April 16th, 2009 | Comments Off on BLAJLASJAKHLS

I hate writing my thesis because I HAVE NO CONCLUSIVE RESULTS and MY COMPLEXES HATE ME and REFUSE TO BE MADE. Then, when I do make them, THEY DON’T REACT THE WAY I WANT THEM TO.

This is science, I know. As I found on the French Wikipedia Chemistry Portal: Cherchez, et vous trouverez…. autre chose. (Look, and you will find… something else. –Jean Jacques)

On the other hand, seriously, I think I might have missed my calling, folks. I complained a lot about Rousseau (and a little less about Zola) but I honestly did really well on both of my French lit papers. I think I can pretty much just show up to the final, write my name, and pass the course. That’s good because I don’t really plan on studying for it that much.

(ON THE OTHER HAND: I think I might die from the stress sometime between now and the 29th. THAT WOULD NOT BE GOOD.)

Posted in quotidian
August 3rd, 2008 | Comments Off on What the bleep did I know. Honestly.

I have just wasted the past two hours of my life watching What the Bleep Do We Know?! I’d heard about this movie sometime after its initial release and got interested because, well, it purported to be a movie about quantum physics. And reality. This was about the time of my Matrix phase, so it seemed like a perfect fit. I never did get to go see it in theatres, but when I saw it on the library shelf the other day…

Well, it seemed harmless enough at the time.

First of all: Yeah, I harp on about misrepresentations of science a lot. I know. I can’t help it. And no, I’m not a physicist. But I have had to suffer through my share of physics-thinly-veiled-as-chemistry courses, which gives me a decent enough base to tell you this:

Most of what is in that movie is complete and utter bunk.

To be fair, it’s not all bad–things like Feynman’s path integral are adequately treated–but it’s the wacko, Rhonda Byrne Secret-like propaganda that gives me the shivers.

Look, physical reality exists. It’s kind of funky that atoms (and by extension, all matter) are mostly empty space, but when a supposedly insubstantial rock hits a supposedly insubstantial you, it still hurts. It’s not because you think it hurts. Frankly, this quantum-new-age-solipsism really, really bothers me. If reality were as simple as willing it into existence, the world would be completely different.

[edit: I will concede that the “observer effect” is not really something I fully understand, but you can’t transpose quantum-scale phenomena into the world we perceive.]

The experiments with the labelled water are actually a perfect example of “You will find what you seek, if only because you’re completely blind to everything else” which is emphasized at length in the first part of the movie. The photos look like snowflakes to me, so I think they’re of frozen water… and you know what they say about snowflakes! No two alike. You could easily find a “Love” snowflake in the “I will kill you” water and vice versa.

I need to look up that Washington, D.C. study which supposedly reduced crime rates by 25%, but somehow I doubt that claim can be substantiated.

But the most grating aspect of the film was the presentation of JZ Knight–channeling “Ramtha”–as an expert. It got to the point where everytime she was onscreen, I muttered, “What are you talking about?” The tipping point was when she talked about how we have wonderful technology these days–“antigravity magnets and zero-point energy”–which prompted a quick, “WOMAN, DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT ZERO-POINT ENERGY IS?!” (Hint: it’s not a technology we’re going to be harnessing anytime soon.)

I also have issues with electrons “winking into and out of existence”. Remember, I’m a chemist(-in-training). Despite what anyone else will tell you, much of chemistry is concerned with what those flaky electrons are doing at a given moment. Electrons are the basis of chemical bonds. Chemical bonds define molecules. Molecules define… well, you get the picture. The idea that they just arbitrarily disappear is a little much. If the filmmakers are trying to get the point across that we don’t really know whether an electron is a particle or a wave (hint: it’s both!), they needn’t have resorted to such misleading statements.

Then again, I’m not really sure what the point of this film was. Promotion of positive thinking? Inspiring Rhonda Byrne to write The Secret? Persuading the general population that JZ Knight is really Ramtha, whose theories have been validated by academics?

Scientific accuracy aside, all the random CG sequences were quite annoying, and seemed to serve no purpose other than the wow the viewer (and possibly lull them into ascribing more authority than deserved to the film? Hmmm.)

Anyway. I didn’t know bleep, but at least now you do.

Tags: ,
Posted in ramblings
January 31st, 2008 | Comments Off on ARGH

I am now half-convinced that these authors just made this citation up. I’ve looked in the journal and I can’t find it at all.

Posted in quotidian
June 3rd, 2007 | 1 Comment »

Well, my research on artificial sweeteners has led to some people spouting very bad chemistry indeed. For my amusement, I present some questions from Splenda Exposed and my responses as a chemist 8D (that’s how I look with lab goggles, by the way).

