MIT’s Dan Nocera (soon to be Harvard’s) gave a seminar in our department about a year and a half ago, and I heard him speak again in ACS President Bassam Shakhashiri’s ”Presidential Symposium on Catalysis” at the Spring national meeting in San Diego. The chemistry he described is a beautiful example of how fundamental research can potentially impact the lives of billions of people. Dan and his research group have discovered what appears to be an inexpensive, self-healing, air-tolerant catalytic system to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. We have seen before grand announcements about photocatalytic water-splitting systems, but this one appears not to suffer the fatal flaws of the others – requirement of pure water, expensive ingredients, and short duty cycles.
Suppose that the earth’s atmosphere continues to warm, beyond the levels that we know are already inevitable. Suppose that the arctic permafrost melts, releasing millions of tons of methane, which is about thirty times more effective at warming than is carbon dioxide, as well as much CO2 as is already in the atmosphere. Within a few years, the mean temperature rises by five degrees Celsius or more, sea levels rise, crops fail and millions starve.
All academics are encouraged to become reviewers to keep abreast of new developments in their field, to help shape the direction of their discipline, and as their scholarly responsibility. The article has many more details and is worth a quick look.
What is this? Art? Humor? Sports? Math? – or all of the above? With baseball season starting, I found it irresistible to recommend “Flip Flop Fly Ball”, which reminds me in some ways of the beautiful series of graphical exemplar books by Edward Tufte, and in others of Michael Lewis’ MoneyBall (the book, more than the movie, although the movie was ok).
Imagine yourself to be an undergraduate science major, with some interest in the possibility of a career in chemistry. Wouldn't it be interesting to have lunch with more than a dozen (actually seventeen) accomplished academic researchers, who could tell you about some of the cool things that their work has discovered, and what they are currently excited about.
Paul Hewitt may be the best-known physics teacher in the US. Not only has he written outstanding books for the teaching of physics and physical science, he is also the author of the very popular monthly "Figuring Physics" column of The Physics Teacher.
Computer security became a personal issue for Atlantic Monthly national correspondent James Fallows when his wife Deb's g-mail account was hacked. Bogus e-mails appealing for emergency money were sent to everyone on her contacts list, six years of mail, photographs, and records were deleted, and Mrs. Fallows was locked out of her own account.
One would expect a long-time educator like me to know more about the largest university in the United States (enrollment of 530,000) and I have wondered what the University of Phoenix is really like. I see their large office buildings with prominent signs everywhere but, since they do not offer programs in science, their activities are essentially orthogonal to what I do.
Owen Gingerich is the author of one of my favorite books, "The Book Nobody Read", which was my Pick for October 2004 (could it have been that long ago?), which combines astronomy, history research, and bibliophilia.