July 10, 2014

4:36 PM | Paintball reveals the ugly side of everyone
A hilarious anecdote from NPR's post on team-building exercises gone wrong: Several years ago, things didn't go well for Peter Brooks when his former employer bused his division to a suburban Washington, D.C., field. They were divided into teams for a round of paintball. "We were issued safety goggles and paintball guns, one of which immediately misfired. It hit a district manager in the crotch," Brooks says. He remembers that the game quickly devolved into screaming, pleading […]
2:58 PM | Daily Pump Trap: 7/10/14 edition
Some of the recent job postings at C&EN Jobs: Hmmmm: I think we're in the summer doldrums, though I can't be sure. Not too many positions over the past week or so.Knoxville, TN: An ad from Nature's Gifts International to work for, well, check it out:Lead ground-breaking research on products that benefit both People and the Environment, while working beside the creator of the most advanced vegetable waxes in the world! We’re looking for a Products Chemist to conduct catalytic […]

July 09, 2014

3:21 PM | Are non-compete agreements becoming more common?
Via WBUR in Boston, a couple of good stories about non-compete agreements (emphasis mine): BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a ban on noncompete agreements. Those are the clauses in employment contracts that bar an employee from working for a competitor, sometimes for several years... ...Last month, James Mitchell gave his two weeks notice. The 32-year-old told the Boston Web marketing company he worked for he was leaving to join a startup. And he was sure that he […]
3:21 PM | Process Wednesday: Hydrolyzing on a boat
I've been following the story of the MV Cape Ray and its Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. Above, a video of one of the operators explaining the FDHS in detail. It makes me cringe a little bit to hear him refer to the reactor as a "titanium mixer", but he's on the ship, not me. Pretty cool.Also, here's Brandon Bruey, a B.S. chemist on the Cape Ray talking about the laboratory they've set up, fume hood and all.**Interesting to note that one of the pieces of equipment in that lab […]
10:51 AM | Great news: for-profit college Corinthian to close
I’ve talked before about the industry of for-profit colleges which exists largely to game the federal student loan program. They survive almost entirely on federal student loans of their students, while delivering terrible services and worthless credentials. Well, good news: one of the worst of the bunch is closing its doors. Corinthian College, Inc (CCI) got caught lying […]

July 08, 2014

4:50 PM | Like music to my ears: Vox on STEM
From the comments and also via Twitter, Vox's Danielle Kurtzleben looks at the STEM shortage debate and comes away with a couple of great quotes. From STEM shortage skeptic Hal Salzman:..."STEM makes no sense as a category. What you have is science and engineering, and then you have this IT labor force," says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University. "It's a non-differentiated category that makes no analytic sense." [snip]  "Frankly, if you're […]
11:25 AM | Zephyr Teachout to visit Alt Banking this Sunday
I’m excited to announce that Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor who is running against Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York, will be coming to speak to the Alternative Banking group next Sunday, July 13th, from 3pm-5pm in the usual place, Room 409 of the International Affairs Building at 118th and Amsterdam. More about […]

