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Science illiteracy baffles the public

Peter Junk tells a story of a time when he worked at a regional university and a local company had a major caustic soda spill into a stream. “It was a horrible mess,” he says. “The pH of the stream shot up to something like 14. But the company and the authorities acted quickly, and managed to neutralise the spill. A senior government official visited the scene, and was asked by a reporter from the local TV station whether he was satisfied with the response, now that the stream’s pH had been reduced back to about 7. ‘Not yet,’ he replied. ‘We won’t be completely satisfied until we’ve got it down to zero.’”*

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