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Re: Science!

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I never had a science fair. They were in every TV show and movie about school so I wished they were real. Then it turned out a lot of schools actually have them. And apparently in California you have to make a diorama about California every year? I didn't want to do that.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:17 AM
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We go big on science fairs. I don't know why, but we do.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:27 AM
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With Hawaii, you can't really direct her or help her with anything, so we were basically constrained within her ideas last year. It's possible we might go bigger with other kids as they age up.

This year, Pokey has some idea based on the fact that apparently hard-boiled eggs get rubbery when you soak them in vinegar. I'm having trouble figuring out how to phrase that as a question with a measurable outcome.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:32 AM
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Compare vinegar-treated and control eggs on how far you can drop before the crumble.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:36 AM
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Oooh! I like it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:38 AM
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I was trying to figure out other solutions to soak eggs in, but it seemed to be introducing too many variables and effects to measure.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:38 AM
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For 6th grade science fair I made a primitive "electric motor" with dry cell batteries that almost worked. My dad helped me cut up a tin can for the armature, I had never seen anyone cut sheet metal before that. Of course the winner had sculpted model heads of early hominins that to my untutored eyes looked like they came out of a museum.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:43 AM
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I don't remember ever doing a science fair as such. But I do remember doing the baking soda volcano thing.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:43 AM
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You did that for social studies.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:44 AM
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My 6th grade project was comparing how well my peers could copy a pattern vs. copy using a mirror. My mom helped me rig up a box, with a mirror in the back of it, and a ceiling over the front half, so it functioned like a tunnel. The pattern was placed inside the tunnel portion, and then you could see its reflection in the mirror, and you had to try to draw the original drawing. (I think it was a star.) That was by far the best project I did, mostly because the set-up was cool.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:49 AM
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"Fine Motor Skills: My Peers Suck At Them."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:57 AM
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Salamander Fight Club could be an experiment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 9:36 AM
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In 4th grade, we had "Social Sciences Fair", and I did something on Troy and the Trojan war. I supposedly was working with a partner -- he made a paper mache Trojan Horse. Meanwhile my mom made sure I became the biggest expert on the Trojan War in the history of George Washington Elementary School in Royal Oak, Michigan, and we made posters showing the Wall and how Achilles chased Hector around it, and Heinrich Schliemann's excavations and so forth.

In 5th grade, my dad helped me (iow, I watched him do it - maybe I held something in place a few times) build a probability demonstrator. At the time I learned all that I ever learned about probability (and I took a class on probability and statistics in high school - I peaked in math very early).

I got a "First Prize" ribbon for both projects. Not every project got a "First Prize, but a lot of them did.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 9:42 AM
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That'll do, peep. That'll do.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 9:45 AM
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There's probably rules about not using animals in the science fair, but if not, having roosters fight each other will probably be easier to arrange than salamanders and uses the same experimental design.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 9:51 AM
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he made a paper mache Trojan Horse

What did he put in it??


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 9:57 AM
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There's probably rules about not using animals in the science fair

We used our cats last year to determine which cat toy they preferred. Answer: we have sedentary cats.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 9:58 AM
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USC stuff.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 9:59 AM
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16: He was confused about the history, so he filled it with used Trojans.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:00 AM
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Wait, is that why they're called Trojans, because they're filled with little soldiers?!? I never put that together before.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:02 AM
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I volunteered as a judge for the middle-school science fair at my son's school last year. It was a weird hodgepodge, since some of the grades were doing almost-like-actual-science investigation of questions, but one year the projects were just "brainstorm something about the problem of plastic in waterways". Which isn't a terrible thing, but it wasn't clear where they were supposed to go with the project and presentation.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:10 AM
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20: I thought it was because a rolled up condom looked like a Phrygian cap.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:17 AM
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The ancient Anitolians were such thoughtful people that their brains had to be covered by something with a reservoir tip.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:27 AM
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heebie: if you are looking for inspiration in setting up food-oriented experiments, you might have a look at Kenji Lopez-Alt's stuff at serious eats and more recently NYT. He also has a book "The Food Lab" in that vein.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:30 AM
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on topic. I did a couple of science fair in elementary school and remember doing ok locally but suffered from not having access to an adult who knew anything about science; it retrospect they were pretty sloppy designs.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:37 AM
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Newt's best science project was an attempt to replicate a study he saw about how printing text in a difficult-to-read font improved retention (presumably because people would pay closer attention, I guess)? So he tested a bunch of his classmates on the same passage either in an ordinary font, or in this horrible curly mess printed in pale yellow on pale purple. No detectable difference in how well people retaned the information.

