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Once in a while (just for yuks) I'll write about some of the hideous chemicals that we chemists have to use now and then despite the fact that they are not only a pain in the a##, but also mighty dangerous.

For example, as a new grad student, I needed to use a horror show called t-butyllithium, an organometallic (1,2) chemical reagent that is so violently unstable that it comes in a hexane solution in a sealed, airtight bottle with a rubber serum cap. Any air that might remain in the bottle is flushed out with nitrogen or argon (3). When you need to use this bad boy you don't just unscrew the cap and pour it out (4); it is withdrawn by syringe in a setup shown in Figure 1. Even using all these precautions, whenever the syringe...

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 3.40.10 PMU.S. Marshals, acting on a request from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seized yet another ridiculous "dietary supplement," and this one's a doozy. About 90,000 bottles of a bunch of garbage with the brand name RelaKzpro, which is sold by Dordoniz Natural Products of South Beloit, Illinois,...

Glyphosate, a component of the popular herbicide commonly known as Roundup in the United States, has been placed on California's Proposition 65 list, which requires a cancer warning label on it. It now joins products like coffee, where a Prop 65 warning label is ubiquitous in every Starbucks, in baffling tourists with how silly our labels are.

After all, if it causes cancer, just ban it. Right?

That's the problem. No regulatory body can find evidence it harms anyone or anything other than what it is supposed to harm, much less that it causes any cancer in people.

How is a system designed to protect California citizens...

Barbara Demeneix, a team leader at The Paris Natural History Museum, certainly has credentials. She earned a Ph.D. in endocrinology and physiology from the University of Calgary, published two books, more than 170 papers, and received a number of awards for her work primarily focused on thyroid function.

That's why it's hard to understand, with such training and experience, how Demeneix became one of the head counselors in the "Endocrine Disruptor Camp," which all but guarantees a certain amount of nuttiness.  Once again that camp does not disappoint chemophobes and homeopaths who think any trace of any chemical does something important. This time she claims we should stop using...

“If it smells bad, it’s bad; if it smells good, it’s bad,” says Aileen Gagney, asthma and environmental health manager with the American Lung Association in Seattle. (1) Obviously then, the key to a healthy life is to have no smells around you. How unfortunate, since we are excellent smellers!

The tongue can detect sweetness at a dilution of one part in 200, saltiness at one in 400, sourness at one in 130,000, and bitterness at one in 2 million. (2) All of this pales when compared with our ability to detect extremely low levels of smells (i.e., in the range of 50 parts per trillion to 800 parts per billion. (3)

If you are inclined to agree with Ms. Gagney, perhaps you have nosophobia, the irrational fear of contracting a disease -- or perhaps I should say nose-ophobia,...

DISPATCH: Environmentalists, Budget-Planners, and Candidates

Quote of the day:

Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, said, "But I later learned that the environmental movement is not always guided by science. As we celebrate Earth Day, this is a good lesson to keep in mind." --the _Wall Street Journal_, April 22, 2008.

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! There are many stories in the news about the environment and what impact we have on it and vice versa.

An opinion piece( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120882720657033391.html?mod=opinion_main... ) in today's WSJ by Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, tells why he left the organization after...

Let's take a poll: Are pesticides used in organic farming?

I mean, how could they possibly be? Isn't that the point of paying a whole lot of money for organic produce so Whole Foods dilettantes can safely enjoy their kale without all those yucky chemicals on it? (1)

This question provides a splendid opportunity to start the week with some...

Monday Myths! (2)

Where to start? There are SO many out there. Here are three...

  1. Gwyneth Paltrow was spotted at the Harvard Club
  2. The Knicks will make the playoffs in our lifetime...

A few times per year we have a meeting of the Trustees of the American Council on Science and Health, to discuss issues like finances (1), to discuss nominees for our Board of Scientific Advisors, and our general direction.

Among our Trustees is Fred Smith, the founder of Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which promotes the benefits of free markets. I certainly agree with them on that (2). At our November meeting Fred asked for a spot on the agenda to talk about how we can better talk about science policy without getting into politics.

That is obviously tricky. Science is both corporate and political, when it comes to basic research the private sector and government fund about half each, so if you defend science you are implicitly defending corporations and engaging...

Junk science is everywhere. Just today, it was reported that President-Elect Donald Trump had a meeting with the anti-vaccine fraud Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that Mr Trump is "open-minded" about the issue. 

This is why our mission is so important. People in power often have a poor grasp of science. If journalists and advocates don't speak up for good science, cranks and quacks will take over. 

As part of our ongoing effort to eradicate pseudoscience, here is a list of the top 16 junk science stories we debunked in 2016.

#16. Olympic athletes should not be cupping. Remember seeing those...

Michael Pollan, food activist and journalist, is the proverbial man trapped in the past in his latest piece for the New York Times, criticizing the Obama administration for not catering to his bizarre beliefs about how food production actually works, and along the way taking the opportunity to smear...me.

And you. And about 300 scientists and doctors who help us at the American Council on Science and Health for no other reason than that they care about educating the public. To accomplish that, they don't cave into the shrill beliefs of people who self-identify with Pollan's Idyllic notions about feeding the world.

Pollan's...