Posts

November 25, 2014

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4:06 PM | An interesting development: Novartis fires employee for academic dishonesty
I'm sure folks saw this Retraction Watch posting: A former Vanderbilt University biomedical engineer committed fraud on a massive scale, according to a new Office of Research Integrity (ORI) report. Igor Dzhura is banned from receiving federal funding for three years, and is retracting six papers, which have been cited more than 500 times. Since leaving Vanderbilt, he has worked at SUNY Upstate Medical University, and now works at Novartis.But this little tidbit is definitely […]
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3:54 PM | First status check for Prof. Patrick Harran was last Thursday
Via Michael Torrice of C&EN, the first status check of Prof. Harran's deferred prosecution agreement in the case of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji was last Thursday: Judge George G. Lomeli said in court that he had reviewed reports submitted by the DA’s office and determined that Harran is complying with all terms of the agreement. Lomeli set the next status check for May 21, 2015. In the June deal, Harran agreed to complete community service and pay a $10,000 fine. After […]
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3:37 PM | Daily Pump Trap: 11/25/14 edition
Good morning! A few of the positions posted on C&EN Jobs:Ridgefield, CT: Boehringer Ingelheim has multiple B.S. chemist openings; looks to be HTS work.Union, NJ: BASF is looking for a B.S. analytical chemist to perform precious metal assays; I didn't know that BASF had "precious metal trading, refining and catalyst manufacture businesses," but I suppose that I should not be surprised. Sounds interesting; bet you'd have some good stories for cocktail parties.Rahway, NJ: Merck looking for […]
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2:51 PM | Ivory Filter Flask: 11/25/14 edition
A few of the recent academically-related positions posted on C&EN Jobs:Florence, SC: Francis Marion University is looking for a tenure-track assistant professor of chemistry; no subfield designated.Burton, OH: Kent State University at Geauga desires an assistant professor of chemistry; no subfield designated.Rockford, IL: Rockford University wishes to hire an assistant professor of organic chemistry.Tempe, AZ: Arizona State is hiring for a M.S./Ph.D. general chemistry lecturer.Tuscon, AZ: […]
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1:44 PM | Is tourism in Haiti inherently exploitative?
I recently returned from Haiti, where I was a tourist traveling around the country for 6 days with my friends Jamie and Becky. As I spent time there, I felt increasingly aware of the difficult if not miserable spot that the country as a whole finds itself in, even though there are of course wonderful […]
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8:40 AM | Four perspectives on human decision making
I have been rereading Gerd Gigerenzer’s collection of essays Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty. It covers most of Gigerenzer’s typical turf – ecological rationality, heuristics that make us smart, understanding risk and so on. In the first essay, Gigerenzer provides four categories of approaches to analysing decision making – unbounded rationality, optimisation under constraints, […]

November 24, 2014

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4:51 PM | Does anyone know what Cambrian Genomics' Austen Heinz is talking about?
I've covered Cambrian Genomics before. This is the Bay Area startup that claims to be "laser printing DNA." (Long story short: it's not actually "printing." Cambrian appears to be using lasers to sort DNA on microbeads.)Cambrian's CEO, Austen Heinz, seems to have gotten himself in a little bit of trouble last week by claiming that his company's technology would enable (through making synthetic biology cheaper) sensitive body parts* to smell better. (Mr. Heinz has apparently dramatically […]
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3:43 PM | This week's C&EN
A short week, still lots of interesting chemistry-related tidbits:I thought this Andrea Widener article about the difficulties that NIH and NSF are having with more grant proposals (and the logistics of sorting through them) was really interesting. Also by Andrea Widener, C&EN's writeup of the DuPont methanethiol accident.Thanks to Carmen Drahl's article, I understand that Google X has hired a variety of chemists to work on nanoparticles towards better medical diagnostics. Pretty […]
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12:18 PM | P-values and power in statistical tests
Today I’m going to do my best to explain Andrew Gelman’s recent intriguing post on his blog for the sake of non-statisticians including myself (hat tip Catalina Bertani). If you are a statistician, and especially if you are Andrew Gelman, please do correct me if I get anything wrong. Here’s his post, which more or […]
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6:35 AM | Nuclear war: A forgotten threat to human sustainability
The possibility of a new Cold War between Russia and the United States and its NATO allies brings with it the spectre of nuclear war, an all-but-forgotten threat since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.Even as the number of nuclear weapons has declined through mutually agreed reductions from a worldwide total of 68,000 in 1985 to an estimated 16,400 today, the destructive force of such weapons is so great that if the remaining ones were used, they might well spell the end of human […]

November 22, 2014

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2:48 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice
Greetings, friends! I’ve missed you all! Since returning from her travels, Aunt Pythia has been continuously marveling in the wonders of flannel and wool, and has decided to knit up something along these Celtic lines: Here’s the thing, though: the pattern comes from the excellent book Celtic Charted Designs that Aunt Pythia is absolutely sure she has […]
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8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Big ideas are destroying international development. Dream smaller. Appealing to my biases – the skeptics guide to institutions Part 1 and Part 2. Most published results in finance are false. Be mean, look smarter. Constructing illusions. Predicting complex genotypes from genomic data – for those who confuse these two statements: “The brain is complex and […]

November 21, 2014

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3:42 PM | Daily Pump Trap: 11/20/14 edition
A few of the jobs posted on C&EN Jobs in the last week:Princeton, NJ: This "senior research scientist" position at BMS is interesting, in that it seems aimed at a B.S./M.S. chemist that's spent 10-15 years at the bench. Anyone know what it is about?Shanghai, China: This position with the USP is pretty interesting:The person in this role will be responsible for the management, leadership and execution of the strategy for USP's operations in China including all laboratory activities […]
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12:20 PM | Guest Post: What does it mean to “create jobs”?
This is a guest post by FogOfWar. The phrase is used constantly by politicians and economists, but what does it actually mean to “create jobs”? Here’s an example: I open a coffee shop and hire two people. So I’ve created three jobs (counting myself), right? Really? Let’s assume for the moment that I’m no more […]

