Speakeasy Science

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Catching Up

I’m having a Tony Hayward moment – the oil spill is disrupting my plans. I wonder if I can interest a television network in letting me talk about how much I want my life back. Okay, had to get that out of my system. Sorry. Kind of a cheap shot. Because I really just want…

Plume. Plume. Plume. So there.

I was on the phone this afternoon with a friend at what I’ll describe as a highly respected national-type newspaper, and we almost simultaneously broke into complaint about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). What set us off was NOAA’s grudging admission of the day, that despite angry earlier denials, there were indeed swathes…

(Just a note: The giveaway period for the audiobook of The Poisoner’s Handbook has ended. If your comment is not published, it’s too late to be considered for a free copy. But still glad to hear your ideas! Winners to be notified on Wednesday). One of the most interesting – and I think important –…

The second post I wrote for this blog was partly to explain the title: “Why Speakeasy Science? Well, first because I just wrote a book, The Poisoner’s Handbook, which is set in Jazz-Age New York, which was home to some 30,000 speakeasies. Also I like the historical feel of the name. I’ve always been interested…

Oil Spills for Dummies

So, at a Sunday news briefing, British Petroleum’s CEO, Tony Hayward, announced that there are no underwater plumes of oil resulting from the April accident at the company’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Why? Well, first BP’s testing hasn’t found any such evidence. And second, Hayward reminds us that, you know, oil…

Spin, baby, spin

In a recent discussion on this blog, an interesting thread appeared: the idea that BP’s heavy use of chemical dispersants to break up the Gulf oil spill was as much damage cover up as damage control. Here are a few examples: My suspicion is that the main reason they used these dispersants was to hide…

Crude Comments

The latest news from the Gulf of Mexico offers both relief (the “top kill” approach to ending the oil spill may be working) and dismay (the amount of oil pouring into the water is now thought to be closer to 20,000 barrels a day rather than the 5,000 barrels that BP has insisted on for…

Discussing Dispersants

In the past week, a lot of writers – and, yes, that includes me – have focused on the chemical dispersants being sprayed into the Gulf of Mexico to help manage the ever-expanding oil spill from BP’s deepwater drilling rig. For instance, I recently pointed out while dispersants do help break apart a slick into…

The Barren Planet Cocktail

So, yesterday, a friend of mine suggested that BP should stand for Barren Planet rather than British Petroleum. And today The New York Times reported that despite all the evidence that BP’s favorite dispersant (yes, Corexit) is more poisonous and less effective than others on the market, and despite the fact that the EPA order…

A Lethal Concentration

The standard toxicity test for chemical compounds is called the LD50. LD stands for Lethal Dose and 50 indicates 50 percent. In other words, LD50 means the lowest dose at which a material kills half of the test subjects. The results are usually given in milligrams of compound per kilograms of body weight. Many of…