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Home Science Under Attack In Massachusetts 1334

Posted by kdawson
from the and-the-yellow-phthalate-too dept.
An anonymous reader tips a guest posting up on the MAKE Magazine blog by the author of the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. It seems that authorities in Massachusetts have raided a home chemistry lab, apparently without a warrant, and made off with all of its contents. Here's the local article from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. "Victor Deeb, a retired chemist who lives in Marlboro, has finally been allowed to return to his Fremont Street home, after Massachusetts authorities spent three days ransacking his basement lab and making off with its contents. Deeb is not accused of making methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. He's not accused of aiding terrorists, synthesizing explosives, nor even of making illegal fireworks. Deeb fell afoul of the Massachusetts authorities for... doing experiments... Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for [the Massachusetts town of] Marlboro stated, 'I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.' Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: 'Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down.'"
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Home Science Under Attack In Massachusetts

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  • And they say ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slashdotlurker (1113853) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:14PM (#24571835)
    ... that something is wrong with Kansas ?
    These hyper-red and hyper-blue states both have issues with people. The former set of control freaks try to make you a religion borg while the latter set of control freaks try their hand making you a state-uber-alles borg.
    • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:24PM (#24572059) Homepage
      There used to be american kids studying home chemistry. We used to have kits to build rockets.

      Now, a bunch of silly fools that never took chemistry even in college are doing their best to outlaw what every intelligent child in the 60s and 70s did for fun.

      As a result, the US has not been doing groundbreaking chemistry in over a decade.

      Granted, computers are a big lure, but chemistry is the basis of our industry. We need to ENCOURAGE kids and adults to do chemistry, not prevent it with idiotic, foolish laws.

      If it is not more dangerous than fertilizer and diesel fuel, or styrofoam and gasoline, than it should be legal for a 16 year old kid to buy in the mail, without a license.

      Anythinge else is rank hipocracy and stupidity.

      P.S. I am not recommending a 12 year old do explosive experiments unsupervised, but I hate to tell you, THEY DO IT ANYWAY. They just go and get an aerosole can and a lighter, instead of ordering a kit.

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:34PM (#24572301)
        Computers also have stupid laws restricting them. What is a better way to teach kids about P2P? Either have them A) Learn about it or B) download from TPB and they will learn that way.
      • by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:35PM (#24572325) Journal

        My dad took my chemistry set away when I almost blew the house up. But this 4th of july my old friend Mike's seventeen year old son showed me a brand new way of blowing stuff up; it's in one of my NSFW journals. Anyway, put a little "Works" toilet bowl cleaner in a plastic bottle, but a strip of aluminum foil in it, screw on the cap, shake it, toss it down and walk away and it waill react violently and noisily, louder than a shotgun blast.

        The kids are indeed doing chemistry.

        • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:22PM (#24573317) Homepage Journal

          I was doing this as a teenager (the early 1990s) and ended up getting into a small bit of trouble over it.

          Basically, as a prank, we set off about 20 of these things outside of a kids window late at night. Using 2 liter bottles they really do sound like shotgun blasts. THe smaller 16oz bottles aren't as loud but we had plenty of them mixed in as well.

          Well, the kids parents didn't think this was very funny at all, and we all knew each other (these were "BBS acquantances") and we got hauled into the police station. Everyone's parents were also there.

          The cops were asking how we learned to do this. I fibbed a bit and said that we learned it in chemistry class... basically HCL and metal causes an acid-metal reaction, and releases a ton of gas. The principles of acid-metal reactions are certainly well-explained in HS chemistry, and that's what I said.

          One of the moms was like "WHY ARE THEY TEACHING THIS KIND OF THING IN SCHOOL?" and got all emotional about it. I continued lecturing: "actually, this is simply basic chemistry, and it is important that kids are taught this kind of thing. we chose to use this knowledge to be mischevious" blah blah blah.

          A few years later we heard of kids doing the same stuff and they got in _way_ more trouble over it. Times and attitudes have changed and this kind of stuff isn't funny anymore (well, it is, but not many people who matter think so).

          The happy ending of this story is that I made one more of these things for a practical project / application talk in a later HS chemistry class. The class got to go outside and watch me set one of the things off. As long as I was able to explain the chemistry sufficiently and keep the class interested in chemistry, the teacher was all for it.

