20 November, 2012

Friend. Slave. Industrious.

Richard Friend
Sir Richard Friend
Professor Sir Richard Friend
(building a name for yourself)

As this 'blog is also a diary of my exciting life, I would like to tell you about a lecture I attended this evening. Professor Sir Richard Friend was speaking in the Department of Pharmacology on Tennis Court Road, Cambridge. The title of his lecture was, "Plastic Electronics", and was organised by the CUSS (Cambridge University Science Society) He has set up several companies over the years, and gave a general overview of the topics of Oled's, transistors and solar cells.

At one point he gave the opinion that some working in academia or looking to do a PhD would not choose to work with companies in this area (including companies he founded) because it was "slave labour"! Also, it was "cheap industrial research" and not "fundamental research". I think his point was these companies are just building on his original research, improving lifetime, efficiency, colours, process-ability and the like, rather than exploring totally new areas of SCIENCE.

There was both chemistry and physics terms in his talk and sometimes it got a bit confusing.

 Just realised he looks a bit like the former French president, Nicholas Sarkozy. Lol.

09 November, 2012

Fire safety. Labcoats. Link to ChemBark.

I attended a fire safety training course today with some of my colleagues and some Department of Chemistry PhD people. We got to play around with all the different types of fire extinguishers and put out Pet. ether fires and acetone fires. We also used fire blanket to put out a fire in a barrel. The grand finalé was a demonstration of a fire that could happen in the lab. Beakers of solvents were set on fire and then knocked over (with the handle of a broom), leaving a bench in flames and a pool of fire on the floor. Volunteers from the audience (not me, my scales are far too delicate) then attacked the inferno with various extinguishers (a large foam extinguisher worked best, moving from the floor fire, to the bench).

That's a lot of fire extinguishers...

One thing that caught my attention though, was the lab coats that were there. One was hanging up and one was lying flat on the bench (to demonstrate that one should drop and roll when one is on fire in a lab coat). But also, one was made from polyester, whereas one was 100% cotton (to be a proper scientific experiment they should have had a) one cotton lying down, b) one cotton hanging up, c) one polyester lying down, d)one polyester hanging up) I digress. Obviously the synthetic material burned faster and became brittle and charred, whereas the cotton turned black, but was still pliant and identifiable as a fabric. When I got back to my lab afterwards I checked my labcoat. 65%polyester blend. Oh F* I'm Going To Die In A Horrible Fire. Even worse, I'll be wearing polyester blend when I do it.

This evening at home I used a popular search engine to find out more, and ChemBark wrote an excellent post on this subject two years ago (soon after the Sheri Sangji case). I strongly encourage you to read it (go! now. Use the link there in the first sentence. I'll wait here. If you've reached this far, you clearly have an interest in lab safety. Go on.) He was discussing what to look for when buying a labcoat. Where I work, I am provided with a labcoat the same as everybody else's. After reading ChemBark's post I'm nervous about not having a better lab coat. Where I work we can pick out our own safety shoes and lab goggles and there's different types of gloves for everyone, but everyone gets the same labcoat (in various sizes). Anybody have any further thoughts on this (a lot of good ideas in the Comments in that ChemBark post)? Has anybody pushed this issue at their place of work and how did you go about it?


08 November, 2012

Real chemistry. Time.

"Quantity not quality. (We'll see how long this lasts, but everyone knows the most annoying type of blog is one not regularly updated)"
Post 1 MarvinTheFish blog
Yeah so that didn't happen! Let's move on and not learn from it and be embarrassed about it again in a few months' time.

Here we are in November and yesterday was #RealTimeChem day. I had a lot of fun following this hashtag on twitter, as well as showing people some of what I do during the week (don't do labwork on weekends these days). You can see what I was up to on my twitter. I made quite a few new "twitter friends" like @AzaPrins @Doctor_Galactic, @JessTheChemist and of course @RealTimeChem, among others. @ChemistryWorld quoted one of my tweets on their blog. It was the first time I felt the full power of this twitter-malarky, getting retweets, and people favouring my pictures. Also, some of my original followers and real-life friends got involved, responding enthusiastically to the #realtimechem event! I'll allow @Doctor_Galactic to explain the origins of the event. I recommend you go read his blog if you're interested :http://doctorgalacticandthelabcoatcowboy.wordpress.com/

Who invented #RealTimeChem?
Certainly not me. However, I have been participating for a while on an off in doing some #RealTimeChem tweets. I believe that the inventor was @azmanam who was trying to determine what was in Lemishine and happened to tweet his results using, and @JessTheChemist produced a storify page to follow all the RealTimeChem that happened. Since then it has caught on a many others have joined in to tweet their chemical reactions in real time using the same hash tag.

