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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...

Feynman to Wolfram: "You have to extract yourself from the organization in order to run it"

Imagine you are an ambitious scientist or entrepreneur wanting to start and run a scientific organization along the lines of your own notions of creativity and rigor. What would be the best way to do this? In a letter written in response...Show More Summary

6 ways to tackle #chemperceptions

Tweet Follow @Sci_ents Tweet #Chemperceptrions The overwhelming message to come out of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s study into the UK public’s perceptions of chemistry is that people just don’t know what it is chemists do. So in case you are stuck for ideas on how to spread the message here’s my top 6 ways to tackle #chemperceptions … Continue reading »

In the late 1970s after the end of the Vietnam War, many...

In the late 1970s after the end of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese and Laotian people began noticing that a sticky yellow liquid periodically rained down from otherwise sunny skies. Witnesses claimed the strange substance would kill plants and sickened people. Show More Summary

Spread the world about chemistry & don’t fret the chemophobia

Tweet Follow @Sci_ents Tweet #Chemperceptrions  At times chemists can feel rather maligned. But according to the RSC’s study of the UK public’s perceptions of chemistry we shouldn’t be quite so worried about what people think of us.  We do however need to get out there and let people know what we do. The other sciences seem to … Continue reading »

John Nash's nighttime chalkboard scribblings

From physicist Peter Woit's blog comes a link to a PDF document containing a transcript of the bizarre scribblings that John Nash used to leave at night on the blackboards of the math department at Princeton when he was at the peak of his illness in the 70s. Show More Summary

Materials Girl: End of the beginning

Just a few months ago, I was floundering to bring my projects to a reasonable stopping point and unify them into a coherent story (aka: my dissertation). The postdoc in our research group assured me that any self-perceived lack of direction...Show More Summary

On the ethics of that "chocolate sting" study

By now many people must have heard of the so-called "chocolate sting" carried out by scientist and journalist John Bohannon. In a nutshell, what Bohannon did was to carry out a fake study on a very small sample of people that purported to investigate the effects of a chocolate-laced diet on weight. Show More Summary

Distillations Podcast: Acts of God, Acts of Men

Mother Nature can do a lot of damage. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and droughts destroy...

John Nash's work makes as good a case as any for the value of curiosity-driven research

What's the mark of a true genius? A Nobel Prize based on work that someone did in their PhD thesis at age 22? The fact that their theories are used in a stunning variety of disciplines, from economics to biology to government welfare?...Show More Summary

There’s something interesting brewing…

There’s something interesting brewing over at the Royal Society of Chemistry. They’ve been beavering away trying to figure out what the (UK) public thinks for chemistry, chemicals and chemists. Results are out on Monday 1st June via a live-stream. Be sure to tune in and join in the conversation on twitter with the #Chemperceptions hashtag. And … Continue reading »

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