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Throw In The Towel?

I keep promising myself that I’m going to write about energy and climate issues less often on this page. It’s difficult to keep the promise because developments in these areas are coming fast and furious. Developments of late, however, suggest that there may not be much point in continuing to write about them because, well, the game may be over.

Consider: A National Research Council study concludes that it is unlikely that the U.S. will produce anything close to the amount of cellulosic ethanol by 2022 that is mandated by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (C&EN Oct. 10, page 12).

What’s fascinating to me is that, in the preface to the NRC report, Ingrid C. Burke and Wallace E. Tyner, the cochairs of the committee that produced it, write: “Yet with all the expertise available to us, our clearest conclusion is that there is very high uncertainty in the impacts we were trying to estimate. The uncertainties include essentially all of the drivers of biofuel production and consumption and the complex interactions among those drivers: future crude oil prices, feedstock cost and availability, technological advances in conversion efficiencies, land-use change, government policy, and more.” Biofuels are supposed to be important in mitigating climate disruption, but, “We do not have generally agreed upon estimates of the environmental or [greenhouse gas] impacts of most biofuels,” Burke and Tyner admit.

Consider: A distinguished panel formed by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a group founded by two former Republican senators and two former Democratic senators, concluded recently that the U.S. “should embark on a focused and systematic program of research about climate remediation.” That is, ways to fix the climate that we are disrupting through emissions of greenhouse gases. The task force “strongly believes that climate remediation technologies are no substitute for controlling risk through climate mitigation (i.e., reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases) and climate adaptation (i.e., enhancing the resilience of human-made and natural systems to climate change).” Nevertheless, the U.S. “needs to be able to judge whether particular climate remediation techniques could offer a meaningful response to the risks of climate change,” in part, because that change could be catastrophic, and in part, because some other countries might decide to pursue climate remediation on their own.
Consider: The U.S. State Department is evaluating a proposal by TransCanada, an energy production and supply company, to build the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from oil sands deposits in Alberta to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. For a variety of reasons, oil sands are one of the most environmentally problematic of all sources of petroleum. The State Department appears to be inclined to recommend approval of the project.

That should come as no surprise. According to news reports, TransCanada’s chief lobbyist in Washington was a top official in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign and has cozy relationships with State Department officials. Oh, and TransCanada selected the company, Cardino Entrix, that prepared the environmental impact statement (EIS) on Keystone XL for the department. The EIS takes a relatively benign view of the pipeline project. So it’s business as usual in Washington when it comes to energy development.

And finally, consider: The op-ed page of the Oct. 6 Wall Street Journal carried a piece by Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, entitled “Five Truths About Climate Change.” The first “truth” Bryce cites is “The carbon taxers/limiters have lost,” pointing out that in the past decade CO2 emissions have risen 28.5%. Bryce concludes his essay: “It’s time to move the debate past the dogmatic view that carbon dioxide is evil and toward a world view that accepts the need for energy that is cheap, abundant, and reliable.” This isn’t climate change denial; it’s climate change indifference. We’re going to burn more coal and oil, much more, come what may.

Maybe it is time to throw in the towel.

Thanks for reading.

Shechtman and Pauling

I heard the news that Dan Shechtman had won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on the radio as I was driving to work. Amanda Yarnell’s e-mail was waiting for me when I got to the office just before 7 a.m. In it she provided a link to Mitch Jacoby’s 1999 story in C&EN on quasicrystals, which leads with Shechtman’s discovery: “In 1982, Dan Shechtman peered through the window at the viewing stage of an electron microscope and saw something that broke the rules of crystallography.”

Mitch’s story also had a sidebar that noted just how radical Shechtman’s claim of a quasicrystal with 10-fold rotational symmetry was. “Shechtman says some colleagues handed him textbooks and told him that if studied he’d realize his claims were impossible. Others, most notably two-time Nobel-prize winner Linus Pauling, denounced the quasicrystal concept in scientific forums.”

Reading that brought back a flash of memory. I’d heard Pauling deride the idea of quasicrystals, almost surely in a talk at Caltech. I didn’t have time just then to follow up on my memory, but later in the day, I searched the C&EN Archives for “Pauling at Caltech” and, sure enough, the first hit was to a story I had written that had appeared in the March 17, 1986, issue of C&EN, “Caltech Celebrates Pauling’s 85th Birthday.” (We’ll get a link to that story shortly.)