Is chorine present in Splenda?
I have no idea what “chorine” is. I don’t even think it’s a word.

Ah, but chLorine? Well, there are chlorine atoms in the sucralose molecule.

Will the chorine in Splenda harm human health? Who says “yes” and who says “no”?
Again, what is this “chorine” business?

Does chlorine cause cancer?
Not according to some people. If chlorine caused cancer, wouldn’t swimming pools use ozone instead? And what about chlorinated drinking water, should we worry about that too?

Is the chlorine in Splenda natural or manmade?
What does this question even MEAN? If you find somebody who can create matter, please let me know.

Also, what difference does it make? If I make water from hydrogen and oxygen, is it any better or worse than water that I’ve distilled from a stream?

Does the chlorine in Splenda break down in the human body? (At least fifteen percent does—read on!)
I think this question wants to ask, “Does Splenda break down into ‘chlorocarbons’ in the human body?” Anyway, I have no answer for this–more research is needed on my part.

Is chorine a chlorocarbon?
(I still don’t know what they mean by “chorine.”) No. Chlorine is chlorine. (Duh.) There is no carbon in chlorine. There is carbon AND chlorine in chlorocarbons.

What is a “chlorocarbohydrate”? (Is there such a thing? Highly questionable.)
Why not? Chemists make up names for molecules all the time. Why does it matter what they’re called? Molecules don’t conform to, or draw their properties from, our names for them; names are after-the-fact pronouncements.

If we can have “chlorocarbons” or “chloroflurocarbons” (CFCs), why can’t we have the label “chlorocarbohydrate”?

Posted in ramblings
April 7th, 2007 | Comments Off on Research

Candy-related research! And I’m just in time, too.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in snippet
September 22nd, 2006 | 2 Comments »

Okay, so in a desperate attempt to keep myself from falling into depression as a result of physical and organic chem, I’ve been reading stuff to remind myself about why I like chemistry.

I just found another reason. Apparently, there is a molecule named “Catherine,” (note the C!) and this is its structure:

catherine - the molecule

Plus, if you have the CHIME plugin installed, you can look at a 3D rendering, as well.

And if you just want to learn about other molecules with weird names: http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/sillymolecules/sillymols.htm

Posted in snippet
May 1st, 2006 | 1 Comment »

I love this “free time” concept.

I spent today reading Speaker for the Dead, the sequel to Ender’s Game, and I like this one a lot better. A lot. I hadn’t realized a sci-fi novel could get so emotional; I must have cried five or six times reading that book.

See, Game left me feeling like I didn’t really want to read the next one, but Speaker really invites me to go on. Fun stuff. :biggrin:

I have to point out, though, that I really, really, really don’t think Card is a scientist. His explanation for the piggies’ life cycle makes no sense, unless he’s purporting that their genetic material behaves differently from ours. That implication doesn’t seem to be present, though, as it’s referred to as DNA. And DNA, as I know it, can’t do the things that he suggests it does.

Tags: ,
Posted in ramblings
March 26th, 2006 | 2 Comments »

(First off: Note to Sarah. Yes, I have heard of Vienna Teng, but I didn’t give the poor girl much of a chance–I think I downloaded “Harbor” just before the Great Format. So now, upon your urging, I’m kinda seizing upon every mp3 I come across. Sorry, I’ve been busy completing my CORE OF SOUL collection.)

I’m an organic chemist for all of three hours every week. Just so you Arts students (and non-organic chemists) understand what this feels like, I’m reproducing a page from my lab notebook):

10:10 Finish assembling app. Charge 50 mL rbf w/2 g 5-t-butyl-m-xylene and stirbar. Cool 5 mL HNO3/7 mL H2SO4 in Erlenmeyer.
10:15 Begin addition of cooled acidic mixture to reaction vessel. Reaction mixture turns pale yellow. Brown deposits on wall of flask?
10:25 Finish addition.
10:30 Switch ice bath for oil bath. Power: 7 Temp: 50 ºC
10:40 110 ºC reached. turn power to 5. Reaction mixture turns orange. Yellow/orange fumes being evolved into condenser.
11:15 Remove oil bath, switch for ice bath.
11:35 Transfer to 40 mL ice
12:00 Triturate + air dry crude pdt
12:10 Receiver weight: 48.78 Receiver + crude pdt: 54.70
12:20 Set up reflux apparatus. Add EtOH to cover crude pdt. Heat Thermowell.

And it kind of disappears after that. Of all the times to have a fire alarm–it just happens to be at the end of a lab. Just as I’m about to finish. (My observations should go on to recount the pale yellow crystals afforded from recrystallization, but I was just concerned about getting out of there. Besides which, they’re not collecting the observations from this lab, anyway.)

Posted in ramblings