Posts Tagged ‘chemist’

OpenCon (2016)

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Another conference, a Cambridge satellite meeting of OpenCon, and I quote here its mission: “OpenCon is a platform for the next generation to learn about Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data, develop critical skills, and catalyze action toward a more open system of research and education” targeted at students and early career academic professionals. But they do allow a few “late career” professionals to attend as well!


The demographics of a blog readership – updated

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

About two years ago, I posted on the distribution of readership of this blog. The passage of time has increased this from 144 to 176 countries. There are apparently between 189-196 such, so not quite yet complete coverage! 2015
Of course, it is the nature of the beast that whilst we can track countries, very little else is known about such readerships. Is the readership young or old, student or professor, chemist or not (although I fancy the latter is less likely). Another way of keeping tabs on some of the activity are aggregators such as Chemical Blogspace, which has been rather quiet recently. Perhaps we have become too obsessed by metrics, and with the Internet-of-things apparently the “next-big-thing”, the metrics are only likely to increase. This will only encourage “game playing“, and I urge you to see a prime example of this in the UK REF (research excellence framework), the measure which attempts to rank UK universities in terms of their “excellence”.


Chemistry in the early 1960s: a reminiscence.

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

I started chemistry with a boxed set in 1962. In those days they contained serious amounts of chemicals, but I very soon ran out of most of them. Two discoveries turned what might have been a typical discarded christmas present into a lifelong career and hobby.


Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate + carbon dioxide → carbon fixation!

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate reacts with carbon dioxide to produce 3-keto-2-carboxyarabinitol 1,5-bisphosphate as the first step in the biochemical process of carbon fixation. It needs an enzyme to do this (Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, or RuBisCO) and lots of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, produced by photosynthesis). Here I ask what the nature of the uncatalysed transition state is, and hence the task that might be facing the catalyst in reducing the activation barrier to that of a facile thermal reaction. I present my process in the order it was done.


More joining up of pieces. Stereocontrol in the ring opening of cyclopropenes.

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Years ago, I was travelling from Cambridge to London on a train. I found myself sitting next to a chemist, and (as chemists do), he scribbled the following on a piece of paper. When I got to work the next day Vera (my student) was unleashed on the problem, and our thoughts were published[1]. That was then.



  1. M.S. Baird, J.R. Al Dulayymi, H.S. Rzepa, and V. Thoss, "An unusual example of stereoelectronic control in the ring opening of 3,3-disubstituted 1,2-dichlorocyclopropenes", Journal of the Chemical Society, Chemical Communications, pp. 1323, 1992.

Shared space (in science).

Friday, January 6th, 2012

I thought I would launch the 2012 edition of this blog by writing about shared space. If you have not come across it before, it is (to quote Wikipedia), “an urban design concept aimed at integrated use of public spaces.” The BBC here in the UK ran a feature on it recently, and prominent in examples of shared space in the UK was Exhibition Road. I note this here on the blog since it is about 100m from my office.


Are close H…H contacts bonds?

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The properties of electrons are studied by both chemists and physicists. At the boundaries of these two disciplines, sometimes interesting differences in interpretation emerge. One of the most controversial is that due to Bader (for a recent review, see DOI: 10.1021/jp102748b) a physicist who brought the mathematical rigor of electronic topology to bear upon molecules. The title of his review is revealing: “Definition of Molecular Structure: By Choice or by Appeal to Observation?”. He argues that electron density is observable, and that what chemists call a bond should be defined by that observable (with the implication that chemists instead often resort to arbitrary choice). Here I explore one molecule which could be said to be the focus of the differences between physics and chemistry; cis-but-2-ene.


Breakdowns in communication: the two cultures

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

In his famous lecture in 1959, C. P. Snow wrote about the breakdown in communications between the “two cultures” of modern society — the sciences and the humanities (arts). That was then. This is now, and the occasion of my visit to a spectacular “city of arts and sciences complex” in Europe. An un-missable exhibit representing science and life was the 15m high model of DNA. Now to be fair this is styled an artist’s impression, and one presumes that an artist is allowed license. But how much license? And at how much expense to the science? And is there a counterbalance to the art where the science is fastidiously (but artistically) preserved?


Molecular illusions and deceptions. Ascending and Descending Penrose stairs.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

It is not often that an article on the topic of illusion and deception makes it into a chemical journal. Such is addressed (DOI: 10.1002/anie.201102210) in no less an eminent journal than Angew Chemie. The illusion (or deception if you will) actually goes to the heart of how we represent three-dimensional molecules in two dimensions, and the meanings that may be subverted by doing so. A it happens, it is also a recurring theme of this particular blog, which is the need to present chemistry with data for all three dimensions fully intact (hence the Click for 3D captions which often appear profusely here).


The handedness of DNA: an unheralded connection.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Science is about making connections. Plenty are on show in Watson and Crick’s famous 1953 article on the structure of DNA (DOI: 10.1038/171737a0), but often with the tersest of explanations. Take for example their statement “Both chains follow right-handed helices“. Where did that come from? This post will explore the subtle implications of that remark (and how in one aspect they did not quite get it right!).