The main focus of my story was that Caltech chemistry professor Ahmed Zewail had used the occasion of Pauling’s 85th birthday to engineer a rapprochement between the institute and very likely its most distinguished alumnus and faculty member. Pauling’s antiwar and anti-nuclear weapons activities in the 1950s and 1960s had not set well with Caltech’s then very conservative board and leadership. “After Pauling received the 1963 Nobel Peace Prize,” I wrote, “Caltech’s president publicly questioned the value of the activities that led to the award. Pauling resigned from Caltech the same day.”

I remember almost nothing about the talk Pauling gave at the conclusion of the day-long symposium. I think it focused mostly on his work throughout his lifetime, which began, after all, with pioneering work in crystallography. However, I distinctly remember him going on a five- or 10-minute tangent to denounce in fairly harsh terms the entire concept of quasicrystals and the possibility of five-fold rotational symmetry. I believe he compared it to polywater.

Pauling was a genius and he was right about many chemical concepts. But he didn’t get the structure of DNA right, and he definitely missed the boat on Dan Shechtman’s remarkable insight.

Changing Pharmaceutical Paradigms

I recently had the pleasure of moderating a discussion of “New Business Paradigms for Pharmaceutical Companies” between John LaMattina and Ronald Breslow at a joint ACS/Société de Chimie Industrielle luncheon in Jersey City, N.J. LaMattina is the former president of Pfizer Global Research & Development and Breslow is a University Professor at Columbia University and a former president of ACS.

The announcement for the luncheon nicely summed up the situation we face: “Many observers believe the traditional pharmaceutical company model is broken. As patents expire, pharmaceutical companies are having an increasingly difficult time filling their product pipelines with new blockbuster drugs. Firms are responding by cutting back on the number of research programs they pursue and the number of researchers that pursue them. They are trying simpler internal structures and more complex external alliances. Results, however, are slow in coming.”

In my comments, I pointed to an unsolicited e-mail I had received the day before the luncheon from Thomson Reuters Pharma on their Pharma Matters Report. The introduction to the report states: “The ‘2011 Pharmaceutical R&D Factbook’ … paints a gloomy picture of the current health of the pharmaceutical industry: R&D expenditures fell in 2010 to a three-year low of $68 billion, while the number of drugs entering phase I, II, and III trials fell by 47, 53, and 55 percent respectively. In addition, only 21 new molecular entities reached the market in 2010, down from 26 in 2009.”

It also states: “This decline in R&D spend is coupled with an increasingly tough regulatory environment, making it more difficult for drugs to progress through pipelines: 55 drugs failed at the phase III stage during 2008-2010, more than double the number of failures during 2005-2007.”

LaMattina’s comments focused on the negative impact of mergers and acquisitions on pharmaceutical R&D (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nrd3514), calling them “a major factor in the decline in R&D productivity.” He pointed out that the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturing Association had 42 members in 1988, of which only 11 exist today as independent companies. While there are more than 11 current members of PhRMA, “the fact is that, due to industry consolidation as well as some companies dropping their pharmaceutical R&D, there is far less competition in this industry than there was a decade ago.”

Two effects of this trend, he said, are that “multiple entries in a compound class—for example, statins—will be less likely to occur” and “mergers result in the net effect of fewer researchers in big pharma R&D.” Multiple entries in a class are important, he said, because the first drug of a class that reaches the market is rarely the best drug. He also argued that multiple drugs in a class foster price competition. As to the second point—that fewer companies means fewer researchers—LaMattina used Pfizer as an example. In absorbing Warner-Lambert, Pharmacia, and Wyeth, he said, numerous research labs were closed and thousands of researchers let go.

Breslow said that the chemistry enterprise faces a “morale” problem. “We used to tell students that, if you take an advanced degree in chemistry, your career will be secure. That’s not true anymore.” Like LaMattina, Breslow took aim at the consolidation of the pharmaceutical industry. “Mergers may make great financial sense, but they are very destructive,” he said. “And not just to the pharmaceutical industry, but to the chemistry community in general because of the damage they do to morale.”

Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry aren’t going away, of course, and LaMattina observed that the biotech industry isn’t immune to the trend. Breslow insisted that the economic strength of the U.S. “is largely based on the strength of our science and technology. Government must continue to recognize that support for science is important.”

While the discussions and the question and answer follow-up were lively and informative, they did not offer much in the way of reassurance for U.S. chemists in the pharmaceutical industry who fear for their futures.

