Saturday, April 28, 2007

A dream is a wish your blog makes

I've really let this blog go over the last while, haven't I? There are so many great new blogs out there that I haven't had the chance to link to. First off, I wanted to thank everyone who commented on my DOI post; the tips have made thesis-ing go a tad more smoothly. Second, I wanted to let everyone know what I'll be up to next. Soon, I'll no longer be qualified to write from the point of view of a grad student. I've been offered an Assistant Editor position with Chemical and Engineering News. I'm looking forward to getting started, even though the production schedule will mean that the bloggers will scoop me more often than not. :) It's likely that from now on, I'll be posting from meetings, and in another forum. So for now, "She Blinded Me with Science" will be on an indefinite hiatus, while I format margins, apartment hunt in DuPont Circle, and hone my craft at C&EN.*
I'll leave you with a deconstruction of one of the more hilarious commercials I've seen lately. Go to this link, then click the "see the Zoom! TV commercial" box, and prepare to be blown away.
Choice quotes:
" advance so profound, it took a team of scientists years to create."
This was noteworthy because apparently, a lot of scientific advances can be sorted out in a fortnight.
"the patented Zoom! light"
Can you really patent light? Can you forbid, say, the use of the 254nm wavelength without paying extensive royalties? My guess is that they've patented whatever lamp generates the UV light at a controlled intensity that's used in the procedure, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
"breaking down the stains' double bonds"
I love how they threw that in there just to be sciencey. Evidently, the radicals generated by the Fenton reaction (which means the gel contains hydrogen peroxide and some kind of iron or other catalyst) are changing the structure of the stains so they no longer appear colored.

aside: I just did some demonstrations yesterday for 8th graders. Among other things, we bleached shredded carrots (aka, got rid of some of the double bonds.)

I'm really just concerned about the fallout for double bonds everywhere. I hope no one starts a smear campaign. (Double bonds aren't all bad, people! Gleevec's got 'em, hey, even Viagra's got 'em.)

Lastly, I know that when I go to the dentist's office, I wear my slinky little black dress. The black dress is, after all, a wardrobe staple.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

* If you do a Google Image Search for C&EN, you will find pictures that appeared in Chembark, Carbon-Based Curiosities, and the Lieber group webpage in the top hits.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Just try it.

Try googling "masamune effect". It has to be in quotes for this to work. I was looking for a specific reference and was too lazy to go to Web of Science right away. I got a good chuckle for my efforts, but little else.
Sorry I haven't blogged in a bit. I'm recovering from an unfortunate turn of events that I'd prefer not to post about, and my computer time's being eaten up by other things these days.

..when you're done with that, read the real references, if you're so inclined. (I did have to go outside of Google to find them, since this work is mentioned offhand in many more recent papers.)
(a)W. Choy, L. A. Redd III., S. Masamune, J. Org. Chem. 1983, 48, 1137-1139;
(b) S. Masamune, L. A. Reed III., J. T. Davis, W. Choy, J. Org. Chem. 1983, 48, 4441-4444.

Satoru Masamune, while a professor of chemistry at MIT, made many contributions to the field of chemical synthesis. These two papers describe some of his contributions to the Diels-Alder reaction, one of my adviser's favorites.
The Diels-Alder reaction is artistic (it can let us sculpt 3D molecules out of flat precursors), it's green (no waste atoms lying around after the reaction, with just a few exceptions), and chemists have gotten pretty good at controlling and predicting its power.

Back to Masamune's papers. This work describes a small reactant with a defined 3D structure, which reacts very well at low temperatures, catalyst-free (green again, low energy requirement) with a variety of partners. The best part about this reactant was that one could predict the 3D structure of the products for the reaction. Masamune surmised that this was made possible by hydrogen bonding interactions occurring over the course of the reaction. That's a strategy taken straight out of the enzyme's playbook.

I picked the picture because I've always been fascinated by those desk toys. If you could turn the magnet on and off at will, I think it's a pretty decent basic illustration of the concept of building 3D things from flat things.

*UPDATE 4/28/07. Apparently, "She Blinded Me with Science" is now the top hit when you try googling "masamune effect". Neat.