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Badges, Badges Everywhere March 26, 2007

Posted by Beth in General.
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stevebadge.jpgFiled by Steve Ritter

Hanging from a doorknob in the basement of my house in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., are a couple dozen lanyards supporting name badges from scientific meetings I have attended over the years. There are dozens more badges, sans lanyards, clipped all along the strings hanging there—perhaps more than 100 badges in all. I’m not sure why I keep the badges, because all they do is hang there and rattle when the door opens and closes.

I paused to look at them while picking up my suitcase before packing for the ACS meeting here in Chicago. This week, I will be focusing on several potential stories for C&EN. One is on sustainability, a topic strewed throughout the technical program. In particular, I am interested in talks on carbon dioxide. There are a few talks on CO2 sequestration, but more intriguing are talks on using CO2 as a reactant. If CO2 could be used as a commodity chemical feedstock, it might help offset global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. We’ll see.

Another area I will be looking at is cold fusion, which is the topic of a one-day symposium. Yes, cold fusion. Actually, now it’s called low-energy nuclear transmutation. Although cold fusion turned out not to be the source of endless energy people had hoped for, there are some unexplained observations that researchers are continuing to investigate.

There are 20 to 30 additional talks on various topics that I would like to attend. But I know I won’t have time. Still, like those badges hanging back home, I am hanging on to the abstracts, just in case.

From my hotel room, I have a partial view of the tall buildings in downtown Chicago, the “city of the big shoulders,” so named by Carl Sandburg in his poem “Chicago.” It’s interesting that the first few lines of “Chicago” are used in the title of a symposium in the Division of the History of Chemistry: “Hog Butchers, Tool Makers, and Stackers of Wheat: Chicago-Area Chemical Industry & Government-Sponsored Laboratories.”

Sandburg received two Pulitzer Prizes, one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln and the other for a volume of poetry. Sandburg spent much of his life in Chicago, but he retired to live on a small farm, called Connemara, in the mountains of North Carolina. This I know because I grew up just down the road from Connemara. I vaguely remember seeing the white-haired man once or twice. His wife raised goats and he used to spend hours in an attic room of the farmhouse smoking cigars—and writing. He died in 1967, when I was four. Coming to Chicago reminded me of that.

But enough reflection for now. It’s time to head to the convention center to pick up my ACS meeting badge.

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Comments»

1. Maureen Rouhi - March 27, 2007

Why keep the badges? Perhaps one day they’ll be collectors’ items and worth something in eBay.

2. Paul - March 27, 2007

I’ll fess up to keeping badges too. There’s absolutely no good reason. It’d be cool to find an eminent chemist at the end of each meeting and swap your badges like how soccer players exchange jerseys at the end of matches.

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