Lately I’ve noticed that more and more products — from gasoline to rewards cards to patent medicines — are being advertised by people in lab coats.
Somebody must have done a marketing study about this and determined that Americans just trust people in lab coats. How else to explain why companies who are trying to decide how to clothe the human mannequins that appear on billboards and point-of-purchase ads would pick lab coats as opposed to, say, a minister’s collar, a nurse’s uniform, or the loud sportscoat and gold-buckled loafers of a used car salesman? If my assumption is correct, why would people be more trusting of a shill just because he’s clad in a lab coat? Is it because a lab coat suggests intelligence and precision? Or, is it because lab coats have quasi-medical connotations, and people trust their doctors? I’ve known scientists and lab workers and they were decent human beings — but not measurably more honest or credible than people in other lines of work.
Often, the lab coat seems to have nothing to do with the product or service being sold. Consider the Shell rewards card ad that I saw when I fueled up my car today, a picture of which accompanies this post. It features a nerdy-looking guy in a lab coat gesturing toward the card. I guess he’s supposed to be a fun-loving Shell fuel technician . . . but why would anyone rely on a lab worker to provide them with guidance about smart financial decisions? Lab workers may be adept with Bunsen burners, but that doesn’t mean they know bupkis about whether a payment card is a good deal or a rip-off.
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Posted in Humor, Science, tagged Chemistry, Flerovium, High School Chemistry, Humor, Livermorium, Periodic Table of Elements, Science, Scientists on December 30, 2011 |
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Every now and then, scientists smash atoms together and discover a new element. The new elements then go through an accreditation process before they become part of the periodic table that is grimly familiar to everyone who hated having to memorize the elements in their high school chemistry class.
The problems really arise, however, when the time comes to name the new elements. The sad fact is, scientists suck at coming up with good names. The latest two proposed names, for example, are Flerovium and Livermorium. Basically, scientists just take the name of a person or place, add “ium” at the end, and that’s it.
That uninspired convention was used for most of the recent additions to the periodic table. The boring names for newer elements — Ytterbium? Lutetium? Mendelevium? — stand in sharp contrast to the pithy, lyrical names of the older elements, like gold, silver, tin, and mercury. No one is going to write a song called “Heart of Ytterbium” or pen a holiday standard called “Mendelevium Bells.” It must be maddening for high school kids to try to pronounce, much less remember, all of these “iums.”
The new names are not only hopelessly unmemorable, they don’t tell you anything about the element itself. The name “lead” connotes the heaviness of that ponderous metal. In that regard, “Livermorium” is a missed opportunity. That substance is formed by smashing calcium ions into the element curium and quickly decays into Flerovium. How about a name that reflects the element’s short life — like Ephemerite?
I hereby offer to help the scientific community in developing better names — and thereby advance the cause of beleaguered high school chemistry students everywhere.
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