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On the impact of social media and Twitter on scientific peer review

I am very pleased to note that an article of mine on the impact of social media and especially of blogs and Twitter on peer review in chemistry in particular and science in general has just come out in a special issue of the journal 'Accountability in Research'. Show More Summary

Distillations Podcast Turns 200

This is Distillations’s 200th episode, and we’re celebrating! We pored through hundreds of shows and...

The Tim Hunt affair is destroying our community from within. We need to not let that happen.

So much ink has been – and continues to be – spilt over the Tim Hunt affair that I have nothing to add to it. The only thing that’s clear by this point is that the episode is more complicated than what it appeared at first. Beyond that you look at the evidence and make up your mind. Show More Summary

Bethe's Dictum: "Always work on problems for which you possess an unfair advantage"

Hans Bethe in his young days Last week (July 2) marked the birthday of the physicist Hans Bethe. Bethe has long been a big hero of mine, not only because he was one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century but also because he was one of its most conscientious. Show More Summary

Book review: Leonard Mlodinow's "The Upright Thinkers:The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos"

Occasionally it is a wise idea to step back and look at all of humanity's intellectual achievements and marvel at what we as a species have achieved and what all we take for granted. What is truly amazing is not that we created thisShow More Summary

skunkbear: The mighty Tremoctopus. Behold! And here’s some...

skunkbear: The mighty Tremoctopus. Behold! And here’s some folks reacting to the blanket octopus (on what appears to be a Japanese game show?): Here’s a strange thing that actually exists. Check out the latest issue of Distillations magazine for the history of even stranger creatures you can believe or not.

John Keats's "Chapman's Homer" (chemistry and drug discovery version)

Inspired by the title of this post. Original version ("On First Looking into Chapman's Homer") Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Show More Summary

The fundamental philosophical dilemma of chemistry

The classic potential energy curve of chemistryhides a fundamental truth: bonds mean short distances,but short distances don't mean bonds Every field has its set of great philosophical dilemmas. For physics it may be the origin of the fundamental constants of nature, for biology it might be the generation of complexity by random processes. Show More Summary

What’s sweet and what’s non-fattening are usually different...

What’s sweet and what’s non-fattening are usually different things, but in 1878 a chemist accidentally discovered a way to have both. Constantin Fahlberg was eating dinner after an exhausting day in the lab when he noticed that his bread tasted sweeter than usual. Show More Summary

Blogroll: Patently inventive

Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, Luke Gamon penned the July 2015 column.  Read more

Making Sexy Catalytic Converters in Power Point

Today, I’ll be moving away from explaining how to use Powerpoint to make sexy molecules and show how it can be used to make compelling science graphics too. In next week’s issue of Chemical & Engineering News I highlight some recent advances in catalytic converter technology. I did not know much about catalytic converter chemistry … Continue reading »

A Lunch Out of this World At a recent convention lunch I got...

A Lunch Out of this World At a recent convention lunch I got an astronomical surprise. BIO, the organizer, does things big. These lunches have about 3,000 attendees and are meticulously scheduled. I’ve seen The Schedule firsthand, and it’s a work of organizational mastery. Show More Summary

Making Sexy Molecules in Powerpoint

Making sexy molecules is a great way to make your science shine. Sometimes you just need that extra umph for your grant or presentation. There are a lot of drawing programs out there so which one should a chemist use? I suggest PowerPoint. All chemists have it installed in their computers, and it only takes … Continue reading »

Want to bind small molecules? Get a backbone

Here’s a paper from the Shoichet lab at UCSF that illustrates one of the major problems that drug designers encounter – predicting conformational changes (“entropy” to a physicist). What the study does is to plug a series of eight very...Show More Summary

We are all Hamiltonians. We are all Newtonians.

Michael Lind is an economic historian who has recently written an excellent history of the United States. Lind divides the thread of American history as flowing in two parallel but competing directions. One thread belongs to the Jeffersonians who oppose central authority and value small government and individual economic initiative. Show More Summary

How the laws of thermodynamics make a case for dynamic monopolies

In his new book on startups Peter Thiel makes a provocative argument about the necessity of monopolies. He points out that in an environment of perfect competition, everyone is so busy competing just to stay even that they would end up with neither the time nor the resources to innovate. Show More Summary

How Linus Pauling almost gave Matt Meselson tellurium breath

Matt Meselson Linus Pauling was the greatest chemist of the twentieth century. Matt Meselson devised the ingenious Meselson-Stahl experiment and almost single-handedly convinced Nixon and Kissinger to get rid of chemical and biological weapons (a feat for which he more than almost anyone else deserves a long overdue Nobel Prize). Show More Summary

The power of blunder – based optimization

I have been trying to optimize a difficult reaction; I thought a presence of zinc chloride might help so I gave this a try and there was an improvement: The results were getting better, week after week. Some time later – by now with improved product purity and filtrability – I begun to wonder if […]

"The greatest catastrophic environmentalist of all was Richard Nixon."

“The greatest catastrophic environmentalist of all was Richard Nixon.” - Historian Jacob...

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