Thursday, November 24, 2005

The State of Our Education

This advertisement appeared in a recent flyer from a Rack Room Shoes. Normally I (Kane) would just roll my eyes and ignore the misuse of terminology. This time, however, the abuse of science is worth addressing.

Let’s analyze what this product is purporting to do:

  • “Tiny Nano-Particles form molecular bonds…” Fine, they form molecular bonds. Of course, doing so makes them one molecule, and not tiny nano-particles. There is nothing significant about this. Glue does the same thing—it starts out as many polymer chains that crosslink (form molecular bonds) into much larger molecules. It's a wonder that glue manufacturers don't use this argument more often.
  • “… form[s] a tightly knit 3-dimensional net…” They are claiming nanometer control of particles to form a known structure. That’s funny, because there are millions of dollars being spent to research ways to do this. Well, thank goodness Rack Room Shoes came up with the solution. This will solve so many problems in lithography and micro electronic mechanical systems. I’m sure Rack Room Shoes has already been contacted by microchip manufacturers like Intel.
  • “…Dirt and liquids are trapped and repelled at the molecular level…” Which is it? Trapped or repelled? Further, these nano-particles are able to repel dirt particles that must (according to knowledge of dirt particles and liquid surface tension) be at least one thousand times bigger and one billion times more massive (assuming equal densities, which is reasonable for the dirt particles). The local repulsive force exerted by these nano-particles would be enough to accelerate the dirt and liquid into space if the two particles ever touched. Of course, with such excessive force, the dirt and liquid would never come near the nano-particles, so there would never be a need for the dirt to be “…wiped away with a damp cloth.”

So how do the advertising agents for Rack Room Shoes get away with such flagrant lies?

Most of us are ignorant, and blissfully so. I doubt anyone double checked my calculations for the force being enough to send the particles into space.

A recent report (Rising Above the Gathering Storm) from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine has found that our nation (USA) is suffering a large deficiency in math and sciences. This problem is so rampant that places like Rack Room Shoes can place ads like the one above and have people believe in the product.

The solution does not involve throwing more resources into the education of the younger generation (as suggested by the report), because most of the country is already out of school. This suggestion may help years down the road, but there is still the problem of today. The solution revolves around each of us taking the time to use our minds and thinking through our surroundings, situations and stimuli. This may require extra work, thought and time to research for ourselves, but it is much better than the alternative: being a dupe to the world around us.


Dad Burton said...

Kane, I was just about to say the same thing about this sham advertising for this product. I guess great minds must think alike.

The wife said...

Kane, I am so glad to have such a thinking for a husband---you have truly taught me so much since we were married---thank you for challenging me to think for myself!

Rick said...

Rack Room Shoes actually stole this technology from me. I have the secret formula... and I would share it with you, but I'd have to kill you. And then baby barker would not have the pleasure of hearing "[name], I am your father" Assuming there is no baby as of yet, which is what I came here to discover in the first place =)

J. Lynn said...

Kane, no worries. I'll be checking those calculations when I get home. I just need to find my Materials Engineering book! Jared bought a "turbo-velocity" fan a few years ago and I've been teasing him about ever since, seeing as he works around wind tunnels and all. And I'm very curious about this new Dyson vacuum cleaner. They make some big claims with that one!