Deep Thoughts

Last week’s post was from the global kickoff of the International Year of Chemistry in Paris. This week marks the U.S. launch, a collaboration of the American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Chemistry Council, National Academy of Sciences, and CHF. 

Just getting all these busy folks together for planning meetings was a real testament to their dedication to the cause.

One highlight of the activities was a panel discussion called Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions (notice the subtle pun). If you weren't able to be there in person or via the live webcast, you can check out the archived proceedings.

The assembled cast of six brought a huge array of talent and creativity. Rather than a lengthy summary, I offer only one stimulating bit of original thinking from each of the panelists:

Daniel Nocera, MIT professor: To meet the predicted energy needs of the foreseeable future, we can build a new nuclear power plant every 1.5 days for the next 40 years. A better solution would be to take advantage of the fact that one swimming pool full of water can deliver even more energy than the nuclear solution if we can figure how to extract the hydrogen cheaply and efficiently.

Andrew Liveris, Dow CEO: Even with all our challenges, the future offers “unbelievable opportunity” because chemistry solves problems that political systems do not.

Ellen Kullman, DuPont CEO: One billion people go hungry in the world every day and this number will rise, not diminish. Creative chemistry—intertwined with biology, engineering, etc.—is our one best hope to feed the increasing peoples of the planet.

Rita Colwell, professor at Maryland and former NSF director: Satellite imagery can be used to correlate disease and environmental conditions, and in turn used to predict where interventions—for example in water borne cholera outbreaks—could be beneficial.

Joshua Boger, Vertex founder and former CEO: He reminded the audience that the public funds research not principally for knowledge for its own sake, but to be useful. This will require reorganization of how science is done in government, academe, and industry.

Janet Hering: director, Swiss Federal Institute:  Environmental chemistry, geochemistry and other applied disciplines are on the “fringe” of chemistry. They need to be at the core if we are to solve the great problems or food, water, climate, and so on.

Posted In: Policy | Technology

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