Sunday, February 24, 2008

The End Of a Good Day

Today was a pretty soggy day here in San Diego. Made for a quiet day. Took a walk with my wife. Had dinner with all our kids.

Quiet. Relaxing. Beautiful.

Was planning a blog that basically said just that.

Then I sat down this evening and started browsing around the TV. Watched PBS ("Mystery" - gotta love Miss Marple). Just after it ended, while I trying to decide if I wanted to waste my time with the Oscar telecast, I flipped through CBS, and saw Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes.

So Andy does his usual little sub-rant thing, and he says that the least important newspaper headline he'd seen was that Platinum had gone to $2,000/oz. He says that he never buys Platinum, and doesn't even know what it is used for, so couldn't care less.

KABOOOM! I managed to contain my explosion internally, and didn't scream at the tube, but it was pretty hard.

After a minute or two I realized that really I'm the oddball, since I'm a chemist, and I do know what Platinum is used for. Maybe nobody else knows what Platinum is used for. But seriously, Andy, ever heard of catalytic converters? Every car in America (except for some very old ones) have Platinum in those cat converters that help to keep the pollution down. How about Cisplatin? It's an anti-cancer drug. Maybe Platinum jewelry? Even if you didn't know that Platinum was used for these things, maybe caring, just a little bit, would be a good idea?

I guess my problem is that I actually think that most Americans should know basic science. But I don't think we are doing a very good job of it. We expect everyone to learn basic math, basic English, (soon to include basic Spanish here in southern California?), basic all kinds of things, but science seems to be a forgotten subject.

Oh, I know that schools have science classes, but people don't seem to learn anything. We even debate whether to teach evolution in Biology classes. That's like debating whether we should be teaching addition in Math classes. Why do we have a this problem with the basic unifying principle of Biology? Yeah, I know why and so do you, and it has nothing to do with Science.

I guess the point of this rant is that at a time when other coutries (like China) are putting huge efforts and investments into science, math, and engineering, we debate teaching evolution. And people on TV can suggest that they couldn't care less about Platinum, because they don't know what it is used for - without apology. These are not good signs for the future of our country.

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