A while later, I read that the results hadn't been successfully replicated by actual researchers either -- the initial result seems to have been a fluke.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:43 AM
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further to 25: Today it seems kind of crazy, but our sole source of information going into "science" fairs was an enthusiastic elementary teacher with a B.Ed. I'm not sure they had ever seen an actual paper or study, and we students certainly hadn't. The second time around I had a better idea about methods but that was basically from comments some post-doc or prof roped into judging for the city had made about my first one.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 10:49 AM
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My parents both have science Ph.D's, and my mom taught research design. The science fair was a pretty big deal for us. Basically, my dad won most years, with all four of us. He spent a huge amount of time, for weeks, calibrating how exactly to make it look like something a kid would have thought up and done. We had to do all the writing, so our presentations looked authentic. He got better and better at them. The first years, he made rookie mistakes, like leaving it too late and having huge fights with us the night before. After my sister told the judges that she did her project 'because Dad told us to', he learned to coach us on the spoken answers as well. He took a lot of pictures of us doing the projects, to maximize the adorableness.

I did learn that science is trying to distinguish effects from chance, although with a statistician mom, I'd likely have learned that anyway. My biggest lesson came the second or third year, when my parents said that if we finished completely two nights before it was due, we could go out to Red Lobster on the eve, and enjoy a fancy meal while every other family was having their huge fight. That mostly stuck with me and I did learn to finish up a day in advance (I mean, with the same yuckiness I'd have endured with normal pacing) and relax the day before. Sometimes I can pull that off.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 11:34 AM
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28 my hokey projects sound like more fun at least. I'm pretty sure some of my competitors had parent's like yours. I did know one kid whose dad was a math prof, but he was principled about having little to do with the kids projects although he would answer questions.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 11:43 AM
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I guess I'd feel worse, but I don't remember our projects ever feeding into larger science fairs. It all ended before middle school. So I don't think we kept a kid from her real science fair destiny.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 11:55 AM
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I don't think my Montessori was big on the science fair concept.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 11:57 AM
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28 is making me laugh so hard.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 12:00 PM
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It's funny, but Red Lobster isn't nearly as good as it is to be.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 12:15 PM
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My son got second prize for his eighth grade science fair project. He was interested in how changes in the lake in the park next door were affecting the fish (it gets stocked every year, and is a favorite spot for local fishermen). My wife got some information about the history of the lake & dam from one of her colleagues in the Public Works department (the lake was created years ago by them primarily as a flood control project), who also had the suggestion that our son could measure various aspects of the water's suitability for fish (pH, O2 levels, etc) by using aquarium test strips. So we went out with our son on three different weekends as he took water samples at various points around the lake, and then had him take the measurements with the test strips, so he could show how conditions were changing week to week. We lucked out in that on the third weekend, there had been a recent oil spill on a nearby freeway, which left a visible slick on the water, and the local ranger was available for him to interview about the accident and how it was affecting the fish. He dug up a map of the local watershed so he could show how the runoff flowed from the freeway through local streams down to the lake, along with a photo of the oil slick.

It wasn't your classic Hypothesis - Controlled Experiment - Results type of project, but he learned a lot about the local ecology and doing fieldwork with a fairly low-cost setup, and was able to explain to his classmates how local sources of pollution affected the watershed in a particularly vivid way.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 12:23 PM
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30: I also have no recollection if/how our local ones fed into anything larger. And the last one I did was probably 6th grade, so who knows.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 12:33 PM
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Oh man, ours fed into the larger structure. If you did sufficiently well in your school, (in middle and high school, at least) the regional competition was held at the local mall.