          My father in law's mom was a science teacher; he'd give her a list of stuff to order periodically and she'd get it for him without asking questions. He blew up the kitchen table once. Another time he set a forest on fire with a frenell lens and some magnesium. He ended up getting a Chemical Engineering degree later in life and these days is one of the foremost industry experts at what he does. Nobody ever got hurt and society is certainly better for his contributions as an adult.

          It's important to let kids be kids. Curiosity is the most important thing in a child, and one reason that I'll be homeschooling my son. He's too important to let "them" ruin his future.

      • by Nerdfest (867930) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:39PM (#24572419)
        Thanks to the school system, I don't this this science stuff is going to be a problem in another 10 years or so.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:53PM (#24572741)

        The problem is that the stupid people aren't dying anymore.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:35PM (#24572307) Homepage

      Honestly the only solution to the Hyper red and Hyper blue is to shine a lot of Hyper white light on them. These "security and Fraidycat freaks go scattering when they have a bright light shining on them.

      I really hope someone uncovers Pamela Wilderman personal information and posts it so that everyone here can voice their concerns to her on her home phone, email, work phone, cellphone as well as other Police officials that did not right away reprimand her and fire her for home invasion.

    • by ivan256 (17499) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:41PM (#24572461)

      Exactly. The far left and the far right both have exactly the same goal: To tell others how to live their lives. They only way they differ is in how they think people's lives should be lived.

      Interestingly enough, people I meet from both sides are typically keen on telling you how they think others should live, but not too keen on being told how to live themselves.

    • by stonecypher (118140) <(stonecypher) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:42PM (#24572505) Homepage Journal

      Oh shut up, it's one small town's small-time comptroller, not a vast conspiracy by hyperblue states.

    • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:59PM (#24572861) Homepage Journal

      Well, you're the victim of a bad article summary.

      There's no problem with experimenting, the issue is how much chemicals you can store of on your site and dispose of through municipal services like trash removal and sewer without a permit.

      Details in the article are a bit thin, but nobody is getting raided in Massachusetts for doing chemistry set scale stuff.

    • Re:And they say ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:32PM (#24573503) Homepage Journal

      Mod points be damned - I'll ditch them to get in on this thread. There's nothing about this story that is intrinsically left- or right-leaning, despite the temptation to apply that often imaginary dichotomy to everything under the sun. It's also not some indication that both liberals and conservatives are out to destroy chemistry as we know it, violating our rights as they go along. I ask the Libertarians to at least tentatively withdraw your attack dogs. Let's examine what we know.

      The meat of the case against Mr. Deeb is in this statement, which was not fully quoted in the summary because it comes from the MAKE article, which truncates it:

      Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro's code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws.

      That's from the source article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. It indicates that this wasn't just some dude with a home chemistry set and a nifty hobby; Deebs was doing "research and development." This doesn't make him dangerous, but it's entirely possible that he really was violating local zoning laws. Neither the MAKE article nor the Worcester Telegram & Gazette article specifies which zoning laws were violated, nor which chemicals were involved.

      So this may be a case of law enforcement overstepping its authority (and either liberalism or conservatism run amok, depending on whose adherents you think are more likely to try to convince us that chemists in basements are scary), but it may also be a case of Marlboro's "code enforcement" officers following perfectly valid (albeit annoying) zoning laws. Whether or not the laws are overly strict, I don't see anything in this article to indicate that Deeb's fundamental rights were violated ... except the bit about a lack of warrant. The MAKE article has this to say about that alleged Fourth Amendment infraction:

      In effect, the Massachusetts authorities have invaded Deeb's lab, apparently without a warrant, and stolen his property. Deeb, presumably under at least the implied threat of further action, has not objected to the warrantless search and the confiscation of his property.

      However, the original Worcester Telegram & Gazette article doesn't say anything about the absence of a warrant, and the MAKE article does not cite any other source. If that allegation is true, the Marlboro authorities have some explaining to do. But these sources are too limited to know for sure. I did a search on Google News and found this article [metrowestdailynews.com], which was the only one about these events that I cound find. While it also mentions that Deeb is cooperating with authorities, it doesn't mention warrants. Fourth Amendment violation? Who knows. Let's all get on with what we were doing before this "firestorm" erupted and reconvene when we have something solid and legitimate to complain about.

    • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:56PM (#24573911) Journal

      Maybe if you RTFA you would've seen that the issue wasn't his interest in chemistry. The problem was that they came to put a FIRE OUT and found ~1500 bottles of chemicals that could've posed a major fire hazard. This was in a residential neighborhood (e.g. close houses), not an industrial park.

