Archive for October, 2009

Dear Gentle Readers,

For a long time I have been an author and outlet for many in the chemistry community and the run was, to say the least, more than I could have ever expected.  It was through this blog that I found a cathartic release of frustration, anger and, most importantly, the insatiable curiosity I have always had for science.

Some time ago, a reader named Bethany Halford asked me a question about why I blog and I framed my answer in as quotable of a context as I could – because I wanted to see how far I could push this thing.  I think I have pushed it far enough and I have reached the end of my intellectual interest and now wish to divest myself from blogging so that I may completely free myself for the pursuit of other things.  No doubt you have noticed that the frequency of posting has diminished as my other projects have begun to take off and my fullest efforts are required there.

Now that blogging appears to be an activity which is regulated by the FTC, I think it’s safe to say that it has finally arrived.  I now know (or at least I think I know) what it takes for someone to develop a successful web presence and what sort of innovations are needed to build on that presence.  My programming skills are also none the worse for the endeavor.

In any regard, this is the end.  The lights will be shut off next month, the gmail account will no longer be answered and the chemblog store with its catchy EJ cup and functional group poster will be deleted.

Good bye, world.

Yours,

Kyle Finchsigmate

Today I constructed a brand new shelf in my hood.  I love hood shelves.  You can put chemicals on them, solvents, glassware… all kinds of things that would ordinarily go somewhere else more… public.   After I was done constructing my masterpiece I began to admire my handiwork and populate it with things (mostly chemicals) but, while I was standing there talking with my hood neighbor, the consensus was reached that the new shelf begged a novel hood design:  it needed hood Feng Shui.

While I have no idea what Feng Shui actually is, I’m 99% certain it has something to do with colorful fish or those lucky bamboo things they sell at Target and since 99% is basically 100% I figured my hood needs a fish inside of it.

Of course, I’m a realist.  I can’t put a whole aquarium in my hood – that would be chest slappingly short bus retarded.  Since I don’t want to run an air pump through my hood I need a labyrinth fish.  The king of such fish is the betta fish or the Siamese fighting fish.  And  because I’m 99% sure Feng Shi also means making sure your shit matches, it needs to be in a round bottom flask.  (That useless 29/42 ground glass is suddenly less useless!)

So, I’m thinking about something like this:

fishinaflask

I would put the fish in a flask on my shelf, where I would feed it and it could watch my reactions for me at night (and tell me who the fuck keeps turning my hood’s airflow alarm back on).

Alternatively, I could set up an ant farm and run the ant tubes all over my hood.  That would prolly kick ass, too.

I hate technology.

Let me be more specific, actually.

I hate technology that brings people together.  I don’t mind fancy new toys or new medical devices or sexual robots, these are the things that are making the world a better place – I hate technology that not only PUTS me in contact with other people but KEEPS me in contact with other people.  For instance, the most hated thing I have on my person, aside from taint stank, is my cell phone.   If my parents’ bottomless wealth and charity didn’t allow me to own needless gadgetry, I certainly wouldn’t have one at all (but it’s free, and it’s essentially expected that a grown man will have one, so I oblige.)

The next thing I Hate is Facebook, of which I have an account, because it’s essentially obligated of a socially networked person.  Invitations for events, birth announcements, birthdays and anniversaries are all announced over Facebook and if you walk into a conversation about “oh, what are you going to wear to the Tron convention?” and I’m like “huh?” and they’re like “Didn’t you get my Facebook Friend Habilitation Request Poke?” and I’m like “Shut your cum dumpster” but then out loud I say “oh, I don’t check that very often” and then I get this blank look.

The problem is enhanced even more because it seems like entire labs are migrating to facebook style networks where, out of a thirty some people lab, groups of 10 facebook users will cluster into facebook super cliques, which have clique powers that extend beyond the confines of the office.

So, while walking along the beach with my dog, Poopiebutt, I thought back to the olden days of my youth – back to the 1990′s, about how I managed to live my life without these social inconveniences.  Then it hit me.  I JUST HUNG OUT WITH PEOPLE!

