Wednesday, April 01, 2015

My "Interview" with "The Polymer Babe" stirs up some serious legal trouble for me

Yet again, the Polymer Babe
Polymer Babe: Why Are You Making Such Trouble for Me?
What a difference a day makes. I woke up this morning look forward to a beautiful Minnesota Spring day with sunshine and the feeling that snow, frost and cold temperatures are pretty much behind us.

And then I looked at my overnight emails.

Holy cow. Legal trouble. Big legal trouble. A potential lawsuit. Is this really happening?

Take a good look at the "Polymer Babe" interview that I had up last week, as it will NOT be there much longer. Or maybe take a few screenshots. Or whatever. I really don't care. It just doesn't matter. Why? Well, ponder over the email I received just a few minutes ago:

April 1, 2015

Dear Dr. Spevacek,

My law firm represents the Society of the Polymer Industry (SPI). If you are represented by legal counsel, please direct this letter to your attorney immediately and have your attorney notify us of such representation.


As legal counsel for the the SPI, we are quite taken aback by the many false claims in your recent post on your "It's the Rheothing" blog, "An Interview With the Polymer Babe".

For you to suggest or otherwise endorse the concept that polyvinyl alcohol contains alcohol, or even worse yet, can induce inebriation goes beyond the pale of scientific evidence. As a scientist and practicing chemist, you clearly understand that the the word "alcohol" refers to hydroxyl functional groups and that very few alcohols will upon human consumption lead to any state of stupor.

Similarly, to suggest that other polymers are similar to table salt and that water-based polymers should not have water within their contents is to defame polymeric materials. The SPI has spent countless decades in service to the polymer industry and your mocking tone and poor attempt at humor is not welcomed.

If you do not comply with this cease and desist demand within the next 10 days, the Society of the Polymer Industry will pursue all available legal remedies including seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, and order that you pay court costs and attorney's fees. Your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable.


Ima Loiyer, B.A., M.S., Ph. D., J.D., LL.D., Esq.
Of Counsel,
Dewey, Cheatem & Howe
1060 West Addison Street
Chicago, IL 60613

Being unemployed (still), I can't fight something like this, so I'll have to comply. Looks like few people can take a joke anymore. It's sad. Literally.

Previous Years

April 1, 2014 - A Big Announcement

April 1, 2013 - An Open Letter to Justin Bieber

April 1, 2012 - the Trump Journal of Science

April 1, 2011 - Polly Mer Announces Presidential Run

April 1, 2010 - BPA - The Shocking Truth Revealed!!!

April 1, 2009 - Stimulus Bill Backfires - Bans All Plastics

Monday, March 30, 2015

Eastman Chemical is EXPANDING their Tritan production

Over the last couple of years, Eastman Chemical has battled on many fronts (legal and otherwise) with a University of Texas - Austin neuroscience professor, George Bittner, over whether or not their Tritan copolymers can exhibit estrogenic activity. I won't go over any of the technical issues on horribly flawed Bittner's research methods are. Those interested can read my past posts [*]. I'm just writing briefly today that it put a smile on my face to read that Eastman is expanding their Tritan production capabilities.

It looks Bittner's little effort to bring down Tritan copolymers isn't working very well. It don't recall seeing similar announcements regarding Bittners' businesses, Certichem and Plastipure undergoing similar expansions. I wonder why not?

[*] This is good starting point.

Previous Years

March 30, 2011 - ANTEC 2011 - I'll be closing the place down

March 30, 2011 - The Dance of Dew on a Spider's Web

March 30, 2011 - The Great Pallet Wars

March 30, 2010 - Acrylamide, Toluene and Biologists

March 30, 2010 - DNA Patentability

March 30, 2009 - Recycled News on Recycling of Plastics

March 30, 2009 - Yeah...what he said...

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Interview with "The Polymer Babe"

Today I have a very special interview with "The Polymer Babe". Apparently she is the twin-sister-separated-at-birth of "The Food Babe". I think you will soon seen the similarities in their looks and personalities.
Twin Sisters Separated at Birth?
The Polymer Babe

John: You have some strong opinions about what should and should not be in polymeric materials. Can you explain?
Polymer Babe (PB): Certainly. I believe that nothing that can be eaten or drunk by a person should be in polymers. No food whatsoever.

