The goals of IYC2011 are to increase the public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, to encourage interest in chemistry among young people, and to generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry.
This quote from the chemistry2011.org About IYC page gives us chemists a charge: Embrace the concept that ‘Science is for Everyone’ and help make science in general (and chemistry in particular) more accessible to a wider audience.
This is an awesome charge. The message of the chemist can sometimes be misinterpreted or abused for a number of reasons. One one end of the spectrum, chemistry can be derided as witchcraft of magic by those without a general understanding of the basics of chemistry. On the other hand, chemistry can be proclaimed as an Absolute Truth for political purposes by those without a general understanding of the nuances of chemistry. In the middle are misinterpretations and misunderstandings of the vagueness and imprecision of our esteemed field.
So as IYC2011 draws to a rapid close, what are the 3 things you would hope the general public would see as the take-home message about chemistry? Here’s my 3 Things list:
“Chemical” is not a pejorative.
Chemicals are everywhere. In everything. At all times. There is no such thing as “chemical free.”
For the most part, chemists are not vindictive, manipulative, political, or nefarious. They’re trying to make other people’s lives...
This post was excerpted and featured in a recent edition of C&ENews
No reaction is more elegant, more heartwarmingly satisfying than the Diels-Alder reaction. No reaction is also more nuanced. It appears deceptively simple and yet has the ability to create immense structural complexity often without additional reagents and sometimes solvent-free. Straightforward enough for an undergraduate organic chemistry class, yet intricate enough to spend several days in a graduate organic chemistry class reading into the engrossing story that is the Diels-Alder reaction. It is by far my favorite reaction and the subject of my Blog Carnival Post. And I am grateful to BRSM for deciding not to blog about the Diels-Alder Reaction.
First reported in 1928 by Otto Diels (1876-1952) and his graduate student Kurt Alder (1902-1958), the chemists at once saw the importance of their work and wanted the exclusive rights to utilize their reaction. They write in their 1928 paper: “[T]he possibility of synthesis of complex compounds related to or identical with natural products such as terpenes, sesquiterpenes, perhaps even alkaloids, has been moved to the near prospect … We explicitly reserve for ourselves the application of the reaction developed by us to the solution of such problems.” Fortunately for us, this exclusivity no longer applies. Oh, by the way, the pair won the 1950 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the reaction.
Striped away from all its layers of complexity,...