Inspired by a conflux of events: a post about demos in Mitch’s chemistry community, followed by a dangerous chemistry demo listed in About.com (below the jump), and ‘Things I won’t work with: FOOF’. I thought I’d mention a series of books near to my heart, full of exciting demos for any precocious high school student with an indulgent teacher or any teachers in the audience.

Bassam Shakhashiri’s Chemical Demonstrations : A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry, along with vols. 2,3,4 are the absolute best demo books out there. Check them out on Google book’s preview, then buy, borrow, or steal them if you do demos.

However, there are provisos I would offer to a high school student.  For example, when using cent pieces for their copper content … don’t.  The newer (1981+) American cent coins have a zinc core.  Just grab some copper wire from a hardware store … it’s quite cheap.

All of this brings us to my point … Bassam includes in the book (never intending it for unsupervised student use) the recipe for nitrogen triiodide.

… stop …

Look down at your hands.  Pick your two least favorite fingers … now imagine them reduced to a chunky mist about 6 inches to the right of your body.  If you make nitrogen triiodide without knowing what the hell you are doing that image will become reality.  Ask one of its discoverers: Pierre Dulong ( who discovered NCl3, thanks for the kind note Ender!).

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A Chemistry Fraud Roundup

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, this post is trending high on Google searches for ‘chemistry fraud’.  I’d actually like to do a follow up on some of these cases, so if you’re interested in seeing that, have other cases you’d like listed, or know any of the participants, please contact me in the comments or at: chemistrystatistics AT gmail DOT com
– verpa , 10/20/2010

After reading about the IUCr scandal with some 70 structures invalidated followed by another one this month for another set, it got me thinking about the chemistry scandals that have come to light in the past few years.  It seems as though the number of massive frauds is increasing … or are they just getting becoming more public?  A quick review of some of the biggies ( only chemistry, mind you ): Continue Reading »

VMD and NAMD are two closely linked molecular dynamics tools from the UIUC Computational Biophysics Group.  As you can probably guess from the ‘Biophysics’ header, the emphasis for this suite is on large-scale macromolecular clusters such as proteins or even lipid bilayers, meaning CHARMM and force field models are the order of the day.

Despite the emphasis on biochemistry, there is an interesting tutorial on simulating water permeation through carbon nanotubes.  When I stumbled across that tutorial on the same day I saw a post about desalinization using carbon nanotubes, I thought ‘kismet!’.

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A bit of non-chemistry levity

After the continuing insanity of Amy Bishop as related by the media, I needed a bit of amusement.  For your … mostly my … enjoyment: ‘Crazy Water’ and ‘Flying Mules’.

Crazy Water:

Popular Science is *still* running an ad for a ‘High Bond Angle Water’ machine, which will restore your water’s puny 104 degree bond angle to a mighty 114 degrees.  With its natural vigor restored, your water will cure you of cancer and put oak in your penis, or so the ads assure me.  I won’t bother saying this is crazy, you already know that, and other people have said it better.  But, no joke, even the Yahoo Answers people all agree this is bat-shit crazy.  When people who are talking about how best to deal with a child’s imaginary gay boyfriend are 100% lined up to say that your idea is insane … it’s time to wonder just how far outside the mainstream you have gotten.

Flying Mules:

The New Yorker has a story this week describing how in 1942 the US Army attempted to have twelve mules deploy by parachute.  Six mules were actually ejected from the plane but did not survive the experience.  One can only assume the other six staged a forced takeover in the confusion and demanded to go someplace sunny with lots of hay … more power to them!

As I understand the US Army, you can’t do anything without checking with someone higher up first.  Certainly nothing involving aircraft, so at least two people had to have thought this had a non-zero chance of success.  Just imagine the mules showing up for paratrooper school … Well, I always tell my recruits that a mule could do this job better than them … what the hell.

Apparently the Brits figured out how to actually do thisthe trick is to not strap a parachute to a mule!

I refuse to believe that story.

Two Chemistry Related Stories

Gov. Committee on Improving STEM Education

If you’re like me, you saw saw STEM and thought ‘My god, a committee on Microscopy!  Is there one on NMR?’  But no, STEM means ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’.  For all the acronym love in the hearing, the witnesses had some very interesting things to say.  It’s a bit long and, as a witnesses who thought his mic was off said, ‘I think things went better once we stopped reading from our statements.’

First the less serious bits:

  • The committee chair, IL Rep. Daniel Lipinski, opened with some adorable stories about REU.  He then followed up with a comment about the ‘Grey Tsunami’ of the Sputnik era of American scientists retiring.
  • Much later in (1:09:40) SC Rep. Bob Inglis commented that we apparently need more ‘blond knockout’ scientists to motivate interest in science …  I guess he forgot to add ‘with killer racks’.  As an unattractive scientist, I was mildly offended.

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This post builds on a previous post, if you’re interested, please read it first.  If not … leave.

Previously I showed how to modify the JChemPaint status bar to display the angle of rotation as we drag our molecule through its paces.

Now to do something a tiny bit more useful.  We’re going to add an option to the JChemPaint toolbar that will allow us to specify an exact rotation of our selection.  That was incoherent … fine … how about some pictures instead?

You can also get a combined diff of both of these posts against r15286 of JChemPaint here.
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As another Friday rolls in, I find myself with too many interesting tidbits.  Would you care to relieve me of them?

Chemistry Tasks for the Computer Lab

The good geeks at Slashdot weigh in with their vast knowledge about all things chemical to help a high school chem. teacher decide to do with his kids.  For all the animosity that frequently appears between computer superusers and science, it’s quite good-natured  … if a bit clueless.  Still … imagine asking amature chemists what to teach in a computer class … you’d get equally hilarious answers.

Hearings on Alternate Energy Sources

An interesting post about the new opportunities in getting funding for alternative energy research.  Still, with a name like ARPA, it makes me think of DARPA.  With DARPA no idea is too alternative: Robotic exoskeleton battle suits, no problem! Sharks with lasers glued to their heads … well, we’ll toss that in the ‘maybe’s. Hopefully ARPA won’t be going in the same direction with ideas like this:  Harness the Power of Lightning.  I love Innocentive, but there are just so many problems with that idea.

Totally Synthetic

This one is in honor of an old Orgo. Prof. of mine getting back in touch.  It’s out of my league synthesis wise … where are the metals??? … but it’s interesting to see how the other half lives.  Who couldn’t love: Crambidine though it seems to have gotten them a bit riled up.  If nothing else, the sheer complexity reminds me why I go out of my way to avoid natural product synthesis.

If, like me, you need an organic refresher course, don’t miss MIT’s OpenCourseWare for Organic Chemistry.