Friday, September 30, 2011

Now that we have the "Perfect Plastic", you don't need me

I have read way too many PR blurbs that have categorically overhyped research discoveries, but this one is the ultimate. Truly, the ultimate as you can not ever hope to succeed it:

"Scientists and engineers create the ‘perfect plastic’ "

I am not joking about this. That is the actual title of the press release. And the idea is repeated in the second paragraph:"The breakthrough will allow experts to create the 'perfect plastic' with specific uses and properties by using a high-tech 'recipe book'. "

I really can't believe that a good university like Leeds let this out. We don't have "perfect metals", "perfect ceramics" or "perfect anything". All plastics have their strengths and weaknesses and there is not a perfect plastic that can act as an adhesive and a high temperature aerospace material and a low temperature sealant and a structural material and be biodegradable in a landfill (but only once it knows that it is in the landfill) and costs next to nothing to buy and can be processed using an E-Z bake oven and...After all, that would be the perfect plastic in my mind and the mind of many others.

Sadly, I've run into this type of mindless naming before. A person earlier in my life came up with a good adhesive with some new properties and he proceeded to name it "the Ultimate Adhesive". Everyone's response was, "well let's close up shop boys, we've got the ultimate adhesive now. There's no need to work any further in this area." Sure enough, they quickly found a new name for the adhesive that wasn't quite so egotistical.

The Perfect Plastic. Hah!

  • I discuss the actual research (it's actually pretty good) in this post.
  • While many sites ran with the "Perfect Plastic" headline, the Royal Society of Chemistry blog, Chemistry World didn't, and instead entitled it "Solving a tangled polymer problem", which is quite appropriate.

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