November 20, 2014

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6:42 PM | Can't leave on a depressing note quite yet
The author who got a paper accepted in a spam journal titled "Get me off your [expletive deleted] mailing list" should be given an award of some kind. 
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6:38 PM | Busy day, but more coming
In the meantime, I thought I should mention this long essay by William MacPherson, a former Washington Post reporter who finds himself nearing retirement age and being a lot poorer than he was planning: ...Against the advice of people who thought they knew better, I bought shares in AOL before it really took off and in Apple when it was near its bottom. I figured Apple’s real estate must be worth more than the value the market gave the company. I was right. Shares in both companies […]
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2:02 PM | How do you solve a problem like obesity?
Making headlines this morning (Thursday 20th November) has been the report by McKinsey Global Institute, an offshoot of the management consultancy McKinsey, on the global economic impact of obesity. This report estimates that $2.0 trillion is spent annually worldwide as a result of obesity, which it compares to the global burden of smoking and armed conflict; […]
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12:01 PM | I am old in Haiti
I am old in Haiti. This fact dawns on me slowly over the six days I am there, because there is so much to take in. Mostly I figure it out because I am constantly amazed by how beautiful and healthy everyone looks. But then again, I keep finding myself thinking, people who are 24 […]

November 19, 2014

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6:00 PM | Starting chemist salary at gold refiners' in Jackson, Ohio? $25,000
Via the Wall Street Journal*, more anecdata about how we do not have a shortage of chemists in this country (emphasis mine): JACKSON, Ohio—Building contractor Alan Stockmeister is known around town for his stewardship of local businesses: radio stations, a movie theater and a bank, for example. But nothing has been quite like his refinery just off Main Street, which has become an outpost in the multibillion-dollar global gold trade. Ohio Precious Metals LLC owns one of five […]
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5:48 PM | Process Wednesday: the most horrifying plant story you will hear today
Thanks to a Derek Lowe post, longtime chemblogosphere commenter Thomas McEntee tells a story of his past: Complacency...can be a killer. In December 1974, I was called by the plant supervisor to come out to where the day shift was running another 2000-gal oxidation of tetrachlorocatechol using a process I'd developed for the production of high-purity o-chloranil. We had run this 15 or 20 times before without problems. The process involved use of considerably less than a stoichiometric […]
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11:30 AM | What the fucking shit, Barbie?
I’m back from Haiti! It was amazing and awesome, and please stand by for more about that, with cultural observations and possibly a slide show if you’re all well behaved. Today, thanks to my math camp buddy Lenore Cowen, I am going to share with you an amazing blog post by Pamela Ribon. Her post is […]
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9:01 AM | Is there any use in publishing surgeons’ death rates?
Today sees the publication of surgeons’ death rates on the MyNHS website (see Guardian and BBC stories). The website presents full lists of surgeons by specialty alongside either blue circles with a large ‘OK’ inside, grey circles with question marks, or green circles with ticks, to reflect, respectively, whether the surgeons’ risk adjusted mortality (or other […]
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8:00 AM | Genetics and education policy
Philip Ball has an article in the December issue of Prospect (ungated on his blog) arguing that consideration of the genetic basis to social problems is a distraction from socioeconomic causes. The strawman punchline for the Prospect article is “It’s delusional to believe that everything can be explained by genetics”. The article has drawn a […]
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2:06 AM | Wanted: Dead or Alive
I came across an interesting poster that’s been put up on a few lampposts on my street.  It rather pathetically offers a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of George Welch for operating a bucket shop in New York. This got me thinking about the notion of vigilante justice and the failure of […]

November 18, 2014

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4:28 PM | Anyone give the Rheo Thing some help?
He's looking for a new position. Go over there, see if you can help him out. 
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4:25 PM | Daily Pump Trap: 11/18/14 edition
Good morning! A few of the positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website:Wever, IA: I always highlight bench chemistry positions in rather obscure places because it's a fun story. I feel like I should give it a tagline or something. Today's entry is the Iowa Fertilizer Company, who is looking for a lab chemist for its new fertilizer plant:Iowa Fertilizer Company seeks those who are looking for a challenging career with a new company at a large, new facility which is poised to change the face of […]
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4:04 PM | Ivory Filter Flask: 11/18/14 edition
A few of the academically-related positions on the C&EN Jobs website:Terre Haute, IN: Indiana State University is seeking an assistant professor of organic chemistry. Deadline is January 5, 2015.Charlotte, NC: UNC - Charlotte desires an assistant professor of nanoscale chemistry, which is a new, interesting title.Bay City, MI: Delta College seeks a M.S. chemist for a position as a chemistry instructor; starts at 48k -- not bad.Conway, SC: Coastal Carolina University is looking for an […]
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8:05 AM | The beauty of self interest
In my review of E.O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth, I quoted this passage which captures Wilson’s conception of the origin of cooperation in humans. Selection at the individual level tends to create competitiveness and selfish behaviour among group members – in status, mating, and the securing of resources. In opposition, selection between groups tends […]

November 17, 2014

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10:19 PM | What Happens as a Bubble Deflates?
Having written a couple of guest posts about bubbles possibly inflating (college tuition, high end Manhattan condos), I thought it might be interesting to consider what a deflating bubble looks like. A number of observers point to the oil markets, where the price of crude has fallen by about 30% since June of this year, […]
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