Chemistry Blog



Feb 27

Which science does the most magic?

by Mark | Categories: fun | (103263 Views)

A few weeks back  Vittorio had a pop at Sigma-Aldrich for marketing fluorosulfuric acid-antimony pentafluoride as ‘magic acid’.  Which got me wondering, just how common is magic in the sciences? And which disciplines are the most mystical?

“Magic’s just science we don’t understand” Arthur C. Clarke

So I checked. A search for ‘magic’ in titles of articles using Scopus pulls up 8,698 hits. That’s a far bit of magic. The Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes (MAGIC) telescope accounts of 141 of them. And since we all know that acronyms don’t count as magic we’ll chuck them out. That leaves 8,557 magical articles.

Let’s also dismiss the arts, humanities and social sciences (not that I have anything against them, but a lot of their studies are investigating magical beliefs, and so they aren’t actually doing any magic). Which takes us to 7,223 articles.

I think we should also bin conference papers because they might have been written by a computer, and there’s nothing mystical about that (down to 6,467 now).

Which means the top 3 most spellbinding sciences are….

Medicine is the clear winner with 1,675 articles. Second there’s physics (and astronomy) with 1,397 publications, and coming in a close third we have chemistry with 1,348 papers.

So there you have it, medics do the most magic.

But hang on a second, there’s something not right here. I think there’s a secret coven tucked away somewhere. And I’m sure it’s made up of those trick solid state NMR spectroscopists and their MAS experiments, or Magic Angle Spinning to use the full incantation. These practitioners of the darker NMR arts manage 1,734 articles by themselves, whilst all the time disguised within the midst of medicine, physics and chemistry.

Who then is the master wizard, with 46 articles? It’s none other than the supposedly mythical Griffin.




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  1. fluorogrol

    My memory of solid-state NMR is that they all come out looking like Batman’s head. Is that magic?

  2. Mark

    That would be Pake patterns (, but now that you mention it Batman’s head spectra (BHS) is more descriptive. I must try and sneak that into a paper.

    But you don’t get BHS with magic angle spinning, which seems appropriate given that Batman got his powers from technology and not the supernatural.

  3. fluorogrol

    Wow, it all fits. And I’ll never look at British Home Stores in the same way again.

    So magic acid/magic methyl out, magic-angle spinning in.

  4. Alex

    SSNMR spectra of quadrupolar nuclei can look like Batman’s head, too, particularly when the EFG tensor is axially symmetric. In this case you would still observe the pattern when using MAS.

  5. Tabitha

    Hello, would you be interested in helping me with a question. I’m writing a romantic suspense about a stalker who wants to harm the heroine. Is there a product, either a powder or preferable a granule that would pass for bath salts, that would be corrosive to the skin if it were substituted and used as bath salts? I promise I’m not a crazy person, I only play one in my book. 😉

    Thank you for your help, if you have the time? Tabitha

  6. Tabitha

    Hi again, I just realized that it would be dangerous to name such a product in public, so I’ve decided to re-word it in my manuscript and not actually identify anything specific.

  7. Tatvachintan

    Interesting talk going on here. I agree with authors on point of true magician 🙂

  8. Cody

    Cool article. Medicine definitely would be the winner in my eyes.

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