Granted, back in the 1990′s, being a teenager was hard.  If I wanted to know what my friends were doing, I had to actually WALK inside my house FIND my phone, DIAL it with telephone numbers I had MEMORIZED and ASK THEM how they were doing.  The chances of them being home were uncertain and if I couldn’t reach them by phone, I’d have to talk to whomever answered and see if they were around.

It was the social equivalent of using an outhouse.

Anyway, you can see where I may be taking this.  Our parents comic lamentation about having to use the television before the advent of the remote is a little more disingenuous when compared to the change of the social norms.  One won’t (or shouldn’t) truly miss the intimacy of a television thanks to the remote, whereas I can easily see a dangerous reduction in real human contact with social networking.  It’s taking us toward a Philip K Dick style meta-reality.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded for discovering that you needn’t have living cells to produce fermentation in 1907 by the notable E. Buchner (who did not, as it turns out, invent the funnel of a similar name).  What were these chemicals?  Hard to say.  I hear Buchner’s NMR wasn’t working at the time so he could only guess, but they were certainly the extracts of whole cells.  (The chemistry Nobel in 1929 would go to the guys who figured out exactly what those chemicals were.. sort of).

Chemists at the time, I’m sure, tossed their bowler hats on the floor and went straight to fisticuffs over the slight.

In 1915, it was awarded for research on chlorophyll – not the synthesis, mind you, just for figuring out that it was there (you’d have to wait until the Nobel in 1930 for the chemistry, again).

In 1946, it was awarded just for crystallizing (and purifying) bioshit.  In 1946 this was a major step… which reminds us how infantile biochemistry was in 1946, considering the first Nobel, 25 years earlier, was awarded for the analysis of chemical dynamics to van’t Hoff… “real” chemistry, it seems, had been… err… established quite a bit more than the ability to purify compounds by 1946.  Chemists would get their Nobel for chromatography a few years later….[shame on us])

In 1947 the prize was given to Robert Robinson for discovering there were chemicals in plants and characterizing a few of them.

1957 – Neucleotides and co-enzymes

1958 – The structure of insulin

1961 – Assimilation of carbon dioxide in plants

1962 – Globular proteins

1964 – X-ray techniques for the determination of biological compounds

1972 – Ribonuclease…

This is getting to a point – the Nobel in chemistry isn’t reserved for proper chemists who work with small synthetic molecules, it’s reserved for people who advance the understanding of chemistry and that makes no distinction between the chemistry done in the flask or chemistry done between a bilayer.  The prize is handed out annually to anyone who produces outstanding work that explains, on a molecular basis, the fundamental actions that occur to transform one substance into another substance, heat or energy.  Consider (if it paints a more obvious picture) that it may have been awarded to the smallest chemist yet and thanks to Yonath, Steitz and Ramakrishnan, we know how that chemist does the chemistry it does.

The structural characterization of the ribosome, an organelle composed of many molecules, may well have fit the glove of the medical prize, but it certainly wasn’t shoehorned (at least when you take history into account) into the chemistry prize.  It was a significant and substantial advancement in the understanding of the chemicals (in this case, large hard-to-crystallize polymers) that compose an organelle.

So, yeah, stomp your feet.  Whatever.  The Nobel, like the Oscar, is an award that is best at glorifying itself, not to highlight the obscure but fascinating fact that you can make retardedly huge branched polymers both convergently or divergently or stick an alkyne to an aromatic halide.  It’s more pomp and circumstance than substance and is probably overrated and biased.  Whatever its defects, it still manages  to end up in the hands of people who do good science.

And Biologists study how fish fuck and birds migrate – proteins are squiggly cartoons to them -  it’s biofuckingchemistry.

I don’t mean to be all salty and shit, since no one was going to pick me but WTF is this? Remember when the Nobel prize in Chemistry was awarded to chemists for… you know… chemistry?

Well, congrtufuckinglations nobel prize winners.  I’m sure my ribosomes are fucking peeing themselves.  So, for real this time, congratulations you three – whoever you are – it was well deserved, I’m sure – I don’t know, of course, because I’m not a goddamn biologist, but other people say you made us aware of the ribosome, so I’ll go with that.

For a less dickheaded (and perhaps more appreciative) analysis of the reviews, you can read it at The Curious Wavefunction.