Thanks for reading.

A Realistic Look At Energy

It has been clear for decades that the U.S. desperately needs a national energy policy. As many commentators have pointed out, developing such a policy would have been a productive response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A national energy policy that included a tax on carbon, for example, would have reduced our unhealthy dependence on imported oil and spurred innovation on alternative fuels and more efficient machines and construction techniques.

A decade after those tragic events, very little has changed on the energy front. Developing a coherent energy policy, however, is dependent on a clear understanding of all of the dimensions of energy production and use; the economic, societal, and environmental consequences of energy consumption; and public perceptions of all aspects of the energy landscape. An informative monograph dealing with all of these subjects was brought to my attention earlier this summer by L. Louis Hegedus, a distinguished chemical engineer with more than 40 years of industrial experience who is now a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at RTI International. A number of years ago, Hegedus was a member of C&EN’s Advisory Board.

Hegedus and Dorota S. Temple, a senior fellow in electronics and energy technologies at RTI, are the editors of “Viewing America’s Energy Future in Three Dimensions.” As stated in the preface to the monograph, “The objective of this work was to help frame the ongoing discussion of America’s energy future in the context of all three dimensions—technology, economics, and social sciences—and to draw attention to research needs pertaining to the intersection of the societal factors domain with technology and economics.”

The premise of “Viewing America’s Energy Future in Three Dimensions” is that, “Energy technology and energy economics are necessary, although not sufficient conditions for solving the energy conundrum; the sufficient condition derives from the societal dimension.” Hegedus, Temple, and their coauthors do an excellent job of concisely laying out the fundamentals of energy technology and energy economics in the U.S. While climate change is a consideration in their analysis of the national energy challenge, it is by no means the sole, or even dominant, one. “Beyond producing CO2” they write, “using coal and imported oil is associated with additional important and urgent concerns” that “require timely action regardless of the time scale and outcomes of climate change considerations.”

People’s attitudes toward energy technologies and energy economics will have a significant impact on how the nation addresses its energy challenges, Hegedus and Temple argue, and more research is needed to understand what shapes those attitudes. In the final chapter of the monograph, they make a number of recommendations for further research in the societal dimension of energy policy. These recommendations can be fairly dry—“Determine the nature and magnitude of behavioral failures in private decision making that lead to deviations from cost-minimizing behavior”—for example, but it is precisely this kind of data that should shape public policy.

“Moving forward to meet the energy and environmental challenges outlined here will force choices on the American population,” they write. “As consumers, Americans will have to choose between pursuing energy conservation (consuming less) and investing in energy efficiency (consuming differently). How we choose to mix these two ways of confronting energy shortages will prove critical in shaping American society in the twenty-first century. As citizens, we will be asked to weigh the different values we place on the environment and the economy as well as on individual choice and societal constraint. We will also debate the role of government in effecting the energy infrastructure transformation. Understanding the ways that American society will approach these choices is critical to understanding America’s energy future.”

“Viewing America’s Energy Future in Three Dimensions” is a slim volume (114 pages) packed with useful information. It is also a level-headed analysis of the difficult choices Americans face in addressing our nation’s energy future.

Thanks for reading.

A Real Live “Ferric Wheel”

Last week over in the IYC2011 blog, Rachel Pepling announced the chemistry blog carnival, which asks readers to post on their favorite chemical reaction. Accompanying the post was a fanciful drawing of a “ferrous wheel.”

I was immediately reminded of a story I wrote a long time ago about work in Steve Lippard’s lab at MIT. He and his coworkers had synthesized a “ferric wheel.” I found the illustration in the C&EN Archives:

"Ferric wheel" molecule

The story, “Ferric Wheel Molecule Characterized At MIT,” appeared in the Dec. 24, 1990, issue of C&EN. That is a long time ago!

Two Harpswell alumni move on

During my trip to Cambodia in early September, my first stop was Siem Reap, the site of Cambodia’s world-famous ruins of Angkor, including Angkor Wat. For me, however, the main draw was two alumni of the Harpswell Foundation dormitories in Phnom Penh:  Suon Raksmey and So Dany. They completed their college degrees in 2010: Suon majored in biology at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and So completed a law degree at Royal University of Law & Economics, in Phnom Penh. (For a taste of life at the Harpswell dorms, go here; to meet some of the science majors at the Harpswell dorms, go here)

The two young women are now teachers at the Jay Pritzker Academy, located near Tachet village in Siem Reap. JPA is a pre-K-to-12, English-language college-preparatory school with a goal of enabling all its graduates to qualify for admission in U.S. universities. Students at JPA come from the surrounding poor communities. They receive free education, uniforms, books, materials, three meals a day, and even hygiene kits.