  • by cybrpnk2 (579066) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:14PM (#24571847) Homepage
    Chemistry for chemistry's sake has been banned all along. Check out this article [about.com] on how to get your banned pdf copy of one cool 1960s chemistry book with some not-so-cool experiments...
  • by fractalus (322043) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:15PM (#24571859) Homepage

    This is what the environment of hysteria is doing to the US.

    Who exactly is terrorizing us these days? Seems like our "elected officials" just want us to be scared all the time so we won't really think about what's going on.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:37PM (#24572371)

      In 30+ years of life, the only people who have directly terrorized me are police officers.

      I live in the United States of America.

      • by wolf12886 (1206182) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:08PM (#24573051)

        I wish I had mod points for this, I've had the same experience.

        Also, I'm just going to f***ing say it, I'm not the least bit afraid of some guy building a bomb or buying an "assault weapon", and killing me with it. Yes, it could happen, but I could also be struck by lightning, get hit by a car, or any number of other things (all of which would probably be more likely), taking chances is simply part of life.

        What I am afraid of is our growing police state. Right now its disarmament of the population, and overly restrictive laws that can be enforced at the governments discretion, all made possible by the gradual repealing and (appalling) reinterpretation of protections designed to guard us against this sort of thing, God knows where all this is going.

        Come to think about it, I'd feel a hell of alot safer if all my neighbors possessed bombs and actual assault weapons (select fire).

  • Call the FBI? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bryansix (761547) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:15PM (#24571861) Homepage
    SO call the FBI and complain that the local police entered and arrested you without a warrant. Call the local and national media. Make a big stink about it. Start a website. The Massachusetts police are morons and they need to be put in their place.
    • by larry bagina (561269) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:17PM (#24571923) Journal
      post it on slashdot?
    • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:20PM (#24571961) Homepage Journal

      Indeed. Massachusetts, allow me to introduce you to the fourth amendment:

      >i>The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      This fellow needs to make sure that the local authorities are smacked down. HARD.

    • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by richardellisjr (584919) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:32PM (#24572251)

      The article doesn't say anything about him being arrested, just that the police were called and a hazmat team was called. From the article it doesn't sound like he was arrested at all just told to stay in a hotel until the cleanup is done.

      As for confiscation of his chemicals, it sounds like he had way more chemicals than he should need, and wasn't storing them properly. TFA also says that some were potentially explosive and doesn't mention his qualifications.

      Now a lot of people here will be screaming because his property was taken but keep in mind that no illegal search was made (the chemicals were found during an unrelated fire by the fire department), his housing area wasn't zoned for this (do they actually zone housing areas for chemical work?), some of the chemicals were potentially explosive, he had lots of chemicals some in large quantities, he wasn't arrested just asked to leave during the cleanup, his qualifications sound like a hobbyist not a professional.

      I don't know about you but I'm not sure I'd want a hobbyist with an extremely large amount of potentially explosive material (stored improperly) doing "experiments" next door to me and my family.

      • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LionMage (318500) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:26PM (#24574427) Homepage

        As for confiscation of his chemicals, it sounds like he had way more chemicals than he should need[...]

        So the government is in the position to decide how much of something a person needs in their home? "Hey, this guy's a Mormon and he's hoarding a year's worth of food in his home! Nobody should need to keep a year's worth of food in his home!" (Many of my Mormon friends routinely keep that much food on hand, and I'm told this is common.) "Hey, this guy's an audiophile and he's got scads of speakers and amplifiers all over the place! Nobody needs that much consumer electronics in his home!" Or, particularly relevant to people in places like Arizona (where I live), "Hey, this guy has a huge gun collection! Nobody should ever need more than one firearm! Heck, who needs guns at all, unless they're in law enforcement?"

        If you want to argue about proper storage, fine. But don't start talking about what you think someone needs or doesn't need. That's not for you to decide.

        TFA also says that some were potentially explosive and doesn't mention his qualifications. [...] his qualifications sound like a hobbyist not a professional.

        He's a retired chemist. That's plenty of qualification in my book!

        In case you missed it, the first five words of TFA were:

        Victor Deeb, the retired chemist[...]

        How is it that you could miss the very first sentence of the article and say you don't see any mention of his qualifications, and then turn around and make the claim that you think you know what his qualifications "sound like"?

