Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

July 29, 2012

Cyclopentadiene: a hydrocarbon at the crossroads of …

Filed under: Uncategorised — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Rzepa @ 3:43 pm

organic chemistry. It does not look like much, but this small little molecule brought us ferrocene, fluxional NMR, aromatic anions and valley-ridge inflexion points. You might not have heard of this last one, but in fact I mentioned the phenomenon in my post on nitrosobenzene. As for being at a crossroads, more like a Y-junction. Let me explain why.


July 22, 2012

QR codes and InChI strings.

Filed under: Chemical IT — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Henry Rzepa @ 8:37 am

A month or so ago at a workshop I was attending, a speaker included in his introductory slide a QR (Quick Response) Code. It is a feature of most digital eco-systems that there is probably already “an app for it”. So I thought I would jump on the band wagon by coding an InChI string. Here it is below:


October 24, 2011

Science publishers (and authors) please take note.

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!).


October 18, 2011

The perception of stereochemistry. A challenging case.

Filed under: Uncategorised — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Rzepa @ 9:45 pm

Most representational chemistry generated on a computer requires the viewer to achieve a remarkably subtle transformation in their mind from two to three dimensions (we are not quite yet in the era of the 3D iPad!). The Cahn-Ingold-Prelog convention was a masterwork (which won the Nobel prize). It is shown in action for the molecule on the left below. The CIP notation was actually generated by Chemdraw, and required a fair sprinkling of wedged and hashed bonds to (try to) remove stereoambiguity and generate the labels (try it for yourself). As part of a lecture course on pericyclic reactions, I tell the students that the reaction involves a [1,3] sigmatropic migration of the red carbon and that this migration proceeds with inversion of configuration at this migrating carbon (as the selection rules require). Perceiving what the correct CIP product label should be (with inferred stereochemical labels, resolving ? into either R or S) is IMHO one of the most difficult conceptual experiences in all of organic chemistry. I have over the years struggled to find a way of revealing this in lecture notes (these struggles with the “lecture notes” will be the topic of a future post here). However, I think I may have finally cracked it; my solution is set out below!


April 29, 2011

What is the future of books?

At a recent conference, I talked about what books might look like in the near future, with the focus on mobile devices such as the iPad. I ended by asserting that it is a very exciting time to be an aspiring book author, with one’s hands on (what matters), the content. Ways of expressing that content are currently undergoing an explosion of new metaphors, and we might even expect some of them to succeed! But content is king, as they say.


December 24, 2010

Embedding molecules in blogs: ChemDoodle, WebGL and SVG

If you get a small rotatable molecule below, then ChemDoodle/HTML5/WebGL is working. Why might this be important? Well, the future is mobile, in other words, devices that rely on batteries or other sources of built-in power. This means the power guzzling GPU cards of the past (some reach ~400 Watts!) cannot be used. Rather than using e.g. a full power OpenGL library, one will use Web-based graphics libraries, which (to quote Wikipedia) extends the capability of the JavaScript programming language to allow it to generate interactive 3D graphics within any compatible web browser. A typical target device might be for example Apple’s iPad (for which the redoubtable Jmol, which is based on Java, is unlikely to ever work).


December 7, 2010

Data-round-tripping: wherein the future?

Moving (chemical) data around in a manner which allows its (automated) use in whichever context it finds itself must be a holy grail for all scientists and chemists. I posted earlier on the fragile nature of molecular diagrams making the journey between the editing program used to create them (say ChemDraw) and the Word processor used to place them into a context (say Microsoft office), via an intermediate storage area known as the clipboard. The round trip between the Macintosh (OS X) versions of these programs had been broken a little while, but it is now fixed! A small victory. This blog reports what happened when such a Mac-created Word document is sent to someone using Microsoft Windows as an OS (or vice versa).


November 20, 2010

Data-round-tripping: moving chemical data around.

For those of us who were around in 1985, an important chemical IT innovation occurred. We could acquire a computer which could be used to draw chemical structures in one application, and via a mysterious and mostly invisible entity called the clipboard, paste it into a word processor (it was called a Macintosh). Perchance even print the result on a laserprinter. Most students of the present age have no idea what we used to do before this innovation! Perhaps not in 1985, but at some stage shortly thereafter, and in effect without most people noticing, the return journey also started working, the so-called round trip. It seemed natural that a chemical structure diagram subjected to this treatment could still be chemically edited, and that it could make the round trip repeatedly. Little did we realise how fragile this round trip might be. Years later, the computer and its clipboard, the chemistry software, and the word processor had all moved on many generations (it is important to flag that three different vendors were involved, all using proprietary formats to weave their magic). And (on a Mac at least) the round-tripping no longer worked. Upon its return to (Chemdraw in this instance), it had been rendered inert, un-editable, and devoid of semantic meaning unless a human intervened. By the way, this process of data-loss is easily demonstrated even on this blog. The chemical diagrams you see here are similarly devoid of data, being merely bit-mapped JPG images. Which is why, on many of these posts, I put in the caption Click for 3D, which gives you access to the chemical data proper (in CML or other formats). And I throw in a digital repository identifier for good measure should you want a full dataset.


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