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On the forensic scientist who discovered leaded gasoline was really, really dangerous

GM and Standard Oil had a really great tactic: if they didn't officially investigate their new gasoline additive (lead), then they wouldn't have to tell people how crazy dangerous it was. Genius! Evil! Evil genius! States realized the danger and moved to ban lead additives to gasoline, but the corporations petitioned the Federal government to get involved and helped them stock panels with industry-friendly scientists who declared that lead was perfectly okay, despite being a potent neurotoxin. We knew, thanks to this New York forensic scientist, in 1924 that leaded gasoline was a terrible poison, but due to corporate bribery it was not banned until 1986. How many people suffered in those 62 years just so GM and Standard Oil could make a few more bucks? Of Dead Bodies and Dirty Streets | Speakeasy Science
. . . The five men worked at the Standard Oil Refinery in Bayway, New Jersey. All of them spent their days in what plant employees nicknamed “the loony gas building”, a tidy brick structure where workers seemed to sicken as they handled a new gasoline additive. The additive’s technical name was tetraethyl lead or, in industrial shorthand, TEL. It was developed by researchers at General Motors as an anti-knock formula. But, as I wrote in a previous post, men working at the plant quickly gave it the “loony gas” tag because anyone who spent much time inside showed signs of mental deterioration, from stumbling memory loss to sudden twitchy bursts of rage. In October of 1924, workers in the TEL building began collapsing, going into convulsions, babbling deliriously. By the end of September, 32 of the 49 TEL workers were in the hospital; five of them died. The problem, at that point, was that no one knew exactly why. Oh, they knew – or should have known – that tetraethyl lead was dangerous. As Charles Norris, chief medical examiner for New York City pointed out, the compound had been banned in Europe for years due to its toxic nature. But while U.S. corporations hurried TEL into production in the 1920s, they did not hurry to understand its medical or environmental effects. . . . In 1924, New York had the best forensic toxicology department in the country; in fact, it had one of the few such programs period. The chief chemist was a dark, cigar-smoking, perfectionist named Alexander Gettler, a famously dogged researcher who would sit up late at night designing both experiments and apparatus as needed. It took Gettler three obsessively focused weeks to figure out how much tetraethyl lead the Standard Oil workers had absorbed before they became ill, or crazy, or dead. “This is one of the most difficult of many difficult investigations of the kind which have been carried on at this laboratory,” Norris said, when releasing the results. “This was the first work of its kind, as far as I know. Dr. Gettler had not only to do the work but to invent a considerable part of the method of doing it.” . . .

August 29, 2011

The entire idea of auditory learners versus visual learners is likely bunk

Think You're An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It's Unlikely : Shots - Health Blog : NPR
We've all heard the theory that some students are visual learners, while others are auditory learners. And still other kids learn best when lessons involve movement. . . . Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, who studies how our brains learn, says teachers should not tailor instruction to different kinds of learners. He says we're on more equal footing than we may think when it comes to how our brains learn. And it's a mistake to assume students will respond and remember information better depending on how it's presented. For example, if a teacher believes a student to be a visual learner, he or she might introduce the concept of addition using pictures or groups of objects, assuming that child will learn better with the pictures than by simply "listening" to a lesson about addition. In fact, an entire industry has sprouted based on learning styles. There are workshops for teachers, products targeted at different learning styles and some schools that even evaluate students based on this theory. This prompted Doug Rohrer, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, to look more closely at the learning style theory. When he reviewed studies of learning styles, he found no scientific evidence backing up the idea. "We have not found evidence from a randomized control trial supporting any of these," he says, "and until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used."
*Thanks, Anne-Marie!*

FACT: The melanistic fawn is pretty damn rad

snopes.com: Black Fawn On the [North American] continent as a...