Suon and So have a special mission at JPA. They are helping the first batch of college-bound JPA students prepare for the Cambodian national college entrance exams. As JPA director and principal Hedi Belkaoui explained, even though the school’s goal is to prepare all students to be admissible to U.S. colleges and universities, JPA needs to prepare for the possibility that some students won’t make the cut. Students therefore need also to be admissible to Cambodian universities as a backup plan.

Instruction in JPA is in both English and Khmer. But the Cambodian national college entrance exam is only in Khmer. JPA therefore needs to ensure that students, especially those who would like to apply for admission to science degrees, have the same mastery of subjects in Khmer as they do in English. Suon and So are teaching chemistry, biology, math, and physics in Khmer to JPA’s eleventh-grade students.

Suon and So fulfill their roles at JPA with seriousness, confidence, and discipline, but also with joy in helping  Cambodian children from poor families take advantage of unique opportunities similar to what they themselves  enjoyed through the Harpswell Foundation. Already they are manifesting the leadership potential that got them admitted to the Harpswell dorms in the first place.

Young Cambodian women’s aspirations–in their own words

I was in Cambodia last week to visit the Harpswell Foundation Dormitory & Leadership Institute in Phnom Penh. I wanted to see what it was doing to achieve its mission of empowering a new generation of women leaders. Specifically, the foundation’s two dormitories enable young women with leadership potential to go to college in Cambodia’s capital, where the universities are located. In the dorms, the young women receive not only free accommodation but also free meals and training in leadership and the English language.

Many residents come from farming families in far-flung provinces, too poor to support a daughter’s education in the capital. All the young women have a palpable desire to master their chosen fields of study and learn about the world around them. All have confidence in their ability to help Cambodia rebuild after the devastation of the Pol Pot regime. All are driven to push their country forward in development. Through the gleam in their eyes, one can easily envision them leading government ministries and building businesses 10 or 15 years from now.

I spoke at length with some residents who are studying for science degrees about how they aim to help their country. The accompanying video clips are their responses to this question: How do you hope to help Cambodia advance?

CHORN SOKUNTHEARY is a fourth-year biology major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She is the oldest of four sisters. Cambodia has a lot of environmental problems, she says, including people just cutting forests to make way for farms. “We need to learn to protect nature to avoid disasters,” she says. “People living in rural areas depend on the forests and rivers. If the forests and rivers have problems, those people cannot make a living.”

Chorn wants to be a teacher or to work with environmental organizations. She has an internship with the nongovernmental organization Culture & Environment Preservation Association. She is working with ethnic groups living in the forests near the Mekong River who may be threatened by Laos’ plan to build a hydroelectric power plant on the river

BUT KANHA is a fourth-year chemistry major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She is the sixth child in a family of seven, the youngest among four sisters. All her older sisters are farmers. While in 10th grade, But’s interest in chemistry was sparked by a “nice and kind teacher” who inspired her to aspire to become her school’s top student in chemistry. “Everything around us is all chemistry,” But says.

Green chemistry fascinates But. She wants to learn ways to reduce chemical hazards in products, to recycle waste, and to protect the environment and natural resources. “People in Cambodia don’t like products made in Cambodia because the quality is not good,” she says. She hopes to help improve the quality of Cambodian products so that “people will want to use them and will not have to spend their money outside the country.”

KIM SOKNGIM is a fourth-year mathematics major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She is one of five children of rice-farming parents in Kandal Province. From June through August 2011, she participated in an intensive English program in Logan, Utah. After she completes her bachelors degree in math in 2012, she will apply for admission to a graduate engineering degree in the U.S.

Kim’s dream is to be a civil engineer, to help build Cambodia’s infrastructure. She laments the poor condition of roads, bridges, schools, and manufacturing facilities in her country. She also decries the destruction of forests in Cambodia and is concerned about the impact of climate change on farmers. She says Cambodian farmers are “feeling the temperature increase and need more water for their farms.”

