Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Environment

Our impact on the natural and built worlds

Environment

Turf Wars

In the 1960s chemists created artificial turf. But are synthetic fields better than natural grass?

Environment

The Best of Intentions

The origins and unintended consequences of U.S. forest-fighting policy.

Environment

A Vulnerable Earth

Through attempts to weaponize Earth itself, Cold War researchers unintentionally created a new understanding of a fragile planet.

Environment

Living in the Town Asbestos Built

Nearly a century of asbestos manufacturing carried the borough of Ambler, Pennsylvania, from bust to boom and back to bust. In recent years Ambler has gotten back on its feet, but its industrial past remains very much present.

Diagram of 1975 Buick Regal's catalytic converter
Environment

Clean Machine

The technology to scrub noxious gases from car exhausts has existed since the 1950s. Why did the U.S. government wait until the 1970s to mandate its use?

Environment

Clearing the Air

Three atmospheric scientists describe carrying their work beyond the lab.

Environment

Leaking Legacy

How did the Hanford nuclear facility become one of America’s most vexing environmental challenges? Jennifer Weeks explores the history and future of the site.

Environment

On Poisoned Ground

The largest accidental release of radioactivity in the United States did not occur in 1979 at Three-Mile Island. That very same year a collapsing dam released a flood of radioactive debris into the Navajo Nation.

Environment

Life in Space

The chemistry of the universe may help explain the presence of life on Earth.

Environment

Loud and Clear

Rachel Carson’s genius lay in pulling together data from many areas and synthesizing it to create the first coherent account of the effects persistent chemicals had on the environment.

Environment

Industrial Vitamins

Rare earth metals are the vitamins of modern technology. How did this group of chemically dull elements become so important and so troublesome?

Environment

The Smell Detectives

During the 1860s and 1870s, was a booming New York City’s stench choking the health from its citizens? Chemist Charles Frederick Chandler aimed to find out.

Finnigan Instrument Corporation Model 1015 GC/MS/DS
Environment

A Measure of Success

When the EPA needed a way to identify and measure pollutants, Robert Finnigan, an ex–Cold War engineer, offered his computerized mass spectrometer for the job.

Environment

An Everyday Poison

The ubiquity of arsenic in 19th-century Britain.

Environment

Changing Views on Climate

Susan Solomon led expeditions in Antarctica and proposed the now-accepted theory about the role of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in creating the ozone hole.

Environment

Manufacturing the Weather

With dynamite and cannons, Robert St. George Dyrenforth hoped to end drought in the late 19th century. This vision of weather and climate control seized the imagination of scientists and businessmen.

Environment

The Greening of Chemistry

Innovations have reduced industry’s impact on human health and the environment while also saving companies money.