It seemed just insanely cool to me, circa 1989, that I got to spend a day at the mall for that one science fair project with the mirror and the stars.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 1:35 PM
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Not science fair but in 9th grade biology we had to do self-designed experiments - my buddy and I ran a pet turtle through a not-too-complicated maze, launched it on a model rocket (in a styrofoam capsule) and, after it landed on our ball field via parachute, ran it through the maze again. ("ran it through" means "let it slowly amble aimlessly through") No definitive results other than the turtle survived the trip and ended up living about as long as any other pet turtle. My pal later went to the Air Force Academy and flew jets.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 2:11 PM
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I only had science fair projects in seventh and eighth grade and they sucked. Seventh grade was a syringe controlled hydraulic robot that was basically a project everyone did in eighth grade anyway. Eighth grade I tried to demonstrate a Foucault pendulum but the space wasn't tall enough for it to function properly. In seventh grade the kid next to me had a dad who made a homemade barometer with a shit ton of mercury and there was loose mercury all around the base of it that would have resulted in a hazmat situation if people cared about those things back then.
High school was not science fairs but Science Olympiad which I was good at, some of it was doing experiments you were given at the competition, some was just taking tests, some had a science fair-like component of building something beforehand and competing with it- egg carts, rube goldbergs. The best was making a human powered musical instrument, our team made a pipe organ from a stationary bike by attaching it to a bellows and a bunch of valves and various length PVC.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 2:59 PM
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34 has to be at least as useful as lab-type science skills.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 3:05 PM
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We only had science fairs in elementary school, and I don't recall them feeding into anything. My favorite was the project in first grade I did with my dad (also, the only one I remember). We were testing whether the color of paint on a car would make a difference in interior temperature, so we painted a bunch of tin cans and put them under a lamp. I remember feeling so proud that my dad and I were doing "real science" together.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 6:06 PM
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As far as the egg shell dissolving project, you could do different concentrations of vinegar, showing their different pH, soak different times, and correlate softness (via suggested dropping test) with pH and soak time. Could also test different acids and try a base (lye or ammonia) as well. I suggest the five dozen egg pallet at Costco.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 6:21 PM
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20. The ancient Trojans were famous for working hard...


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 7:24 PM
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"more than one organization that holds science fairs" is sort of right. You're looking at the Science Talent Search (now known as the Regeneron STS, whatever Regeneron is; formerly Intel STS, and Westinghouse STS before that), but it doesn't operate the way that ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) does. ISEF has fairs at the level of cities or states, and winners of those go to the big national event. (It's always in the US, but given "International" in the name I guess other countries must participate.) STS, on the other hand, is based on submitting a paper directly to the national competition; they pick 40 finalists to go to DC for an event that includes a science fair-like element (a poster session) but also a sort of interview / oral exam-like element where the students have to answer open-ended questions in front of panels of scientists from different subfields.

If your family lore is just "science fair" rather than "Science Talent Search" or Westinghouse or something, then the ISEF records are probably the better place to go digging for confirmation.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:28 PM
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We have a "Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science." It's for people who are at least a dozen years from putting in for a K award.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:46 PM
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Anyway, the real science is the friends you meet along the way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-15-19 8:54 PM
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If your family lore is just "science fair" rather than "Science Talent Search" or Westinghouse or something, then the ISEF records are probably the better place to go digging for confirmation.

This is helpful, but the ISEF awards seem to only be at that one link from the OP, and maybe not listed before 1997. Although I did see that AOC was a past winner.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 2:16 PM
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Regeneron is a biotech/pharma company.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 3:18 PM
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My kid made a bottle hologram last year. It was good enough for an honorable mention and $10 prize money.

This year he wants to make a laser gun but I don't want him to do that because he has an unrealistic idea of what a laser gun is and also I don't want anybody to go blind.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 3:27 PM
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Just because the Empire's storm trooper couldn't hit anything doesn't mean you go blind just by holding a blaster.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 3:43 PM
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211.2: My dad "helped" me build a laser for a high school physics project. It was not simple, but it was fun to hang out with him and put it together (he ordered bits and basically told me what to do step by step). I feel like there are probably good instructions online, maybe not for the gun detail, though.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 4:06 PM
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Maybe you'd want to affix it permanently to something heavy with guards so that kids can't stare into the laser.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 4:10 PM
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That's what the physical lab did with the .22 they used for momentum experiments.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 4:15 PM
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We had IR lasers for chemistry lab which have the extra special feature of being invisible so you don't know one is shining in your eye until you're blind. Double blacked out doors into the lab and everyone going in had to wear special goggles.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 6:15 PM
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They seem to be using non-destructive lasers to great effect in the street actions in Chile.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 6:53 PM
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44 We have a "Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science."