PHAUK KIMSAL is a fourth-year chemistry major specializing in biochemistry. She attends the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She believes that Cambodia can develop through science, just as many developed countries have. She is the youngest of eight children of rice farmers in Kompong Thom Province and one of a few Harpswell residents with several family members who have higher education.

A brother-in-law who studied chemistry and now has a good job at the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia strongly influenced her decision to study chemistry. A brother is studying for a master’s degree in mathematics in Thailand. One sister also went to college and is now an English teacher.

Right now Phauk is an intern at a water supply facility, learning how to make water clean and running analyses for water quality.

HUN LINA is a fourth-year student at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, where she is studying chemical engineering and food technology. She comes from Oddor Meanchey Province, the oldest of six children. Her father is a nurse; her mother raises pigs and makes rice alcohol for a living.

Hun says her mother encouraged her to go to college. “I have nothing to give you so you have to study so that your future will be brighter. My life is difficult because I’m ignorant. If you don’t want to face problems [as I did], you have to study,” Hun recalls her mother’s advice.

Hun would like to find ways to preserve food so that the abundant produce from the provinces can be available all year round and farmers can earn more from their labors.

CHHON SOPHEA is a fourth-year biology student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She is concerned about loss of biodiversity caused by rapid destruction of forests to make way for farming. She hopes to be able to discover new species in Cambodian forests before they are forever lost. She sees herself working with conservation organizations in Cambodia.

TONG SOTHIDA is a fourth-year math major, another of the few Harpswell residents whose parents have had higher education. Her mother teaches physics and chemistry, and her father teaches history and geography. She says her parents want her to teach mathematics after she graduates from college, but she would like to continue her education in the U.S. or Singapore to pursue a master’s degree.

One unique aspect of the Harpswell dorm is community living, Tong says. Residents need to do housework in addition to mastering their majors, learning English, and discussing Cambodian current events. Furthermore, older residents assist the younger ones, especially in their major fields. For example, Tong teaches math in the dorm.

LOV KIMSRUNG is a fourth-year computer science major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She is the youngest of five children; her father sells construction materials and her mother owns a small business; neither of her parents have a college education.

Lov says her father strongly discouraged her from going to college. “Women should stay home and just take care of the family. College is a waste of time,” Lov recalls her father saying. But a cousin and two brothers supported her, Lov says, telling her parents that “she’s smart; why don’t you let her find her future?”

KHOEURN KIMLEANG just graduated from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and food technology. In November, she will begin her studies for a master’s degree in environmental engineering at the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

In the meantime, Khoeurn is working on a United Nations Industrial Development Organization project to promote clean and sustainable production practices in Cambodian industries. For example, she has helped Ly Ly Food Industries, a Cambodian manufacturer of snack foods, reduce the amount of waste in their production by modifying the shape of the mixing vessel. The change reduced the waste from 40-50 kilograms per day to only 10-15 kilograms per day, saving about $800 per day in cost of ingredients.

Dorm Life

Life in a Phnom Penh dormitory is unlike any dorm life I’ve seen before.
The young women at the Harpswell Foundation dormitory in Teuk Thla are all college students, sharing rooms and chores.

Chores? Yes, chores, as in cooking and cleaning.

Cooking is communal, with teams deciding the menu, purchasing ingredients, and preparing lunch and dinner three meals each day of the week. Everyone has cleaning assignments, ensuring that common areas are maintained and kept clean. Residents manually wash their own clothes. Tap water can stop running at any time; water for bathing is tepid at best. Residents must be inside the premises by 8 PM. Sounds like a place the average student in the developed world won’t go near. Yet the young women who live here consider themselves extremely lucky and privileged.

Dishwashing is one of many chores assigned to residents.

In this dorm, they take part in regularly held English classes, current events discussions based on news from the Cambodia Daily, and leadership training right where they live, for free. They have access to a library, to the Internet, and to resident teachers. It’s a dream place for anyone with high aspirations but whose college education was never a certainty in the first place for financial reasons.

Classes for the 2011-2012 school year have not yet begun, yet the dorm is bustling. Many residents are here, using vacation time to continue studying English or take part in internships. And residents call each other sister and treat each other as sisters in the best sense of the word.

The dorm transforms its residents, many of whom come from farm families in far-flung provinces of Cambodia. As Rous Sreypov tells me, “I have changed a lot since I lived in Harpswell. I have confidence, I can say what I think.” Rous’ parents, who are farmers, studied only until seventh grade. She is about to begin her second year studying economic development.

