Posts Tagged ‘chemistry’

Further adventures in chemistry

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the endochronic compound thiotimoline, first reported by noted biochemist Dr. Asimov. No? His original publication on the subject is a model of scientific writing, as is apparent in this excerpt from “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline” (Asimov, 1948).

It has been long known that the solubility of organic compounds in polar solvents such as water is enhanced by the presence upon the hydrocarbon nucleus of hydrophilic – i.e., water-loving – groups, such as the hydroxy (-OH), amino (-NH2), or sulfonic acid (SO3H) groups. Where the physical characteristics of two given compounds – particularly the degree of subdivision of the material – are equal, then the time of solution – expressed in seconds per gram of material per milli-liter of solvent – decreases with the number of hydrophilic groups present. Catechol, for instance, with two hydroxy groups on the benzene nucleus, dissolves considerably more quickly than does phenol, with only one hydroxy group on the nucleus. Feinschreiber and Hravlek in their studies on the problem have contended that with increasing hydrophilism, the time of solution approaches zero. That this analysis is not entirely correct was shown when it was discovered that the compound thiotimoline will dissolve in water – in the proportions of 1 gm./ml. – in minus 1.12 seconds. That is, it will dissolve before the water is added.

Not current on your organic chemistry? Then just read the final sentence of the above excerpt, though I do recommend making an attempt at the full paper linked above.

Dr. Asimov went on to publish several more studies on the subject, including “The Micropsychiatric Applications of Thiotimoline” (Asimov, 1953) and “The Marvellous Properties of Thiotimoline” (Asimov, 1957).

Other scientists have picked up the topic, expanding greatly on the potential applications of this compound.

A 1989 letter to the British Medical Journal clarifies the history of thiotimoline research (Croall, 1989).

A researcher at Sun Microsystems has been pursing the use of thiotimoline for debugging computer systems (Davidson, 2001):

We have used thiotimoline to build a silicon debugging platform that works as follows. We apply a functional test to two units under test (UUTs) running in lockstep. When the test system detects an error in unit A, a signal alerts special equipment to add water to a thiotimoline sample. Exactly 1.12 seconds before the water is added, the thiotimoline dissolves. This action triggers the sending of a signal, which travels to unit B and stops its clock after a programmable number of cycles. The 1 s between the addition of water and the thiotimoline’s dissolution is far longer than the error latency.

“Yet Another Application of Thiotimoline” appeared in the same journal, IEEE Design & Test of Computers, in the subsequent year (Nelson, 2002). The author proposes a thiotimoline-based keyboard to help overcome writer’s block.

Dr. Asimov himself returned to the study of thiotimoline in 2007, to propose an application in the social sciences: using a telechronic battery to prevent election fraud.

Earworms are for Science!

If humans love anything, it’s our tools. Yes, hammers and wrenches and probes and mass spectrometers, but also the subtler tools. Tools that help us play well together, like the arts, and tools that help us learn. Like science.

Humans also love shortcuts. There’s a reason articles on tips, tricks and secrets are so popular on the web. And we writers are anything but immune to the temptation of the cheat – what is storytelling but a canny twist on reporting?

Because everyone finds devices of one kind or another irresistible, I’ve dug up a few of the mnemonic sort that make an infamously formidable tool rather more approachable. Yes, thanks to the magnificent multi-tool that is arts, Ye Olde Periodic Table of Elements earworm has a few new music videos.

Watch and learn, then pass them on. After all, isn’t that why we built the internet – to share information?

YouTube Is The New Substitute Teacher

School, like most of everyday life, is at times boring and occasionally a waste of time. We can place blame for that squarely upon the education system and teachers, or share it with parents if we’d like to keep diplomacy in the PTA. But although it’s true that the adults who shape and deliver education as we know it are largely responsible for what we learn and how well we learn it while we are children, we have nobody but ourselves to blame for allowing ignorance to persist after we grow up.

No matter how dreadful your education experience was as a child, if you reached adulthood literate enough to use the internet, then you should find developing a passing acquaintance with basic science concepts both convenient and entertaining. The idea that learning should be fun and easy is so compelling that YouTube is positively swarming with video bloggers enthusiastically sharing knowledge.

Because I am a science enthusiast and a lifetime devotee of independent study, I’ve compiled a video playlist of some of my recent favorites in that genre. To eliminate some common misconceptions, the playlist opens with the definition of science. From there, it builds from some interesting basics about water and carbon, covers some of the science frequently botched by Hollywood and in other fiction, and demonstrates that girls plus math equals win. Then follows a musical interlude, but it’s all science, so it’s all good. The last few are a sampler of videos posted by universities and science publishers for viewers who prefer productions with bigger budgets.

Now all you have to do is watch and learn.