are behind some of the anti-environmental and anti-“environmental regulation” papers that some people publish routinely.

  • Please don’t get the impression that I condemn industrially-funded research, or that I believe all dissenters are evil.
  • I am funded by industry and the Federal government, and plan to keep it that way.
  • In the US, Federal funding levels are low, and industry has always funded important work, worldwide
  • Furthermore, some scientists may believe that global warming is a non-issue without having any ties to large corporations.

However, as required by all reputable, “peer-reviewed” scientific journals (as opposed to newspapers, magazines, trade magazines, etc.), all publications acknowledge funding sources and make clear any possible conflicts of interest. “Peer-reviewed” means that an article has to be read and approved by (typically) 2-3 anonymous, independent scientists and an editor before it can be published. It isn’t a perfect system, but it works pretty well.

Just the other day I found an unreviewed article on the web that was, I felt, really just advertising. It was a very positive discussion of biodiesel, which does have many good properties, but can also be bad for the environment and/or food prices, depending on the details of how it is made and used. The source cited for this article was a website that promotes and advertises biodiesel directly. I tried to contact the author but the email bounced back, so I responded with a post about the problems with Bioethanol (I didn’t want to attack Biodiesel, I just wanted some balance. I address some issues I have with certain types of biodiesel elsewhere in this blog).

There are many things to commend biodiesel, but I’d be willing to bet that any technology examined from only one perspective can sneak up and hurt us:

We need balanced reporting of the benefits and possible drawbacks of all technology!

Let’s take a look at an unrelated example that does acknowledge the “connections”, but also reveals something curious about the past. Searching Googlescholar for the “link between cigarettes and cancer” turns up articles like:

The idea behind this article is that an “electrically heated cigarette” (EHC) is far safer than a cigarette that burns in the normal way. Who cares? It will still kill you. Of course, the authors and their employers from the tobacco industry care. Interestingly, the following note accompanies the paper:

“Philip Morris Research Laboratories GmbH recently changed its name from INBIFO Institüt für Biologische Forschung GmbH.”

Just perhaps, this change took place because people became angry that something called

“INBIFO, the Institute for Biological Research” (translated from the German)

was just an arm of Phillip Morris, the tobacco company. Somehow the “Institute for Biological Research” sounds impressive and independent, especially compared to “Philip Morris Research Laboratories”. I wonder how many years the “deceptive labeling” practice went on.

So, keep reading here, at the Global Warming Forum and elsewhere to have a better chance of judging the quality and sources of information for yourself.

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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Go to the Science Friday home page and look for the Oct 4, 2007 (Hour 1) show on Biofuels to listen to the Podcast.

Also, check out my blogroll (under Science) for a link to the Science Friday Kids’ Connection, an educational resource for grades 6-8.

Let me know what you think! Thanks, as always, for your feedback.

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Japan reduced CO2 emissions by about 1.4 million tons last year, in part by cutting back on air conditioning. This was made more comfortable by dispensing with the business suit and tie culture.

However, extensive commercial building and increases in transportation are making it difficult for Japan to meet its promises for the future.

Also in Japan, the solar energy industry is turning a profit, but remains expensive- this is keeping some consumers from switching to a solar system.

The above three articles from NPR (National Public Radio) shed light on progress and difficulties in a country that long ago recognized the Kyoto Accord and subsequent Kyoto Protocol, which address CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases and global warming.

Meanwhile, Diane Rehm‘s 10 am October 2, 2007, show on NPR dealt with rising food costs and the effect of corn-ethanol on the environment and society. While I didn’t hear the whole show yet, I did not find myself agreeing with some of the guests’ support for corn ethanol and its supposed economic benefits. In particular, one guest seemed to be skirting the issue by talking about reduced CO2 emissions instead of total energy costs when comparing the use of corn-derived ethanol (mixed with gasoline/petrol) in an automobile vs. gasoline/petrol alone. However, I still need to do more reading of current research before giving a complete answer.

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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The first thing I want to do is point out my own main interest in green chemistry: as a practicing chemist, I have been very attracted to “pollution prevention” as a field of research and development. While it may seem obvious in today’s world, pollution prevention wasn’t always a high priority. The concept is: it is far better to avoid pollution in the first place than to try to clean up pollution after the fact.

The goal of this blog will be to discuss the ideas of Green Chemistry in non-technical terms, though I will provide links and references to relevant technical articles for the specialist. I will try, eventually, to cover all of the key ideas in Green Chemistry, not just my personal favorites. You might wonder, however, why I enjoy a focus on pollution prevention. This is because:

  • Pollution prevention is something that nearly all chemists can work on.
  • Pollution prevention can provide significant economic benefits to companies, making them likely to use new technology and reduce pollution.
  • Pollution prevention doesn’t require changing a product, simply the way a product is made. This also makes adoption of the technology more likely.
  • Much industrial chemistry of today is based on chemical reactions that are over a hundred years old.
  • We have learned so much chemistry in the last hundred years that we have a good chance of entirely replacing the older methods.
  • Reducing pollution has a dramatic and immediate effect on our air, rivers, streams and oceans.

Before I go any further, I should mention that I have posted in a few other places on this subject:

  • I wrote a comment on an article in the excellent blog, Highlight HEALTH, a site for health news and information from a scientific perspective.
  • There are also a few posts on my other blog (, which are really out of place because the blog is devoted to reviewing fiction and crime fiction. But, I had only just started blogging, I felt a need to write, and I had an outlet available. Now the time has come to break out in a new direction in a new blog.
  • You can see a list of books on Green Chemistry and related topics by clicking here and going to page 2. Note: in the interests of full disclosure, these books were written by friends or acquaintances of mine.

I will reveal conflicts of interest to help you judge what I say. Comments and questions are always welcome and appreciated.

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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