Friday, August 31, 2012

You Wanna Picture Or 1000 Words?

This is part of the problem, not the solution:

Of course, it's all according to plan. Link

Friday, August 24, 2012

Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Dust Bunny Queen linked this video in a comment, which got me all interested in Sandy Denny. Sandy Denny recorded a duet with Robert Plant. I failed to acknowledge her back here: link

As for the question "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?"  I suspect that time is conserved somehow, like other physical quantities such as energy.

Thanks DBQ!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer's Almost Gone...

San Onofre Beach
Photo taken from the cliffs above San Onofre Beach.  The beach was immortalized by The Beach Boys in "Surfin' USA"

Friday, August 17, 2012

Battle Speed!...Attack Speed!...Ramming Speed!

Pure Morpheme Drip

I just rediscovered the word morpheme and realized that that was what I wanted to call purine here.

Purine is a chemical morpheme. Not the word purine, but the two fused rings. There are other chemical morphemes, of course, but that's what I was trying to convey back there.

When I google "chemical morpheme" I get this, which is kinda sorta what I mean.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Case You Missed It...

...the best "Downfall" parody ever:

Monday, August 13, 2012

The High Road

Take a ride
Take a ride and keep on going
Look around
Look around and just keep going
The white lines
The white lines the side of the road
They go on
They go on right to your home

See the signs
See the signs upon your way
On the ground
On the ground is where you'll stay
It's gonna rise
Gonna rise and carry us home
Gonna rise
Gonna rise and carry us home tonight

Now it's time
Now it's time to let 'er go
That's right
Let 'em know just where they're going
It's gonna rise
Gonna rise and carry us home
Gonna rise
Gonna rise and carry us home tonight

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's about the Honor

I spent last evening at a fundraiser for a local VFW.  My neighbor is a retired marine and he invited the whole family. We had a great time and we dropped a lot of cash. I even won a gift basket raffle which was full of dog treats so everybody got something out of a worthwhile night.  Of course I drank a bit more than I should have and ended up peeing on visiting the Jane a couple times.

I may be eligible to become a card-carrying auxiliary member on account of my dad's service during Korea.  I balked at first because I thought it was sort of piggybacking on his service, but one of the guys quickly reminded me that it was a way of honoring him.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pure Enjoyment

Consider all the English words based around the Greek word logos--derived words like catalog, prologue, dialogue, logogram, zoology, even's a root word with countless derivatives. Logos is to words what the substance purine is to the chemistry of life.

Purine is ubiquitous and underlies a great deal of biochemistry. It, along with the even simpler pyrimidine, are the core base pairs in DNA and RNA. Purine is also the basis for a surprising number of familiar Genußmittel--things like caffeine and theobromine (the stimulant in chocolate). The German word Genußmittel is bit like Schadenfreude and has no literal equivalent--the best translation is perhaps "means of enjoyment."  Our own English word (which the French also use) is stimulant.

Of course, purines are not everything--there are also sugars, and amino acids too, which are completely different entities.  Diversity. But we owe our first taste of purine, and the apt name, to a German chemist named Emil Fischer.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chimica Arcana

To grasp the invisible elements, to attract them by their material correspondence, to control, purify and transform them by the living power of the spirit, this is true alchemy. 
~Paracelsus (1493-1541)
Before any sort of chemical bonding was even thought of there were charts of so-called affinities.  I found this interesting chart dating from 1718 on Wiki. It teaches how the then-known "elements" combined with each other. The top row identifies an element and the columns contain those elements with which it combines. Note that sulfur (middle column) was considered the most promiscuous element, consistent with its primacy as the "soul" of matter according to alchemy. Also bear in mind that this simple chart condenses the then known science of chemisty, ca. 1718.  I like the arcane symbols and could see using some them as avatars depending on my mood:

Click to enlarge or see link above
Here are my translations of the "elements."
Esprit acides : Acidic (acerbic) spirits
Acide du sel marin: Lit. acid of sea salt, HCl (which was thought to contain oxygen until Davy showed otherwise: link)
Acide nitreux: Nitric and nitrous acids, HNO3, HNO2
Acide vitriolique: Sulfuric and sulfurous acids, derived from oleum & vitriol.
Sel alcali fixe: Sodium & potassium hydroxides and carbonates.
Sel alcali volatil: Sal ammoniac, NH4Cl, which sublimed and was endlessly fascinating.
Terre absorbante: Silicates (sand) and diatomaceous earth.
Substances metalliques: Metallic substances
Mercure: Mercury was considered to be the spirit of matter.
Regule d'Antimoine: Regulus of antimony--metallic antimony. Regulus means "little King"
Or: Gold
Argent: Silver
Cuivre: Copper
Fer: Iron
Plomb: lead
Etain: Tin
Pierre Calaminaire: Lit. calamine stone, i.e., calamine ore. Note the French place name.
Soufre mineral: Sulfur or brimstone.  This material held a special place in alchemy, along with mercury and salt.
Principe huileux ou Soufre: The oily essence of organic substances from plants, also called the "sulfur." See the interesting discussion under Spagyric.
Esprit de vinaigre: Vinegar or acetic acid
Eau: water
Sel: Salt held a special place in alchemy along with mercury and sulfur.  
Esprit de vin et Esprit ardents: Any of the flammable alcohols derived from fermentation, e.g., ethanol, methanol, etc.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Synthesis v. Analysis

Around the time that America began civil warfare, reports of a new chemical element came from the relative tranquility of Germany. Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff reported in 1861:
Supported by unambiguous results of the spectral-analytical method, we believe we can state right now that there is a fourth metal in the alkali group besides potassium, sodium, and lithium, and it has a simple characteristic spectrum like lithium; a metal that shows only two lines in our apparatus: a faint blue one, almost coinciding with strontium, and another blue one a little further to the violet end of the spectrum and as strong and as clearly defined as the lithium line.
They had discovered cesium which they named after the Latin word meaning "sky blue." 

There had been a 15 year lull in finding new chemical elements between about 1845 and 1860. One reason for this was that many of the "easy" elements had already been exhumed in measurable enough quantities. Here is a timeline of element discovery: link 

The mid-19th century saw advances in both chemical synthesis and chemical analysis. Chemical synthesis, obviously, involves putting things together; analysis means tearing substances down to find out what's there (the same dichotomy exists in writing).

Decades before Bunsen and Kirchoff, Humphry Davy proved the existence of new chemical elements by making them: he electrolyzed sodium and potassium salts, reducing Na+ and K+ cations to their neutral metals.*  Now Bunsen and Kirchhoff had shown the same level of proof through analysis without synthesizing the new element. This paradigm shift was profound and rapidly accelerated the discovery of newer elements (see the timeline).  The next few newly-discovered elements were all named for their unique colors in flame spectra.

Around the same time as Bunsen and Kirchoff, the nascent science (really art) of organic chemistry still lagged because there was no convincing method of analysis which could prove a new organic compound.  There was only combustion analysis--invented in the 1820s by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Justus von Liebig--which involved burning a sample to determine its carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen ratios.  And so, for the time being, the proof of a new organic compound's structure found in nature lay in making it synthetically. Thus began a long and rich tradition of synthetic organic chemistry. It took until the end of the Second World War for analytical methods to catch up.
*The verb "to reduce," in the chemical sense, derives from Latin using the notions of re + ducere = to lead back to (the element).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Conversations with Henry

Henry: Why'd you have to go and mention Henry Eyring?  He's a "hot button" issue in the politics of science.

Me:  Why's that?

Henry: Well, he was a Mormon you know.  He gave up his seat at Princeton to move back to Utah to run things.

Me: Does that even matter?

Henry:  Of course not. But Eyring was one of thosealong with Gilbert Lewiswho should have won the Nobel Prize...but didn't.

Me:  You're not saying that his religion had something to do with why he didn't win?

Henry:  I'm not not saying that. But you do know that he's related to Mitt Romney? link

More Tipping Points And Change

The "tipping point" is a useful construct for understanding how things happen in real life--even in politics--and I tried making this point back here with the help of this graphic:

The notion comes from chemical dynamics which is the study of how chemistry happens at the molecular level. Chemical reactions have hurdles too and that cartoon is an easy way of visualizing energy barriers.

The tipping point is just another name for something important in chemistry called the "transition state." Henry Eyring at Princeton introduced the "activated complex" in 1935 as a specific geometric structure that is highest in energy along the way from reactants to products. Michael Polanyi (Eyring's mentor in Berlin) named it the transition state and that name stuck, but the theory, Transition state theory--remains more closely associated with Eyring.

