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CHF staff and scholars provide a behind-the-scenes guide to activities at CHF, with reflections on science education, provocative explorations of chemistry in the wider world, and much more.

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All posts in Policy

Feeding the World

The world population is rapidly growing and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. By the end of 2011, which the United Nations has designated the International Year of Chemistry, the population is estimated to exceed 7 billion people - and may have already. By 2050 even modest projections place this same figure above 9 billion. Among other issues such unprecedented growth raises is one stark and glaring question: How can the world feed that many people?

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

The End of Fluoride?

Think your fluoridated drinking water protects you from Halloween-related cavities? A recent article in The New York Times carried the headline, “Looking to Save Money, More Places Decide to Stop Fluoridating the Water.” It follows last year’s report from the National Center for Health Statistics, which showing an increased occurrence of dental fluorosis, a flecking or mottling of the tooth enamel that occurs when children ingest too much fluoride. Does the combination of increased fluorosis and cash-strapped governments mean the end of fluoridated water?

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

Planet Money on the Future of Energy

Planet Money is a great podcast that explores timely stories and issues through a global economic lens. Sound wonky? You might be surprised. You might also be surprised how often economics and chemistry overlap. The show a few weeks ago focused on the economics of energy and featured an interview with author Daniel Yergin about his new book The Quest, which focuses on the engineers and scientists who are searching for energy alternatives.

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

Red Museum Boerhaave!

I had the privilege last week of attending the annual Artefacts conference in Leiden, Netherlands. Artefacts is a group of historians and curators in the history of science and technology that seeks to promote the use of objects in historical study. The conference was lively and full of engaging discussion – made all the more poignant by the fact that our host, the Museum Boerhaave, is under threat of closure.

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Posted In: Policy

Nuclear News Analysis

Secrets are hard to keep in the news world, which is usually a good thing. But what happens when the knowledge that bursts into the headlines is difficult to understand, incomplete, or badly translated by experts? “Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima: An analysis of traditional and new media coverage of nuclear accidents and radiation,” a recent report in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, looked at just that question.

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

Climate Conflict

Many readers will be familiar with the Bayh-Dole Act, passed by Congress in 1980 to promote technology transfer. Three decades later it seems fair to ask whether the act achieved its intended result. An issue of the journal Research Policy addresses the subject from several points of view.

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Posted In: Policy

Climate Conflict

Why worry about climate change? Does it really matter if the earth gets a couple of degrees hotter A new study in Nature approaches such questions by examining the relationship between global climate and civil conflicts. History tells us that weather can influence conflicts: think George Washington’s troops in the Valley Forge winter, or navies unable to fight because of severe thunderstorms.

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Posted In: Policy

Reconsidering Anti-Science

A recent New York Times editorial characterized the Republican Party as the anti-science party.  In the polarized world of the 21st-century United States, anti-science is an often-used label, but it obscures the actual modern nature of the beliefs of candidates like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin, as well as 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee.

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Posted In: History | Policy

Suburb vs. City Fight Ends in a Draw

Urban planners – and smug urbanites – have long celebrated the energy efficiency of densely populated areas (a topic we recently covered on Distillations). But a new report published in the journal Environmental Research Letters suggests this might not be the case.

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Posted In: Policy

Rational Science Policy

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” So said Steven Jay Gould. He was talking about schools, universities, and assorted other educational settings. But alas, ignorance is also in evidence when public policy is considered around scientific matters. The problem boils down to choice. What research has the most importance to the public good?

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Posted In: Policy