  • Chemicals (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmpeax (936370) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:15PM (#24571877)
    While I agree that this seems rather overzealous on the part of authorities, the original article [telegram.com] mentions something that may be fair:

    There are regulations about how much [of various chemicals] you're supposed to have, how it's detained, how it's disposed of.

    Depending on the specifics of what this guy's dealing with, he may be subject to rules regarding the safe disposal of certain chemicals, etc.

    • Re:Chemicals (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bryansix (761547) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:17PM (#24571925) Homepage
      Yes, but you usually get a warrant before you bust into someone's house.
    • Re:Chemicals (Score:5, Informative)

      by c41rn (880778) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:19PM (#24571941)
      For what it's worth, the comments in the linked article say, "What Victor Deeb was working on is the elimination of Bisphenol A, Bisphenol F, (used in container closure coatings) PVC, pthalates (used in food container sealants) BisPhenol A, Bisphenol F and pthalates ( carcinogens) have been detected in baby food, and Dioxin( a very powerful carcinogen the product of incinerating food container closure to recover the metal) from the environment"
    • Re:Chemicals (Score:4, Informative)

      by pxuongl (758399) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:24PM (#24572055)
      and also if the original article was actually read before making a sensationalist headline and summary, this isn't as bad as it's made out to be:

      1. there was a fire in an air conditioning unit in the home.

      2. the fire department responded, and in the course of responding, found hundreds of vials of chemicals.

      It's illegal to enter a private residence w/o a warrant, but in this case, the home owner invited the cops in when he called the fire department.

      only lesson to be taken home here: hide your stash before calling the cops
  • How Dismal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:16PM (#24571891) Journal
    I wonder how long before people in possession of scary "hacking software and equipment" are subjected to similar intrusions? Welcome to the NewUSA, where all knowledge is classified.
    • Re:How Dismal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cheerio Boy (82178) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:31PM (#24572223) Homepage Journal

      I wonder how long before people in possession of scary "hacking software and equipment" are subjected to similar intrusions? Welcome to the NewUSA, where all knowledge is classified.

      This has already happened once to a friend of mine who collects large systems and does component-level development.

      The local HOA lady called the cops because he had so many computers that "He must be doing something illega! Look at all those wiiiires!"

  • by WrongMonkey (1027334) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:17PM (#24571907)
    If you have enough laws, then anyone is a criminal. They'll either claim its a violation of zoning ordinances, environmental hazard or an OSHA violation.
  • I miss freedom (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Attackinghobo (1212112) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:18PM (#24571931)
    Don't you?
  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:18PM (#24571933) Journal
    This is just another representation of the government attempting to control the lives of citizens under the guise of protecting the masses.

    Although he could be using his home chemistry lab to do illegal things, the government should not be allowed to enter and seize on the ability to do wrong, only on the reasonable suspicion.

    If the ability to cause problems was a legitimate reason to stop someone from practicing their hobby, then what about gun enthusiasts? What about drunks? And what about people with cars?

    I don't care if you have a home chemistry set, just don't blow up my house.

    Once you infringe on my rights, you're in the wrong - and that applies equally to the government!
  • He didn't conform! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:18PM (#24571935) Homepage

    This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.

    So his ''crime'' was to do something slightly different from the rest of the population.

    Then I got to thinking: What is normal, what does Mr average do in his spare time ? Does this mean that anyone who does anything except: watch TV, visit shopping malls or go to the pub is weird and so under suspicion ?

    I think that I'll put my walking boots on and think about it on a long stroll .... drat - that'll put me under the microscope :-)

  • by PenguinX (18932) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:18PM (#24571937) Homepage

    There are always people with authority and the stupidity to use it. So he's been shut down, yes it's terrible - and illegal - and unconstitutional. Perhaps the best way to show your outrage: buy his book: at $29 bucks, why not? That way, just in case justice is not done, he will be able to be well financed to return to his work.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:19PM (#24571947) Homepage Journal

    The EAA had the same fight about home builders.
    For those that don't know the EAA represnts people that build their own airplanes or restore old ones. At least one town made it illegal. The EAA usually fights such things and often wins.
    Too bad there isn't an EAA for Chemistry.
    BTW I am a member of the EAA :)

  • Massachusetts... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EEBaum (520514) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:20PM (#24571967) Homepage
    Probably thought he was developing a new kind of hoax device [wikipedia.org].
  • Welcome to the club. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bryanp (160522) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:21PM (#24571977)

    There have been similar problems for those who handload ammunition. "Oh my god, this man had 12 pounds of gunpowder in his garage! And look at all this ammunition! It's an arsenal of destruction!"

