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The crazy chemist

Posted 28/09/2010 by KatieJ

Chemists are used to getting a ‘bum rap’ from the media, being portrayed as aloof, unapproachable boffins in lab coats. Or worse than that the image of chemists sometimes bandied about is one of a dangerous, lone wolf individual, cooking up explosives or chemical weapons in the garage or, of course, the enduring Dr Jekyll figure, presiding over colourful bottles of smoking and bubbling liquids.

More recently, however, governments have been eager to recruit chemists, with the UK’s last chief scientific advisor, David King, being drawn from their ranks. And chemistry, and more generally science, has started to be seen as a means of harnessing the UK’s technological and innovative advantages with both main political parties having far more to say about science and innovation at the last election than they have for years. Which is what makes the UK government’s Home Office campaign on the danger of ‘legal highs’ all the more galling, kicking off as it does with the message ‘the crazy chemist needs human lab rats’.

This comes on the back of high profile deaths of young people taking so-called ‘legal highs’ (C&I 2010, 10, 14). These are chemical substances that exist in a legal grey area where molecules that are similar to other banned drugs are openly sold, often over the internet. This has led to a cat-and-mouse game where the government moves to ban one chemical, which is then promptly replaced with a new, slightly different variant.

The campaign ticks many of the chemist stereotypes boxes with the ‘crazy chemist’ in question being someone who could be a poster child for proper face shield protection when carrying out hazardous reactions. In this case the ‘crazy chemist’ has been cooking up new recreational drugs, such as NRG-1, and doesn’t give a damn about what this might do to unsuspecting users.

The Home Office says that the campaign is a humorous take on a serious issue, but at a time when it is trying to encourage more students to take up chemistry, perhaps it should put the crazy chemist back in his box.

Patrick Walter – News Editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    20/08/2011 06:11

    ok, i live in australia and there is alot of these legal highs going around due to the mining industry, when you cut the head of a snake though it seems like two grow back, www.ikronic.com for instance, my friend ordered this and got more stoned then the synthetics, does anybody know whats in this stuff, its amazing to me that this is legal.

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