Category Archives: Chemistry Basics

Favorite Reaction – SN2

My all-time favorite chemical reaction has to be the SN2. This may sound like a cop-out answer to Rachel Pepling’s question, since the SN2 is arguably the second* simplest organic reaction ever, almost more a mechanistic step than a reaction … Continue reading

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A Deuterated Mouse: Isotopes and Phys. Org.

What would happen, hypothetically, if a baby mouse could grow up eating only deuterated food and water? Could you make an unusually heavy mouse?

Posted in Chemistry, Chemistry Basics, Fun Stuff | 19 Comments

Sour Patch Kids are Full of Protons

Take a look at the ingredient list on the back of a Sour Patch Kids bag the next time you go to the movie theater, and you probably won’t be surprised to discover that this gummy candy contains a lot … Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry, Chemistry Basics, Fun Stuff | 5 Comments

A Lexicon of Chemistry Terms to Review Before Attending Your Kid’s Thesis Defense

Hypothetically, let’s say that (1) I graduate someday and (2) my parents come out for my thesis defense. Since I am, in fact, not curing cancer, I fear that my defense will be a snoozer for any non-chemists such as … Continue reading

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A Proposed Modification to the English Language

A Question I begin this post with a serious question, particularly for non-chemists. If I say the following to you, does it make sense? I would love to be done with my taxes by now, but there’s such a high … Continue reading

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Animals and Aminals (and two kinds of metathesis)

Unless Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you know what an animal is. But do you know what an aminal is? Well, it’s two things: (1) A metathesis of the word “animal” (2) A chemistry term for a … Continue reading

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Reliable Information is Written Respectfully

This is part 3 of a 3ish part series on navigating the language of chemicals. Read an introduction, part 1, part 2, and part 2.5 if you wish. When researching the chemicals in a product, the curious consumer will most … Continue reading

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In Defense of Aldehydes

Consider this an unscheduled footnote to part 2 of the ongoing 3 part series on navigating the language of chemicals. Read an introduction, Part 1, and Part 2 if you wish; Part 3 should appear on Monday. While reading about … Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry, Chemistry Basics, Communication | 6 Comments

Myths, Hyperboles, and Buzzwords about Chemicals

This is part 2 of a 3 ± 1 part series on navigating the language of chemicals. Read an introduction and part 1 if you wish. Efforts to make sense of the health and safety information for any given product … Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry, Chemistry Basics, Communication | 20 Comments

What Is – And What Isn’t – A Chemical

This is Part 1 of a 3 ± 2 part series on navigating the language of chemicals. Please see this earlier post for an introduction. If you try to look up the ingredients in Suave shampoo – Google search Suave … Continue reading

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Navigating the Language of Chemicals (Introduction)

A simple Google search for a product or service usually unleashes a flood of sources both denouncing and celebrating it. The chatter accompanying food, health, or beauty products/procedures is often intimately tied to the science of chemistry. Unfortunately, most consumers … Continue reading

Posted in Brazilian Blowout, Chemistry Basics | 13 Comments

Through the Looking Glass

Someday in the distant future, I hope to be able to explain my own research project to my parents without making up lies about how I’m curing cancer. Perhaps if they understand my chemistry a bit, they won’t feel the … Continue reading

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Organic Chemistry Lessons, Courtesy of Hippo et al.

Animal secretions (gross) often contain molecules that perform clever functions.  Here are a few examples, accompanied by morsels of chemistry facts.

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Really, We’re Doing This Again?

More drama on the Brazilian Blowout front.  (For a recap from last time, see here.)  For whatever reason, a BB spokesperson emailed me again this weekend with another press release,

Posted in Brazilian Blowout, Chemistry, Chemistry Basics, Current Events | 7 Comments

Alien Life and the Periodic Table

A “new” life form was documented in a Science article released yesterday.  OK, so it’s not exactly alien life: it was found in California (Earth) and, technically, its unusual characteristics are kind of due to human interference.  Regardless, these little … Continue reading

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Brazilian Blowout and Formaldehyde

Having no reason to do my hair since I’m in lab all day Having naturally straight hair, I don’t usually pay attention to trendy methods of hair-straightening.  Until yesterday, that is, when a colleague pointed out a Fashionista article to … Continue reading

Posted in Brazilian Blowout, Chemistry, Chemistry Basics, Current Events | 23 Comments

The Machinery of Retroviruses Part 2: Using X-Rays to Solve Scientific Problems

(Part 1 here) X-ray crystallography is used by the authors of a recent Nature paper to visualize the structure of certain key molecules relevant to retroviruses.  Though we usually think of X-rays as just a way of looking at our … Continue reading

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The Machinery of Retroviruses Part 1: What is a Retrovirus?

Retroviruses such as HIV are in some ways still a black box to scientists.  The specific details of their mechanism of action are slowly being elucidated, but much is yet unclear. However, an article was published in Nature this past … Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry Basics, Viruses | 1 Comment

Just Enough to be Dangerous

As part of my endeavor to figure out how to explain what I do to non-chemists without resorting to lies and vague generalities, I sat down and thought about atoms and molecules. Though it was a big conceptual jump when … Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry, Chemistry Basics | 2 Comments