    And no, that's not hyperbole. It's happened. Generally only in places like California or Massachusetts, with their high proportion of Gun Fearing Weenies(tm), but not exclusively.

  • BS editorializing (Score:5, Informative)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:26PM (#24572123)
    The summary text

    "Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: 'Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down."

    appears nowhere in the linked article, yet kdawson has chosen to sensationalize by adding his own words and making it look as if they were part of the article.

    In fact the article actually states:

    "Mr. Deebâ(TM)s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties. "

    • Re:BS editorializing (Score:4, Informative)

      by skyshard (1067094) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:34PM (#24572293) Homepage
      actually, that quote is from the MAKE article/guest post thing by Robert Bruce Thompson: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/08/home_science_under_attack.html [makezine.com]

      [...]Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for Marlboro, stated, "I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation."
      Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: "Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down."
      In effect, the Massachusetts authorities have invaded Deeb's lab, apparently without a warrant, and stolen his property[...]
  • by Quirkz (1206400) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:27PM (#24572133) Homepage
    From the article: "Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws."

    After reading the article, I'm pretty unimpressed with the selective quoting in the blurb. Not only were laws broken, but from the description of the house, it sounds like there was at least a little reason to want to investigate, if perhaps not launch a cleanup. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:30PM (#24572195) Homepage

    This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.

    I find it troubling that hobbyists are less trusted than corporations (assuming that these same experiments, performed by a corporation, would pose no problem - which I think the above quote pretty clearly implies). First, it is a really stupid idea from the American economy standpoint - we've made a lot of hay in this country's history on garage hackers (think: personal computer, for example). Second, what exactly makes corporations (which are made up of individuals) more trustworthy than non-corporate individuals? Timothy McVeigh? USAMRIID Anthrax. This is utterly stupid, and clearly the result of a panic'd mind more concerned with a pretense of safety than with the success of this great nation.

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:36PM (#24572327)

    Firefighters found more than 1,500 vials, jars, cans, bottles and boxes in the basement Tuesday afternoon, after they responded to an unrelated fire in an air conditioner on the second floor of the home.

    Vessels of chemicals were all over the furniture and the floor, authorities said. The ensuing investigation involved a state hazardous materials team, fire and police officials, health officials, environmental officials and code enforcement officials. The Deebs were told to stay in a hotel while the slew of officials investigated and emptied the basement.

    Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro's code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws.

    "It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood," she said. "This is Mr. Deeb's hobby. He's still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. ... There are regulations about how much you're supposed to have, how it's detained, how it's disposed of."

    Mr. Deeb's home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties.

    "He's been very cooperative," Ms. Wilderman said. "I won't be citing him for anything right at this moment."
     

    Really, the above is a bit far from the inflamitory accusations of ironshod goosestepping that the blog author insinuates.

    There is a difference between having a hobby bench and doing 'science' and running a chem lab. One is harmless, the other is only harmless when you take the proper safety percautions.

  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@brouha[ ]com ['ha.' in gap]> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:37PM (#24572359) Homepage Journal
    Then I saw little Tiffany. I'm thinking, y'know, eight-year-old white girl, middle of the ghetto, bunch of monsters, this time of night with quantum physics books? She about to start some shit, Zed.

    Men in Black

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:38PM (#24572379)
    As usual on Slashdot, what the submitter says happened and what the article says happened aren't the same.

    According to the article:
    A fire broke out on the 2nd floor of the subject's home. In the process of responding to this, firefighters found a LOT of chemicals, about 1500 different ones to be exact. The home was not zoned to be a chemical lab, so doing so much chemical work there violated zoning laws.

    So while it's quite fun to blame "evil" governments, had a fire not broken out nothing would have happened. And nobody who's railing about the government seems to have any smart ideas on how a home user is going to properly dispose of chemical waste in a legal and environmentally sound way. For all we know he was just dumping stuff down the toilet, which probably isn't legal.
  • by DigitalReverend (901909) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:48PM (#24572635)

    I contacted Ms. Wilderman, who actually answered her phone. http://www.marlborough-ma.gov/Gen/MarlboroughMA_Inspection/index [marlborough-ma.gov]
    Pamela A. Wilderman Code Enforcement Officer 508 460-3765

    She stated that the fire department was called for an apparent fire on the 2nd floor of Mr. Deeb's home. This allowed the firemen entry into the house. Upon further investigation (of the basement for a 2nd floor fire) the firemen discovered the chemicals and brought in the authorities.

