If a chemist has never been in a lab accident, he has been lucky. Of course luck is more likely to come to those whose mentors have learned from bad experiences and to those who have taken preventive measures seriously, despite their anal nature. Chemical reactions create products with behaviors that differ from those of the ingredients. That's what makes them intriguing, and it's also what makes them potentially dangerous. No matter how simple and controllable a reaction seems on paper, when it's carried out in real life, the exact conditions determine its rate. And when gases or acids acquire too much kinetic energy, no one wants eyes, lungs and flesh in their way.
If you, like me, are possessed with that gene that makes people eat the whole bag of chips (don't laugh - somewhere in that 100,000 words of ENCODE public relations blitzing
, I saw it), there is good news; not all of science is busy curing cancer and solving the big mysteries of the universe.
During London Olympics 2012, Google Knowledge Graph (Ref. 1
) proved to be very useful in knowing about various aspects of the games like player statistics, medal tally of countries, etc. Google Knowledge Graph is a gigantic network containing millions of objects and billions of facts and relationships, where objects are represented by nodes and relationships between the objects (nodes) are represented by edges (Figure 1).Figure 1 : Google Knowledge Graph
I'm not much of a drinker, never have been. I have always assumed it was because I did competitive athletics until I was about 25, which means I was outside the age where you 'learn' to like the taste of alcohol, so I never picked it up.
Older now, I can drink a beer socially and I sometimes drink a glass of red wine because the consensus says it is good for you in moderation, but I am still not really a drinker.
The Space Age began when the Russians launched Sputnik in October of 1957. Thanks in part to the film October Sky and the book Rocket Boys, even today's youth realizes that early achievements from the race to space inspired many students to choose careers in science and technology. The inspirational sighting of Sputnik led a West Virginian coal miner's son to rocket-building, which in turn led to science fairs, industrial engineering and a career with NASA. In fact, the competitive juices stirred by seeing the technological feat of the "enemy" led to the creation of the agency that put men on the moon, and it made Americans revamp their science educational programs. They created Chem Study, PSSC Physics and BSCS biology.
The world wastes 1.3 billion tons of food per year. If only scientists could create a "biorefinery" that could change food waste into a key ingredient for making plastics, laundry detergents and scores of other everyday products. Because wasting less food would just be crazy talk.
The food biorefinery process involves blending the waste foods with a mixture of fungi that excrete enzymes to break down carbohydrates in the food into simple sugars. The blend then goes into a fermenter, a vat where bacteria convert the sugars into succinic acid. Succinic acid is one of those key materials that can be produced from sugars and that could be used to make high-value products - everything from laundry detergents to plastics to medicines.
Drug discovery projects often require analysis and visualization of large number of chemical structures to identify new drug candidates. Growth of chemical databases (Ref. 1
) has made millions of chemical compounds available at chemists's fingertips; however, visualizing so many structures in one go is a major challenge. Usually one would scroll through a simple 'list view' or a 'grid view' (see figure 1) of chemical structures, but that would be a time consuming process for a large number of molecules.
"A chemist", Primo Levi wrote in an essay on carbon, "only has to leaf through a treatise, and memories rise up in bunches." When my wife became curious about the whereabouts of former fellow chemistry graduate students, I suddenly remembered one of my peers nicknamed "Padma". In the lab where I was working on an undergraduate project, he was completing his doctorate on the synthesis of spiroaxane sesquiterpenoids. Spiroaxanes are natural products that are found mostly in various marine organisms and mushrooms. The general class of compounds known as sesquiterpenoids contain 15 carbon atoms; they're made up of 3 basic units of isoprene and can serve as protective agents or chemical messengers.
For life to begin, a combination of inorganic and organic substances need to evolve biochemistry. When 20th century scientists accepted and elaborated on J.B.S Haldane's primordial soup hypothesis, their guesses and suggestive experiments centered mostly around the mature field of organic chemistry. But biochemistry as a science was still in its infancy. Their hunches were like those of aliens trying to account for our transition from hunter gatherer-groups to civilization without understanding the roles of agriculture, division of labor and writing.