Thursday, March 01, 2007

pop quiz

If someone came into your house and offered you a cocktail of butanol, iso amyl alcohol, hexanol, phenyl ethanol, tannin, benzyl alcohol, caffeine, geraniol, quercetin, 3-galloyl epicatechin, 3-galloyl epigallocatchin and inorganic salts, would you take it?

This is the question posed by an independent charitable trust in Britain called Sense about Science. Their site seeks to inform and balance awareness of scientific facts, and their little pop quiz is intended to highlight
six common misconceptions about chemicals:

  • You can lead a chemical-free life
  • Man-made chemicals are inherently dangerous
  • Synthetic chemicals are causing many cancers and other diseases
  • Our exposure to a cocktail of chemicals is a ticking time-bomb
  • It is beneficial to avoid man-made chemicals
  • We are subjects in an unregulated, uncontrolled experiment

In other words, Rachel Carson was wrong. I am constantly surprised by how influential Silent Spring is still perceived to be: but then most of my students who refer to it do so without ever having actually read for themselves.

My rule of thumb? If a book is going to be your mantra, you better own your own copy, it should be dog-eared and highlighted, with post-it notes and text annotations: in short, yours and a source of functional knowledge that you implement in your actions on a daily basis.