SoyChemist writes: On the most recent edition of his new show, Dan Rather reported that the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft may be unsafe. Since then, dozens of news agencies have jumped on the bandwagon. Most of them are reporting that the carbon fiber frame may not be as sturdy as aluminum. Few have bothered to question Rather's claims that the composite materials are brittle, more likely to shatter on impact, and prone to emit poisonous chemicals when ignited. While there is a lot of weight behind the argument that composite materials are not as well-studied as aircraft aluminum, the reasoning behind the flurry of recent articles may be faulty. The very title of Rather's story, Plastic Planes, indicates a lack of grounding in science. Perhaps the greatest concern should be how well the plane will hold up to water. Because they are vulnerable to slow and steady degradation by moisture, the new materials may not last as long as aluminum. Testing them for wear and tear will be more difficult too.
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