    Ms. Wilderman said "We have zoning laws for this purpose, the firefighters were called into what they thought was a single family residence only to discover unmarked chemicals in the basement, he had a chemistry lab down there, in an area zoned residential". I informed her that I had an electronics lab, and beer brewing equipment in mine to which she made the comment "I bet your neighbors are thrilled about that". Of course I don't think my neighbors even know because they all mind their own business.

    Anyway this brings up a series of questions. Were the chemicals truly unmarked? Mr. Deebs is a retired chemist, surely he would practice some type of protocol. Second, if his activity is not illegal where is the justification of not only seizing the items, but then stating they will be disposed of. Will Mr. Deebs be reimbursed. What if they went into the basement and discovered a person to hand loads his own ammunition? It is a perfectly legal hobby practiced by shooters all over the country. Would they have seized those items?

    Finally, I would love to hear Mr. Deebs story on this. His reputation is being destroyed over a simple hobby.

  • by FellowConspirator (882908) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:55PM (#24572781)

    Even the newspaper article linked by the person making the sensational claim doesn't support the claim. The story appears in several places and the facts in each don't support the thesis that "Home Science is Under Attack".

    The chemist in question had a fire in his house. While the fire department was responding to the fire, they happened upon the lab with an unusually large array of chemicals and equipment. They asked the man what he was doing with them and he noted that he was a retired chemist, doing his own development at home now, and was even patenting and marketing some of the things he developed.

    The fire marshall was concerned that the lab might pose a fire hazard and contacted the DEP per the usual protocol, and they went through and checked it out. They notified the town of the situation, who noted that he was doing commercial chemical R&D (by his own admission, he was) in a residential area in violation of applicable zoning laws. The DEP was required to "close" the lab and clean up any chemicals for which there's a prescribed disposal procedure (e.g., you're not supposed to pour large quantities of it down the sink).

    The guy broke zoning laws and he got caught because of an unrelated fire in his house. That's it.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:58PM (#24572855) Journal
    40 years ago, this man was considered the norm. We did chemical experiments in our house. NOBODY thought it was bizarre. This man writes a book on how to learn about chemistry at home and they raid his home without a warrent?????? Here in America, We have entered a VERY dark age.
  • by thepacketmaster (574632) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:05PM (#24572983) Homepage Journal
    The poster wrote:

    Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for [the Massachusetts town of] Marlboro stated, 'I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.'

    The actual article says:

    Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro's code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws. It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood," she said. "This is Mr. Deeb's hobby. He's still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. ... There are regulations about how much you're supposed to have, how it's detained, how it's disposed of."

    Either the poster didn't properly read, or he/she just considers zoning bylaws useless. For those that do think zoning bylaws serve no point, let me reference the recent propane explosion [cnn.com] that occured in the middle of a Toronto residential neighbourhood, leaving two people dead and hundreds of homes damaged, and is now the subject of a zoning review [thestar.com]

  • by Arccot (1115809) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:30PM (#24573459)
    Uggg... more knee jerk reaction to a pretty obvious case of prudent police work.

    There's a fire in his house. The fire dept. and police come, and put out the fire. In the process of putting out the fire, they notice hundreds of vials of chemicals. Not in a rack, not on a shelf, not even on a table, but all over the place. On the floor, on furniture, everywhere. No reasonable chemist would be dumb enough to do that with any chemicals.

    What would you want the police to do? Walk out without doing a little due diligence? There's a good chance he is storing these chemicals unsafely, and he is endangering his life and possibly others as a result. So they call in the experts to clean it up. And then they take a look at what he's done wrong, and probably will give him a fine and a slap on the wrist.

    It's amazing how many Slashdotters don't even bother to do a bit of research before coming to their black-and-white conclusion about how The Man is bad and this poor fellow is being an upstanding citizen with his rights violated. How dare the police invade this man's home! It's an attack on science! They hate the science!

    RTFA!

    There are alot of Slashdotters that seem to take pride in their critical thinking, intelligence, and analysis skills. Honestly, alot of you really don't demonstrate it very often here. It's more like a lynch mob than a bunch of intelligent people discussing issues.

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