Thoughts on the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

I don’t know about you all but I find this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry to be very interesting, especially in terms of chemical education.

First, was the comment on NPR the other day that the chemistry community in America did not respond well to the initial discovery, especially with Linus Pauling thinking that it was nonsense and discouraging anyone from looking at it see – “Noble-Winning Chemist Fought Hard For Acceptance”).

My initial thought upon hearing about this research was “is it in the textbook?” My response was that I don’t think it is. Now, I am thinking in terms of the introductory chemistry textbook, not upper level inorganic or physical chemistry textbooks. I don’t think that I have even seen any reference to it on-line. Now, I may be incorrect in that regard and if so, let me know (gently, please).

But the comment in the NPR story leads me to believe that because a giant in our field didn’t think the discovery was important that it is not in the textbook. Why put something in the textbook if no one or at least someone doesn’t think it is important. What does this say about the nature of what
we teach? Personally, I would rather and do teach chemistry instead of teaching the textbook. But I would like the textbook to stay abreast of the material so that we are not caught off guard. That’s why I think this year’s award is so interesting. It proves the need to relate the text to the material rather than the material to the text.

Then again, Funky Winkerbean had it right, don’t you think? See “People walking on the moon?”

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