Behind the Story: Cheryl Hogue on Chemists’ Environmental Awareness
Sep09

Behind the Story: Cheryl Hogue on Chemists’ Environmental Awareness

Cheryl Hogue wrote one of the many fascinating stories in today's 90th anniversary issue. Hers has a title that will certainly appeal to the Muppets fans out there: "It's not easy being green." Chemists have become more environmentally sensitive during the last half-century, she writes. But the work Rachel Carson kick-started when she published "Silent Spring" is far from over. Watch my interview with Cheryl for more context on her reporting and the...

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Behind the Story: History of the National Organic Symposium #NOS2013
Aug01

Behind the Story: History of the National Organic Symposium #NOS2013

We're fans of podcasts here at CENtral Science, whether by Chemjobber and SeeArrOh, or by the good folks at Nature and Science. Last week, Lauren Wolf and I had a conversation about how a shorter, video version of podcast banter might make a fun addition to the mix. Submitted for your approval: our discussion about my story covering the National Organic Chemistry Symposium and its history. We're curious what you think- and what else you'd like to...

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Flame Challenge 2: The Answers Are In
May02

Flame Challenge 2: The Answers Are In

Last year, actor and science advocate Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science, sponsored the inaugural Flame Challenge by asking scientists around the world to answer “What is a flame?” so that an 11-year-old could understand. This year, the American Chemical Society and the American Association for Advancement of Science have joined in on the sponsorship, and the question scientists have been asked to answer is, “What is time?” Nearly 20,000 students from around the world have voted on the hundreds of submissions that made it through an initial screening by trained scientists, and the six best answers--three videos and three written responses--have been unveiled on the Flame Challenge website. The finalists each use unique examples to explain time. Some mention Einstein’s theory of relativity, some go into the details of the space-time continuum, and some rely on time being an invented concept that keeps track of events. One thing mentioned in each entry: time only has one direction and that’s forward. Registered schools can vote for their favorite answers until May 5. This year, rather than recognizing one overall winner, the best entry for each format will be recognized. That will happen at an event on June 2 at the World Science Festival, in New York...

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Terrence Howard Isn’t A Doctor, He Just Plays One On TV
Apr12

Terrence Howard Isn’t A Doctor, He Just Plays One On TV

Growing up, most boys dream of one day becoming a chemical engineer and enjoying the endless parade of fans, money, and women that comes with it. Terrence Howard wasn't so lucky. He had to settle for Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor instead. But don't feel too sorry for Howard because as he mentioned during a Feb. 26 appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" he actually holds a Ph.D. in applied materials and chemical engineering from South Carolina State University! Howard turned the lemons of being left out of "Iron Man 2" into the lemonade of earning a doctorate? It all sounds very impressive. The problem? It's a lie. Howard was never enrolled as a doctoral student at SC State University because SC State University doesn't offer graduate degrees in applied materials or chemical engineering, as a visit to the school's website confirms. Howard did receive a doctor of humane letters from the school after speaking at its 2012 spring commencement, explains Antia Dawkins, SC State University public relations specialist, but "he didn't graduate from SC State University. He just received an honorary degree." According to Dawkins, SC State University has "actually received quite a few inquiries pertaining to this information." One of those inquiries came from former University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, lecturer Marina Miletic. "This may seem like a trivial story, but I feel it's important to address this situation of a celebrity impersonating a Ph.D. and a chemical engineer," says Miletic, who is a Ph.D. and a chemical engineer who currently works as a freelance lecturer and consultant. "He is somewhat trivializing chemical engineering by claiming he earned this degree in between working on movies." Miletic's suspicions were triggered when she heard Howard discuss his diamond-growing business venture with Kimmel, which can be seen in the video above. "Howard committed some serious technical gaffes by repeatedly claiming that diamonds will replace silicone in computer chips to better 'handle heat dispensation,' " she says. "In fact, he should have said silicon and heat dissipation."  Miletic went so far in her fact-checking that she actually contacted Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, where, according to information Howard shared in a 2007 interview, he attended undergraduate chemical engineering classes but did not graduate. Miletic's inquiry confirmed this fact, leading her to further question how Howard could have earned a Ph.D. without first receiving a bachelor's degree. "Clearly his statements were not completely lining up," she says. Obviously, celebrities using late-night talk shows as a forum for promoting a vanity project is nothing new. But, with his latest claim, Howard may have just taken that tradition to a whole new...

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Flame Challenge 2: And The Question Is …
Dec12

Flame Challenge 2: And The Question Is …

Today’s post is by Emily Bones, a production editor and Newscripts contributor here at C&EN. “What is time?” is the question actor Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science (CCS) want scientists around the world to answer with a response an 11-year-old can understand. Last year, Alda launched an annual challenge by posing to the world “What is a flame?” The burning question had been on his mind since he was 11 years old, and his science teacher answered him with a technical response that he didn’t understand. CCS, which is a division of Stony Brook University in New York, decided to keep the tradition going and this year invited 11-year-olds across the U.S. to suggest a new question. After narrowing more than 300 entries down to five possibilities, 10- to 12-year-olds voted “What is time?” as the next seemingly simple question to answer. Scientists who want to compete in this year’s challenge may submit a written (less than 300 words) or visual (Vimeo video, less than 6 minutes long) answer. Click here for details and an entry form.  This time around, there will be two winners: one for each of the categories. Answers are due by 11:59 PM EST on March 1, 2013. To see what creative answers scientists came up with last year, check out the winning entry, those that were finalists, and those that were honorable mentions. As for who qualifies to compete, CCS says, “We define a scientist as someone who has, or is in the process of getting, a graduate degree in a science (including health sciences, engineering and mathematics), or who is employed doing scientific work, or who is retired from doing scientific work.” Once a submission is received, it will be screened for accuracy by a panel of CCS-selected scientists before it can move to the next stage of student judging. CCS is looking for 11-year-olds interested in judging. If you know a class of fourth, fifth, or sixth graders who want to participate, get them involved. Scientists, get creative and send in your answers. Time is ticking away!...

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