Archive for January, 2011

Caltech’s preeminent Engineering & Science magazine does book overview with emphasis on the High Priest of Hydrocarbons himself, Caltech’s very own Dr. Haagen-Smit.

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Good meat and potatoes roundup (article link) …

“On July 8, 1943, a thick blanket of gray mist engulfed Los Angeles, burning eyes and searing throats. The gaseous assault was so sudden that some thought the Japanese were beginning an invasion with chemical weapons. But the suffocating pall wasn’t foreign—it was smog. And so begins Smogtown, by Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly, a history of the fight against air pollution in Southern California.

The authors deliver a blow-by-blow account of subsequent struggles to find the source of the smog and return to Los Angeles the clear blue skies that had drawn so many westward in the first place. The themes and characters are all too familiar: relentless economic growth versus the environment and health; timid politicians or, worse, political leaders who fail to recognize the magnitude of the problem; businesses and industries that care only about the bottom line; a public reluctant to sacrifice an unsustainable lifestyle; and the regulatory agencies caught in between.

The primary players include Caltech’s own Arnold Beckman (PhD ’28) and Arie J. Haagen-Smit, a chemistry professor from 1937 until his retirement in 1971. As a science advisor to the city, Beckman recruited Haagen-Smit, now considered the father of smog control, to figure out the smog’s underlying chemistry …”


Happy 2011, greenies. Read ‘em and don’t weep. Learn

Sunday, January 16th, 2011


* You know the economy is bad when a Democratic president reigns in the EPA that had started showing its teeth.

- From the New York Times story

“The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.”

* Tehran not only has nuclear weapons to make evidently. It has a capital shrouded in Western-style air pollution made by cars and fossil fuel consumption. When a government considers air purifiers, it’s blithering and bumbling and nowhere close to a solution. I’m sure the people opposed to the current regime haven’t missed that one when they’re not coughing and reaching for their inhalers. Good luck, Iran. Glade won’t save you.

- From the Washington Post article

“The Iranian capital is experiencing what officials say is the worst pollution in its history, prompting the government to shutter offices and consider placing air purifiers across the city as it seeks to combat the brown blanket of smog. The weeks of heavy pollution are taking a serious toll on residents of Tehran. Hospitals are reporting a strong increase in patients with breathing problems. Government offices have been closed for three days over the past three weeks, and schools and universities have been shuttered for at least six days …”

* From green action-hero to has-been environmentalist – that’s the unflattering epigram hung around Arnold Schwarzenegger when his two years as California governor ended. Personally, I think that’s a gross overstatement. A leader can only achieve what the situation allows.

- Los Angeles Times story about his legacy.