John: Why do you feel this way?
PB: Well, years ago I was always having problems with processing polymers. They were gassy, they would sometimes be difficult to, through an extruder die or gate and so on. In general, I just didn't feel well. So I started reading the ingredients list, and Wow! was I surprised. Did you know that water-based polymers contain water?

John: Yes, yes I did
PB: Well, once I got rid of the water, all my problems went away. So now I had proof that human consumables should not be in polymers.

John: Proof?
PB: Sure. Isn't it obvious? It worked one time for me - what more proof do you need?

John: I have a slightly higher standard for proof, but let's move on. Have you since found food and human consumables in other polymers as well?
PB: Did I ever. Some were really easy to find, such as polyvinyl alcohol. Alcohol! That plastic is loaded with alcohol. Did you know that you can get drunk on it? Once this become more widely known, how long before kids start taking shots of Elmer's glue for a buzz? I've stopped working with polyvinyl alcohol and as expected, everything processes better for me. And I feel better.

John: Any other examples?
PB: Oh, I'm just getting started. Some of the examples of food-containing polymers could only be discovered if you know a just little bit of chemistry, like I do. Have you ever thought about polyvinyl chloride? You might think it's food-free, but it isn't. What's table salt? Sodium chloride. Chloride - chloride. See the connection?

John: Are there are other examples of how knowing just a little bit of chemistry has helped you?
PB: Of course. There was the one time when I was working with a contract coater on drying a solvent-based coating in a convection oven. I asked them them to use heated air, but there were problems and the coating never dried properly. You know what I found out afterwards? They weren't using pure air at all! They were using this cheap mix of gases that was like 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and with a bunch of other gases mixed in too. I insisted right then and there that they use pure air in the future, but they kept blaming the problem on me and my formulation. But I was right and I know it. Since I showed them their ignorance about the difference between pure air and the diluted mixture they were using, they have had runaway success with their business. They are now so busy with other customers that they can't fit me back into their schedule. They keep saying they are booked solid for the next 10 years.

I can give lots more examples, but I really want people to buy my book, opps, I mean, read about them in my book.

John: I didn't know you had a book out.
PB: Yes, it's called: "The Polymer Babe Way: Break Free from the Hidden Toxins in Your Polymers and Have your Parts Lose Weight and Look Years Younger Because You Did Accelerated Aging Properly in Just 21 Days!"

But more importantly, I'm also coming out with my own line of polymers that are food-free. For instance, I have a line of hydrolyzed polyvinyl acetates that are a great alternative to polyvinyl acetate. They really are a drop-in replacement, but they are completely free of all vinyl alcohol. And I have a polyvinyl chloride line that I make with chlorine gas, not chloride.

John: But how is that any different than what the rest of the industry is doing?
PB: And you are just an industry shill, aren't you? That's why I know I'm right. The more people criticize me, the more I know I am getting closer to the truth.

John: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. I know you have to go to another interview, so do you have any final words?
PB: No amount of food or drink is safe in polymers. No amount. None. If my grandmother can pronounce the names of the ingredient, they shouldn't be in plastics.

John: Thank you for your time, Polymer Babe. I found this, what I think I mean to say is this: when it comes to your knowledge of polymer chemistry, I'm at a complete loss for words, and I think my readers would agree. Maybe we can do another interview in the future? I'm booked for the next 10 years, but the year 2026 has a few slots available?
PB: Thank you as well. I'm sure that by 2026, I will have even more impressive discoveries to talk about, and it's all because I know just a little bit about chemistry. Pretty impressive, huh?
John: I'll say. Until then.

Previous Years

March 27, 2014 - One Beautiful Salt Mine

March 27, 2012 - Is "Plastics-to-Oil" recycling?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Kim Jong Un the next Queen of England?

One of the claimed advantages of polymeric currency is the increased difficulty to forge the notes. While forging the notes might be more difficult, it is apparently pretty easy to alter them as can be seen in this image:
Kim Jong Un - The Queen of England?

