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In my third week at sea, we saw two container ships in different quadrants of the horizon. I was startled and recoiled from the sight; they were the first indications of human life we had been able to see with the naked eye in about a week. One of my shipmates noticed and said, “I…

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Science in the Time of Coronavirus has involved, for me at least, a lot of reading and writing. It’s hard, having come to graduate school hoping to do research on real-world environmental problems, to put that work aside and wait. But that is exactly what we have to do, for now, while the people who…

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Ten years ago, almost to the day, disaster struck. The rig exploded, the pipe burst, eleven people breathed their last breaths, Macondo crude rushed up from the deep to the light of day. This story might be getting old for those who have read my blog before: Everything here always links back to the Deepwater…

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I wrote previously about how sunlight exposure can influence the fate of oil slicked on the surface of the ocean after an oil spill. In this post, I’ll share how photochemical reactions, or reactions caused by sunlight exposure, are also an important player in carbon cycling and climate change. What is carbon cycling, and why…

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Entropy is a squirrely concept that strains the patience of many a student taking a physical chemistry course. Mathematically abstract and conceptually weird (for lack of a better adjective), entropy is something I have to reread the basics on every time I stumble across it. Wrapping my mind around entropy often ends with me shoving…

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Sunlight exposure alters the composition of oil by photochemical reactions. Note the transformation of anthracene, a compound which does not contain oxygen (“O”), to anthraquinone, which does. For many months now, I have been rereading the same scientific article, working (hopefully) towards a better understanding of it. The article is the story of some detective…

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Note: I have changed the names of my Mexican friends and teachers in this post. Cambié los nombres de mis amigos y maestros mexicanos en este ensayo. In the Spring of 2016, I was living in the city of Mérida, México. In the mornings I woke up at six, which was when the sun rose…

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By the time I was thirteen, my grandfather could no longer speak. He laughed sometimes, he gestured to things, he sometimes made noises of displeasure. But he was no longer capable of holding a conversation. The tragedy of dementia is always a tragedy, but our particular tragedy, my grandfather’s and mine, was that he lost…

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What does it mean for a chemical to be organic? This question itself might confuse some readers. Outside of chemistry labs and classrooms, many people think of the word “organic” in the context of describing food that has been grown without synthetic pesticides. Similarly, many people think of synthetic pesticides as being synonymous with the…

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Bananas for sale along the roadside. I took this picture near Aracataca, Colombia, Gabriel García Márquez’s hometown and the town which is considered the inspiration for Macondo. On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed eleven people and broke open the BP-owned oil well it had been drawing from in…

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