I have for perhaps the last 25 years been urging publishers to recognise how science publishing could and should change. My latest thoughts are published in an article entitled “The past, present and future of Scientific discourse” (DOI: 10.1186/1758-2946-3-46). Here I take two articles, one published 58 years ago and one published last year, and attempt to reinvent some aspects. You can see the result for yourself (since this journal is laudably open access, and you will not need a subscription). The article is part of a special issue, arising from a one day symposium held in January 2011 entitled “Visions of a Semantic Molecular Future“ in celebration of Peter Murray-Rust’s contributions over that period (go read all 15 articles on that theme in fact!).
Archive for the ‘General’ Category
Bonds are a good example of something all chemists think they can recognise when they see them. But they are also remarkably dependent on context. We are running a molecular modelling course at the moment, and I found myself explaining to someone how very context-sensitive they can be. I thought it might be useful to collect my thoughts here. (more…)
In two previous posts, I have looked at why cis-butene adopts conformation (a) rather than (b). I suggested it boiled down to electronic interactions between the methyl groups and the central alkene resulting in the formation of a H…H “topological” bond, rather than attraction between the H…H region to form a weak chemical “bond“. Here I take a look at what happens when that central C=C bond is gradually removed.
I wrote earlier about the strangely close contact between two hydrogen atoms in cis-butene. The topology of the electron density showed characteristics of a bond, but is it a consensual union? The two hydrogens approach closer than their van der Waals radii would suggest is normal, so something is happening, but that something need not be what chemists might choose to call a “bond“. An NCI (non-covalent analysis) hinted that any stability due to the electron topologic characteristics of a bond (the BCP) might be more than offset by the repulsive nature of the adjacent ring critical point (RCP). Here I offer an alternative explanation for why the two hydrogens approach so closely.
Steve Jobs death on October 5th 2011 was followed by a remarkable number of tributes and reflections on the impact the company he founded has had on the world. Many of these tributes summarise the effect as a visionary disruption. Here I describe from my own perspective some of the disruptions to chemistry I experienced (for another commentary, see here).
The properties of electrons are studied by both chemists and physicists. At the boundaries of these two disciplines, sometimes interesting differences in interpretation emerge. One of the most controversial is that due to Bader (for a recent review, see DOI: 10.1021/jp102748b) a physicist who brought the mathematical rigor of electronic topology to bear upon molecules. The title of his review is revealing: “Definition of Molecular Structure: By Choice or by Appeal to Observation?”. He argues that electron density is observable, and that what chemists call a bond should be defined by that observable (with the implication that chemists instead often resort to arbitrary choice). Here I explore one molecule which could be said to be the focus of the differences between physics and chemistry; cis-but-2-ene.
A Matryoshka doll is better known as a Russian nesting doll. They can have up to eight layers. Molecules can only emulate two layers, although see here for a good candidate for making a three-layered example (the inside layer is C60, which itself might encapsulate a small molecule. See also DOI: 10.1021/ja991747w). These molecular dolls can be created out of quite simple molecules. Here I explore just one, and focus on what is happening inside!
In his famous lecture in 1959, C. P. Snow wrote about the breakdown in communications between the “two cultures” of modern society — the sciences and the humanities (arts). That was then. This is now, and the occasion of my visit to a spectacular “city of arts and sciences complex” in Europe. An un-missable exhibit representing science and life was the 15m high model of DNA. Now to be fair this is styled an artist’s impression, and one presumes that an artist is allowed license. But how much license? And at how much expense to the science? And is there a counterbalance to the art where the science is fastidiously (but artistically) preserved?
In 1923, Coster and von Hevesey (DOI: 10.1038/111182a0) claimed discovery of the element Hafnium, atomic number 72 (latin Hafnia, meaning Copenhagen, where the authors worked) on the basis of six lines in its X-ray spectrum. The debate had long raged as to whether (undiscovered) element 72 belonged to the rare-earth group 3 of the periodic table below yttrium, or whether it should be placed in group 4 below zirconium. Establishing its chemical properties finally placed it in group 4. Why is this apparently arcane and obscure re-assignment historically significant? Because, in June 1922, in Göttingen, Niels Bohr had given a famous series of lectures now known as the Bohr Festspiele on the topic of his electron shell theory of the atom. Prior to giving these lectures he had submitted his collected thoughts in January 1922.
- N. Bohr, "Der Bau der Atome und die physikalischen und chemischen Eigenschaften der Elemente", Zeitschrift f�r Physik, vol. 9, pp. 1-67, 1922. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01326955