I think it's a pretty well done. It's just a little bit early for April's Fools day however. (Know anyone brave enough to ask him for his reaction?)

Previous Years

March 25, 2014 - More Exaggerations about Ocean Trash

March 25, 2010 - What Are The Odds?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Plastics Recycling - Good News and Bad News

A couple of recent online reports highlight the "interesting" times that plastics recycling faces. (By "interesting", I'm referring to the infamous non-Chinese, Chinese curse of living in interesting times.)

First, the good news: The American Chemistry Council is reporting that the recycling rates for plastic films took a nice jump up last year of over 11%. The research organization that performed the study "attributes the gain to a combination of increased collection and more comprehensive reporting." This is pretty important news however, as plastic films are at the frontline in the battle against plastics, i.e., plastic bag bans. I see more and more opportunities of plastic collection sites, such as at the entrances of Target, Walmart and local grocery stores, so there are few excuses for everyone to not stuff the bags in there. (I happen to have a good excuse - I reuse the bags by picking up dog poop.)

But now comes the bad news. Low oil prices are putting a strain on recyclers. Since the price for virgin resins are falling, the price advantage of using recycled resin is disappearing.

Low oil prices will not last forever. The Saudi's have a lot of cash in the bank to live off of, but it won't last forever, so the strain on recyclers will also not last forever. But I am hopeful that the increase in plastic film will continue into next year and beyond.

Previous Years

March 23, 2011 - EVA vs. VAE

March 23, 2010 - Automotive Plastics

March 23, 2010 - Is this a Dagwood?

March 23, 2009 - Natureworks is expanding

Friday, March 20, 2015

March Madness: Brought to you by Plastic

The United States right now is going through "March Madness", the time of year when the annual college basketball tournament takes place. 64 teams are placed in a single-elimination bracket and over 3 weeks, the national champion is decided. But that is not "the Madness". Instead, "the Madness" comes from all the betting pools that are formed in the workplace or with friends. You get a empty sheet with the pairings and have to pick the winner of all 63 games before the first whistle is blown (more on that in a minute) for the first game. If you pick the Drooling Nazg├╗ls from Big State U to win it all and they are eliminated in the 1st round by the Biting Gnats of Tiny Town University, well, better luck next year since your bracket is blown. Correctly picking brackets is rather difficult, and basketball junkies who put a lot of thought into the matter are often made to look foolish by a spouse who picks their teams based on the mascots or the teams jersey colors.

The New York Times yesterday had an article about a tiny piece of plastic that plays a tremendous role in the tournament - the whistles used by the referees. I always figured that the whistle were metal and a had a little ball (called a pea) inside. Wrong and wrong. They are plastic and pealess. Being pealess means that the pea can't get stuck to an interior wall due to saliva or dirt building up (or the official blowing too hard!). Being pealess also means that the internal geometry is pretty complicated and molding it from plastic is a necessity. Here's a look at the one of the drawings from the US patent covering the whistle (# 5,816,186)
Fox 40 Whistle
The two parts need to fit together to form the main chamber. Could you make this from metal? Probably. Is it worth it? Hardly.

The article revealed an interesting twist about the whistles used in this basketball tournament. They are not entirely plastic. (Gasp!)
"Each whistle hangs on a lanyard. And just below the whistle is a clip that holds a black wire with a tiny microphone. The wire is wrapped around the lanyard, tucked inside the collar of the official’s striped shirt, and plugs into a box clipped to the belt.

It is the Precision Time System, invented in the 1990s by the former N.B.A. referee Mike Costabile. Each time the referee blows the whistle, the game clock, if it is running, stops. To start the clock, the referee reaches to the box on the belt and pushes a button.

It is choreography that few fans notice. But eliminating the reaction time of a clock operator on the sideline — who pushes a button after hearing the whistle — saves at least 30 seconds of action in a 40-minute college game, tests showed."

I'm not so sure that that extra 30 seconds is worth it to me. After all, it would have changed the outcome of the SMU/UCLA game in a way that would have significantly favored my bracket selections. Well, better luck next year.

Previous Years

March 12, 2013 - Lubricating liquids

March 12, 2012 - The Mixed Up World Views of Paracelsus