I was startled to find the following comments in promo e-mail I received for a BBC podcast I listen to regularly. The topic of the podcast ("In Our Time") was asteroids and comets, so this seemed a rather spurious tangent from the subject. I wonder how the Division membership reacts to it? My memory of freshman chemistry is that sniffing the fumes from the bubbling sulphuric acid over the bunsen burner was that an experience led to me resolving to avoid chemistry classes in the future... - Ralph From: melvyn-bragg**At_Symbol_Here**lists.bbc.co.uk Subject: Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time Newsletter - 03/11/2005 Date: November 3, 2005 3:21:25 PM EST
Further back on the education chain, though, the worry is that young people are not being attracted to chemistry because of the draconian application of Health and Safety rules. The sort of experiments that we did in labs with Bunsen burners and mixing things and hoping for bangs and liking to see fermentation and bubbling and grizzling, has now been banned. A teacher stands behind a glass screen and demonstrates. In other words, all the three of them agreed, it seems to be no fun at all for students who are peeling away from chemistry en masse. The worry is not only that fewer students are taking up chemistry, but that even those who are taking it up cannot be hands on and, therefore, cannot begin to be innovative at the start of their careers. There was worry that this would lead to a drop off of real interest in pushing chemistry forward into areas where it is now so important, to do with research into fuels into the atmosphere and so on. It seems that, again and again, when we bandage people against reality we save some things but seem to lose at least as much and perhaps far more important things. As this country has been so fantastically effective in its studies of chemistry over the past two centuries, it would be a pity if over-fierce regulation were to crush the life out of it, which seems to be the case.
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