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Vignettes on being right with science February 15, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

Two happenings this week were of opposite poles, both were about being correct in the way my grasp of science is.

In the first, I am working on one project that requires a huge report on a broad set of topics. To indicate its hugeness, it now sits as an almost finished second-draft of 36 single-spaced pages.

In one section about a certain aspect, there are two main contentions, the accepted one and one based on my own experience on the chemistry. My view is quite different. I outlined a couple of specific analytical approaches using techniques that are very high-tech and expensive. I thought neither had been done, but described what the results would look like for each possible theory.

Then I found a paper in French done a dozen years ago on one of the techniques. The results match my prediction for my premise exactly and refute the other. Time to gloat.

The other occurence was more mundane. I was sitting in my barber’s shop waiting to get a haircut. An older man, probably in his late 70s or early 80s, was talking about environmental contamination, claiming his neighbors impregnated posted used for a retaining wall were causing his health problems. His understanding of dissolving of hydrophobic chemicals – the creosote in the wood, hydrogeology, the health effects of creosote due to the hydrocarbons (obviously PAHs were what he talked of) were all weak and quite off. The barber and some of the others waiting expected me to lay into the guy as he preached to me and the others about the science as he saw it.

But I was mum, letting him vent, even if he was dead wrong. Sometimes you have to avoid using the 20-inch battleship guns just to hit a pissant.



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