Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Angela Belcher Named Top Scientist

While I detest top X lists, a very legalistic way of looking at the world. It is worthy to note that Angela Belcher, a nanotechnologist trained at UCSB and now a professor at MIT was identified as the top scientific leader of the year by Scientific American magazine.

The article makes the mistake of saying that abalone shells are made from calcium carbonate, the same thing that chalk is made from. This is a lot like saying that pencil lead is made from carbon, the same thing that diamonds are made from. If the top scientific magazine in the country can not get simple materials science right, how can the general public be expected to learn anything? While the chemical composition of calcium carbonate in chalk and abalone shells is the same, the microstructure is very different, and this is an article about materials science so they should at least make an attempt to get it right.

I also find it interesting that she took two of the hottest areas of science, phage display and quantum dots, and combined them to yield some highly cited scientific publications. This sort of synthetic thinking, gets scientists with the right public relations machinery behind them a long way.

Self improvement is rarely talked about in the mainstream media today. I find it quite admirable that Professor Belcher intends to familiarize and involve herself with a new field every five years.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are missing the point. Yes, abalone and chaulk are made up of the same material - CaCO3. This is a completely valid chemical description - the chemical formulas are the same. The difference is of course the ordering of the molecules. There are a finite number of elements on earth, and the fact that not only different combinations of elements, but also their particular arrangement in relation to each other, creates new materials is the amazing part. Of course, there is also the biological component in abalone shell that contributes to its unique materials proterties... but that is a whole other story...

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