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Archive for the ‘crazy’ Category

Innocentive, for those of you who don’t know, is a company/community where science types can go to get cash awards for solving problems in science.  Innocentive likes to call this the ‘open sourcing of science’ which makes for good PR, but a closer description might be ‘outsourcing the R&D dept.’  As full disclosure, I’ve been a member of the community for several years and have received $10K for my chemistry solutions posted there … I think on balance it’s a great idea executed well.

But the trouble is, they believe their own PR and the write-ups they’ve received in the press (see list below).  Several weeks ago Innocentive created a project to collect ‘emergency response’ ideas to deal with the oil spill.  Not surprisingly, Innocentive received around a thousand and counting proposed solutions.  What they did next is surprising … they dropped all thousand ideas into the lap of BP.  Because more is always better, right?  A quick scenario to consider:

Your car engine is on fire and the only copy of your thesis is stuck inside.

A.  Your best friend comes up, details how to put the fire out and offers to help.

B.  An acquaintance comes up, lists 80 possible ways to put the fire out ( some involving things you don’t have on hand, some of which might not work ) and then asks why you aren’t using one of their ideas.

Innocentive is a great font of ideas, but it takes time to sort the wheat from the chaff, to convince companies that the new solutions might work, and to test.  Innocentive’s challenges usually last several weeks, starting from well defined and tractable problems.  After that is a testing phase that last months.  If they were working on a solution for the next oil spill, I’d applaud it as forward thinking.

If they have a working idea, put it out there … say to the media, “We’ve an idea we’ve tested and think is a great solution … but we don’t want to overburden the people out in the field who are trying their best.”  Complaining to the government that the engineers at BP aren’t taking you seriously, and then to the media (see email to Innocentive members) in the middle of a crisis when you know you can’t push a solution out the door fast enough just feels like chasing ambulances for the sake of PR.

I know everyone’s feelings are running hot about the spill, so please feel free to tell me where I’m wrong in the comments.  If people are interested, I’m also thinking about writing a more positive entry on Innocentive showing how it works well for undergrads.

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After the continuing insanity of Amy Bishop as related by the media, I needed a bit of amusement.  For your … mostly my … enjoyment: ‘Crazy Water’ and ‘Flying Mules’.

Crazy Water:

Popular Science is *still* running an ad for a ‘High Bond Angle Water’ machine, which will restore your water’s puny 104 degree bond angle to a mighty 114 degrees.  With its natural vigor restored, your water will cure you of cancer and put oak in your penis, or so the ads assure me.  I won’t bother saying this is crazy, you already know that, and other people have said it better.  But, no joke, even the Yahoo Answers people all agree this is bat-shit crazy.  When people who are talking about how best to deal with a child’s imaginary gay boyfriend are 100% lined up to say that your idea is insane … it’s time to wonder just how far outside the mainstream you have gotten.

Flying Mules:

The New Yorker has a story this week describing how in 1942 the US Army attempted to have twelve mules deploy by parachute.  Six mules were actually ejected from the plane but did not survive the experience.  One can only assume the other six staged a forced takeover in the confusion and demanded to go someplace sunny with lots of hay … more power to them!

As I understand the US Army, you can’t do anything without checking with someone higher up first.  Certainly nothing involving aircraft, so at least two people had to have thought this had a non-zero chance of success.  Just imagine the mules showing up for paratrooper school … Well, I always tell my recruits that a mule could do this job better than them … what the hell.

Apparently the Brits figured out how to actually do thisthe trick is to not strap a parachute to a mule!

I refuse to believe that story.

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It’s now a friday, so in the spirit of giving, I’d thought I’d suggest four sites you hardworking grad students
… yeah right, you got your plans set for friday night yet?  …
or nose-to the grindstone professional chemists
.. how professional can you be with internet access at work? …
could browse with a somewhat clean conscience.

Chemical blogspace

You should know about this one already, and if you don’t, prepare to lose a half hour.  Think of it as the C&E News water-cooler.

Sample posts:

Seriously … go there now, I’ll wait.

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