July 07, 2014

7:48 PM | I have a hard time believing Burning Glass' numbers on STEM jobs
Jonathan Rothwell at Brookings has a new report out using Burning Glass Technologies' numbers to argue that STEM job vacancies sit longer on company websites than other types of positions, thus suggesting that this is evidence that there's a shortage of STEM workers.*Naturally, I'm very skeptical. But I want to point out a figure from the report on the left -- this suggests that it takes 40+ days to find an acceptable analytical chemist for the companies that Burning Glass' web spiders were […]
5:20 PM | The story of Percy Julian, told by Drunk History
Thanks to an astute reader, a not-quite-accurate presentation of the Percy Julian story by Drunk History. I thought it was pretty funny. (NSFW language, naturally.) 
4:41 PM | Do industrial chemical reactions languish in obscurity?
From this week's C&EN, an interesting letter by a certain proline chemist:With reference to the mention of my original work on proline catalysis in the ACS national award vignette for Benjamin List, it is stated that “the reactions’ mechanics were ill defined, and they therefore had been widely viewed as exotic exceptions to the prevailing dogma that only enzymes and metal complexes can act as highly enantioselective, synthetically useful catalysts” (C&EN, March 17, […]
3:24 PM | Fun conversation with @compoundchem
Andy Brunning writes the very fun "Compound Interest" infographics blog. He talks with Lauren Wolf in this week's C&EN. Good stuff! 
1:24 PM | What constitutes evidence?
My most recent Slate Money podcast with Felix Salmon and Jordan Weissmann was more than usually combative. I mean, we pretty much always have disagreements, but Friday it went beyond the usual political angles. Specifically, Felix thought I was jumping too quickly towards a dystopian future with regards to medical data. My claim was that, […]
1:21 PM | A week of links
Links this week (or closer to a month): It’s reigning men. How our convict past explains our glass ceiling. Rory Sutherland on measurebation. The genetics of investment biases (ungated version). HT: Tyler Cowen.  Basically another confirmation of the three laws of behaviour genetics. Rats regret bad decisions. Matt Ridley on fat. Pulling apart the research on the destructiveness […]

July 06, 2014

3:06 PM | Freedom in a full world
The Independence Day holiday in the United States has people here thinking about fireworks, parades and eating lots of barbequed meat. There will be many speeches on the gift of freedom which America helped to spread across the world. But there will be almost no introspection about what that word means.Freedom is one of those abstract words that politicians love to use in speeches because doing so allows everyone listening to project their own meaning onto the word (and to identify the […]

July 04, 2014

4:34 PM | Happy Independence Day!
More blogging later this weekend, but for now, my favorite John Adams quote:I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. Sounds good […]
11:44 AM | A new climate for farming
In a new web special A New Climate For Farming Nature Climate Change presents a collection of articles and opinion pieces that deal with the various aspects of agriculture and climate change: Climate change fundamentally alters the way that farmers need to plan and manage their operations. This is necessary to avoid the worst impacts […]

July 03, 2014

3:18 PM | The official ACS policy on element mugs
Thanks to a discussion on Twitter on the ACS's super-fun element mugs (and how I've never received one, among other things), I received a helpful e-mail from ACS's Chris McCarthy, who contacted their membership marketing team:ACS currently provides members with element anniversary mugs for years 1 to 6.  Any member who is current on dues is eligible to receive one for their appropriate years of membership approximately four months prior to their annual anniversary date of joining ACS. ACS […]

July 02, 2014

3:15 PM | Process Wednesday: This stinks! (until it doesn't)
A new Organic Process Research and Development paper by Reeves et al. [1] talks about a route to a sulfone... and then another route to the sulfone for a very interesting reason: While this route effectively provided initial quantities of 3, the use of NaSMe, even as the more convenient aqueous solution, was not desirable due to its potent stench, which proved difficult to eliminate even with the most rigorous containment procedures.  A “stench-free” protocol was […]

July 01, 2014

3:26 PM | "Sears sucks, Crash."
To C&EN Jobs' credit, it doesn't appear on the main list, so looks like someone may have removed it unless you have the link or go searching for it. 
3:26 PM | How are other institutions reacting to the Harran settlement agreement?
From Janet Stemwedel, a sense of how her institution is reacting to the #SheriSangji case: As you might expect, the official statement from UCLA plays up the improvements in lab safety put into place in the wake of the accident and points to the creation of the UC Center for Laboratory Safety, which has been holding workshops and surveying lab workers on safety practices and attitudes. I’m afraid, however, judging from the immediate reaction I’ve seen at my own […]
10:42 AM | Critical Questions for Big Data by danah boyd & Kate Crawford
I’m teaching a class this summer in the Lede Program, starting in mid-July, which is called The Platform. Here’s the course description: This course begins with the idea that computing tools are the products of human ingenuity and effort. They are never neutral and carry with them the biases of their designers and their design […]
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