Transition states are ephemeral, just as tipping points are in everyday life. Who's to say when they occur?  Yet they are the sine qua non of chemical reactivity. Tweeking them--to lower them in energy--is the goal of most chemical catalysis: link  A recent link put up by Instapundit makes this clear.

Fight Liberal Fascism!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Your Move

I've seen all good people turn their heads each day
So satisfied I'm on my way

Take a straight and stronger course to the corner of your life
Make the white queen run so fast she hasn't got time to make you a wife

'Cause it's time, it's time in time with your time and its news is captured... 
...for the queen to use
Move me on to any black square, use me any time you want
Just remember that the goal is for us all to capture all we want, (move me on), yea, yea, yea, yea, yea

Don't surround yourself with yourself, move on back two squares
Send an instant karma to me, initial it with loving care
(Don't surround yourself)

'Cause it's time, it's time in time with your time and its news is captured... 
...for the queen to use 
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda 
'Cause it's time, it's time in time with your time and its news is captured 
For the queen to use 
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda (all we are saying)
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didd (is give peace a chance)
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda

Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didd

'Cause it's time, it's time in time with your time and its news is captured.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Modern Day Animal Magnetism

I mocked animal magnetism back here. But if it hadn't been for Franz Mesmer and mesmerism, Michael Faraday wouldn't have tried to debunk its resurgence. Because Faraday discovered so many properties of electricity and magnetism, James Clerk Maxwell felt compelled to describe electromagnetism mathematically. Maxwell inspired everybody and led indirectly to a host of predictions and experiments including those by a young Dutchman named Pieter Zeeman who surreptitiously conducted experiments for which he was fired (he later won the Nobel Prize for those experiments). Zeeman's work inspired Johannes Stark's work which in turn inspired Wolfgang Pauli, who in turn inspired Isidor Rabi to propose that certain atomic nuclei should resonate with radio waves when placed in a magnetic field. This idea led to the development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) after the Second World War by Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell. NMR led directly to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

So the basic truth of what Mesmer tried to do--to heal people with magnets--turned into healing people with the help of magnets.

What Ever Happened To Courtney Love?

Courtney Love used to be in a band called "Hole."  I bought one of her songs--"Malibu." She's a pretty awful singer.  She really needs to quit music and concentrate on acting--where she has more natural talent, IMHO. Now I see from this old news report that her mood swings are out of control again--now she's offending and insulting her own daughter.

Oh, yeah Courtney?  You're really starting to look like Baby Jane Hudson--but I think that was your schtick all along.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Christmas In August

I rarely rave about consumer products, but here's one I really like:

Link  It's a "power failure" flashlight/night light. The cylindrical flashlight rests in the bottom portion that plugs into the wall.  It's charged by inductive coupling (no wires or prongs). When you lift the light out of its charging cradle it lights. When the room darkens, the bottom turns into a night light. I'm getting some of these to give as Christmas gifts this year.

A Thermometer of Perturbation

The physics of radiation and understanding the nature of the atom did not consume every scientific imagination at the dawn of the 20th century. Other scientists were busy trying to connect life processes down to the chemical level, rather than trying to build physics up to meet chemistry. The space between physics and biology has always been chemistry's domain.

Other scientists were trying to benefit all of physical science and one prachtig example was  J. H. van 't Hoff*, winner of the very first Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1901.  Van 't Hoff's prize citation reads "for his work on the laws of chemical dynamics and also osmotic pressure." What van 't Hoff did was to apply mathematical prowess to chemical equilibria, showing how balances shift when heated.

Van 't Hoff's eponymous equation relates an equilibrium ratio, K, to absolute temperature, showing how chemical reactions shift according to temperature. The law holds for chemistry, physics, biology, geology, meteorologythe whole broad swathanywhere heat affects chemical balance. In a sense, van 't Hoff quantified Le Chatelier's qualitative principle.

A youthful van 't Hoff also made the visionary proposal that tetrahedral carbon existed and that right and left-handed stereoisomers explained observed optical activity, but he thought it wise to exclude such controversy from his PhD dissertation. Watch this video here: link
*Note the elision of van 't which in Dutch means van het. In German, van het corresponds to von das. Dutch melded the three Germanic genders der, die, and das into just two: de and het.