My memory is fuzzy on this one, but I think that at least when I was in high school the state Junior Academy of Science competitions were based on giving a talk about a research project, and maybe also submitting a written version of it, but not a science fair-like poster presentation. That was definitely true of the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. As far as I remember, these were similar things with a state competition and then a national event; at least with the AJAS the meeting was held simultaneously with the big AAAS conference.

46: Yeah, ISEF goes back to 1950, but they don't seem to have a lot of publicly available data on who was involved at the website.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 7:09 PM
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Science fair posters have foam boards and you don't want to spit on the people standing in front of the posters. Otherwise, it's just like a real conference's poster session.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 7:13 PM
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Your school science fairs served beer?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 7:16 PM
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No mine. My son's. They don't exactly like the parents having a beer, but they don't throw you out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 7:20 PM
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White Russian in a Starbuck's cup is easier.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-16-19 7:26 PM
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Allow me a wee brag:

I was reading something which mentioned Fr/tz He/ider's fundamental attrition error, and I recognized the name, as the He/iders were good friends with my grandparents, and went to look up He/ider on Wikipedia to find out more, and turned up this:

A decade later, He/ider published his most famous work, which remains his most significant contribution to the field of social psychology.The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations (1958) was written in collaboration with the uncredited Bea/trice Wri/ght, a founder of rehabilitation psychology. Wri/ght was available to collaborate because the University of Kansas's nepotism rules prohibited her from a position at the University (her husband, Er/ik Wri/ght, was a professor), and the Ford Foundation gave Hei/der funds and assistance to complete the project. (Wri/ght is credited only in the Foreword; she later went on to become an endowed professor of psychology at the University of Kansas).

That BW is my grandmother. And that, of course, is the very topic that was attributed to He/ider in the thing I was reading about. So it was both a little infuriating that Grandma's contribution has gotten lost to the general knowledge because of the rigid gender roles of the 1950s, and a little ironic that a throwaway sentence on fundamental attribution error had made a fundamental attribution error.

Also the EW is the guy with the secret identity that Charley Carp uncovered.


Posted by: LBJ | Link to this comment | 11-17-19 10:01 AM
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It would have been funnier if they somehow made the fundamental attribution error, but I don't see how they could have.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-19 11:28 AM
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Hey, hey, LBJ, can you re-link to that secret-identity post? My searches aren't turning it up.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-17-19 5:29 PM
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(sincere question despite joke form)


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-17-19 5:31 PM
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This?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-19 5:42 PM
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No, this.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-19 5:43 PM
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In news of more practical science teaching, the Washington Post reports that two professors of chemistry at Henderson State University in Arkansas have been arrested for running a meth lab. I'm not sure I believe this story, if only because the bust is supposed to have happened in a town called "Arkadelphia".

One more detail illuminates the astonishing cruelty of the legislative war on drugs: "A conviction of using drug paraphernalia could mean up to 20 years in prison, according to the Arkansas-based law firm Huffman Butler." Twenty years for the crime of being a junkie?


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11-18-19 12:04 AM
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66.1: One of those two and I share many mutual acquaintances, although I don't think I've met him.

https://hsuoracle.com/4666/news/hendersons-heisenberg/

My favorite comment at The Other Place (from someone know knows him reasonably well) was, "I mean... questions abound, Brad is a theoretical chemist - I wouldn't trust them to make a damn thing in the lab!"


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-18-19 5:14 AM
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Oops, me. Obviously.


Posted by: yndew | Link to this comment | 11-18-19 5:18 AM
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66: Stand very much to be corrected, but in context it looks to me the paraphernalia in question is (are?) for manufacturing, not use. The article mentions manufacturing meth as a separate (more serious) charge, which suggests to me the paraphernalia charge is for when people are caught with a manufacturing setup, but not quite red-handed. Also AIUI the "up to" does a lot of work in sentencing guidelines, largely for plea-bargaining leverage. I mean, still fucked up overall, but not as fucked up as 67 last sounds.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 11-18-19 5:44 AM
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I thought you were supposed to make meth in the Walmart.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-19 6:07 AM
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That's what the Waltons would have you believe, but let them into the market and before you know it every honest-to-God mom and pop meth operation will be out of business and all their chemists working for Big W at minimum wage.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 11-18-19 7:00 AM
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