Friday, July 5, 2013

Are you a spectator or a runner(in #chemistry)? #peachtreeroadrace #ajcprr

At the end of the Peachtree Road Race, the USA 10km Road Race male champion, Matt Tegenkamp, said on air that the event was great, in part, because it included 60,000 spectators. The thing is that the Peachtree Road Race (which doubled as the USA 10 km Road Race Championship) is famous for being the largest 10 km race in the world with 60,000 registered runners. Tegenkamp's slip was that he downgraded the registered runners to spectators because evidently if you can't run like an elite (which is indeed really fast at sub five minute miles!), then you are simply a spectator of the race. While there may be some truth in that, I can tell you that all 60,000 individuals (including me) ran or walked those same 10 km. We also didn't have a chance to see any of the elites who started before us while we hung out in the corrals waiting to start our race. Indeed, if you are talented enough to be a world-class runner, it's a great privilege to get to do it in front of 60,000 people (by whatever name). But you can't forget that all of them did some kind of running.

Similarly, nearly everyone has done some chemistry in their lives. Many of them remember, not so fondly, the labs they did in high school or college. Those labs generally didn't work as expected. Truth is that's the best kind of experiment (because you can learn from it). You've also done chemistry every time you've lit a match, cleaned your contact lenses, turned on your TV, and the list goes on. In this sense, we are all chemists, but only a few of us are lucky enough to do it for a living. Nevertheless, like in running, we need everyone to support chemistry. Otherwise the elites—that is, the basic researchers who are advancing the forefront of chemistry—won't have a chance to set the stage for technological advances driving humankind. So whether you consider yourself a chemist, a spectator or someone in between, we need your support and we appreciate it!

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