Like many of the residents I spoke to, Rous sees herself as a potential leader in Cambodia’s development. The vision imposes responsibilities that may seem enormous but all residents embrace, such as older residents sharing time and knowledge to help younger residents, especially those studying in their same field. “Harpswell does not require us to do this,” says Chhon Sophea, a biochemistry major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. “We’re sharing out of love; we are doing this by ourselves.”

Resident studying at the facility's computer room.

Residents discuss news from the Cambodia Daily on the patio of the Teuk Thla facility.

Climate Change Schizophrenia

That the discussion of global climate change, even among professional scientists, has become utterly schizophrenic was dramatically demonstrated by a symposium—or was it symposia?—at the Denver meeting sponsored by the Division of Small Chemical Business.

The Sunday morning session, entitled “Global Climate Change: What Citizens of the World Need to Know,” featured five prominent climate scientists talking about measurements of how the Earth’s climate is changing and how emissions of greenhouse gases is forcing that change. The afternoon session, entitled “A Critical Look at Global Warming Data: An Examination of Driving Factors in the Wickedly Complex System Called Climate,” featured six speakers whose focus is undermining the data and analyses of scientists like the ones who spoke during the morning session. There was almost no overlap in the audiences.

Because of a prior commitment, I was able to attend only the first four of the morning session talks. That was unfortunate because I am very interested in ocean acidification resulting from increased atmospheric CO2, the topic of the fifth talk. Nevertheless, the first four talks built solidly on each other to make the case that humans are dramatically disrupting Earth’s climate.

Stanley Manahan, an emeritus chemistry professor at the University of Missouri, published the first edition of the textbook “Environmental Chemistry” in 1972; the ninth edition is now out and Manahan is working on the 10th edition. In his talk, Manahan compared the current debate over climate change to the debate over chlorofluorocarbons and Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer 30 years ago. “Rowland and Molina’s findings on CFCs were ridiculed by some,” Manahan said, but the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the early 1980s vindicated their ideas and resulted in regulations that eventually banned CFC production and use.

Continue reading →

Travels With Beaker

Quite a few years ago, I don’t really know how, the Muppets character Beaker became C&EN’s unofficial mascot. If you are not familiar with the Muppets (what planet have you been living on?), Beaker is the shy lab assistant of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. He’s got a shock of red hair, typical Muppet protruding eyes, a big orange nose, a pale green lab coat, and a tie. He’s also accident-prone.

C&EN Managing Editor Robin Giroux has custody of two small Beaker plush dolls, which often tag along on trips taken by C&EN editors, both on business and vacation trips. Since I have a new iPhone 4 and I am determined to learn how to use its multiple functionalities (I never learned how to take a photograph and e-mail it from my BlackBerry), I decided to take Beaker along on a recent vacation with my wife, Jan, to Montana to visit our son, Rudy Jr., and hike in Glacier National Park.

Nope, this Editor’s Page is not about climate change or the disappearing glaciers in Glacier National Park (they’re projected to be gone by 2030). It’s just about traveling with Beaker and sharing a few of the photographs I took.

Rudy & Beaker in Montana

Rudy Baum and Beaker on a bridge over Blodgett Creek in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. Horsehead Arch is in the background. Credit: Jan Baum

Rudy Jr. took Jan and me on two hikes in the Bitterroot Mountains south of Missoula, where he is a student at the University of Montana. He finds my newfound enthusiasm for my smartphone amusing. One hike was up the stunning Blodgett Canyon to a bridge over Blodgett Creek and a view of Horsehead Arch. Jan took the photo of Beaker and me.

Several days later, we stopped at the entrance to Glacier to take an obligatory picture of Beaker and the entrance sign (you can see that picture at C&EN Online). A car pulled up behind us, and two young women got out to ask us to take a picture of them at the sign. They saw Beaker and one woman said, “Beaker!” and the other said, “Meep, meep, meep, meep.”

The other two pictures are of Beaker on a hike up Swiftcurrent Pass Trail out of Many Glacier on the east side of the park. The wildflowers and scenery were spectacular.

Beaker has had many adventures with C&EN staff members. He’s been in Tiananmen Square, at a World Cup football match in Germany, chewed on by Godzilla in Tokyo, hung out with sled dogs in Alaska, gone whale watching off the coast of Massachusetts, and many more. Catch some of the other pics of Beaker on C&EN Online.

Thanks for reading.

From The CENtral Science Blogs