Dangerous and Boring? …… The Dilemma of Chemicals

Danger usually goes hand-in-hand with a great rush of adrenaline; safe is considered dull and boring.  So if chemicals – especially man-made chemicals – are dangerous, toxic, and a threat to the world, why is chemistry considered tedious, dreary and uninteresting?

Dr. Penny LeCouteur examined this paradox and challenged assumptions about chemical safety in her talk presented 12 November, 2008. Using examples from the media and advertising, Dr. LeCouteur exposed myths and half-truths about chemicals, and presents examples and facts to address the many misrepresentations of chemistry that affect our daily lives.  Dangerous and boring? Or – safe and fascinating?

 A native of New Zealand, Dr. LeCouteur taught chemistry at CaliforniaStateUniversityin Long Beach, before helping to found the Chemistry Department of Capilano College in North Vancouver, where she taught for 30 years. She served as an advisor for curriculum development and pedagogy in universities in Indonesia. She has authored the first and second year university transfer courses in chemistry for B.C.’s Open University and is co-author of a Canadian Grade 12 Chemistry Textbook.  Her latest publication  “Napoleon’s Buttons: Seventeen Molecules That Changed History”, selected as one of three finalists for the book category award for The 2003 National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, was described by Entertainment Weekly as “a splendid example of better reading through chemistry.” Dr. Le Couteur is also the winner of the 2005 Eve Savory Award for Science Communication.

“Dangerous and Boring?… The Dilemma of Chemistry”, the first presentation in this year’s Science and Society speaker series, will be held at Okanagan College’s Kalamalka Campus main lecture theatre at 7:30 pm, 12 November 2008 and Okanagan College’s Kelowna Campus main lecture theatre at 11:30 am, 13 November 2008.  The series is sponsored by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre.

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