I was slightly concerned with IP issues, tweeting my actions live during the day and the (remote) possibility of being retweeted around the world. Even tweeting at work is frowned upon, with work WiFi not allowing it, and twitter.com blocked on PCs. When my phone told me that I had been quoted in a CW blog post, I imagined my colleagues reading it and pointing out obvious IP issues that I hadn't seen! It worked out fine though and I think the images and words I posted were fairly generic, and not something I wouldn't tell strangers anyway. Again, @Doctor_Galactic :

What do I have to do to join in? What should I tweet?
To join in you simply have to tweet about your day in your particular field of chemistry using the hashtag #RealTimeChem to show that it is part of the event.
Incidentally, pictures of your day (such as great looking experiments) are most welcome. Obviously, only take pictures of things you are allowed to show, we understand some chemistry must be shrouded in secrecy.

Overall #realtimechem was fun, and valuable for connecting chemists around the world. It gave me the sense of belonging to a community. People doing similar things (and more interesting things!) to me, using the same equipment as me. Looking forward to next year.

28 August, 2012

Go for the jugular

Go for the Jaguar
Go for the juggler (usually annoying)
Go for the jug

“You’re looking for money and jewellery; just get the cash . . . You can sell the jewellery, you’d sell it anywhere. Moorcroft bowls are a big seller as well. Just go up to Ballymun or somewhere. There’s loads of people up there owe money to the credit union or the loan sharks. You bring something up there that they know they’ll never be able to get unless they buy it from you at a knock-down price and they’ll give you money for it, f***ing sure they will.” [Emphasis MTF]

http://www.irishtimes.com... <---Link

I was reading an article about recession burglars in The Irish Times last month and this paragraph was just slipped in. I'm still trying to understand it. Just, what? Moorccroft bowls? Moorcroft bowls seem like a fairly specialist subject, and I'd never even heard of them, but apparently they are the item to grab when you're in a house which is not your own and flaking off your latest high and doing whatever it needs to get the next. No explanation as to why these particular bowls are the hotch of choice. I presume the street value on one of these bad boys must be special.


01 August, 2012

Amazing, but who's his Dad?

A fortnight since my last post and  quite a bit has happened in the world since then. Of course the Olimpics have started in the capital city of the UK.

To celebrate, here's a quiz (a la bikesnob). In celebration of the bbc's insistence on searching out the fathers of any successful sportsman. See if you can match the sportsman with the Dad.
To take part in this quiz, simply print out the photos below, and send your guesses to Marvinthefish, 7 Under-the-Sea, England. Top prize : mention on this blog, plus a hyperlink to your blog/twitter account.
Gold duck!

Chad LeClos
Jenson Button

Lewis Hamilton
Nicolas Roche

18 July, 2012

Does not include

Why, my dear octagenarian Jewish friend,/ Does the menagerie of miniscule glass animals/ On top of your tv set not include a skunk?

To Marvinthefish
Warm wishes
Michael Longley

Speaking of famous people (as I was yesterday [if you count Jon T Njardarson as a famous person]) that I've met, I bumped into Michael Longley at a graduation ceremony a few years ago. Happily I had my book of poetry with me, and I got him to sign it for me.

Link . Recently Michael Longley met the Queen, as she was touring around the UK on her Jubilee tour.

Too many capital letters in that last sentence.


17 July, 2012

Chemistry by Design

Prof Jon T Njardarson gave a talk at my university a few years ago. These talks were given every week during term by various professors from around the world. Njardarson stood out because he was young, enthusiastic and talking about total synthesis and the new chemistry that it spawns. Also, one of my favourite lecturers went to university with him back in Iceland:

"Ooops...dropped my sodium"

Anyway, apart from his cool posters  ,JTN has an app called Chemistry by Design. It's over 400 total syntheses in an interactive, flashcard format. If I was studying chemistry full time I might while away a few hours playing around with this. Right now it would be masochistic!

16 July, 2012

Origin of Blue

I think my musings on blue may have stemmed from seeing a trailer for A History of the World in Three Colours on BBC4. Linky. That's the power of TV for you I guess! I just hope we get some of the chemistry behind the colours. Series starts Wed 25th July with Gold.

15 July, 2012


I've learned how to draw the Olimpic rings. Blue yellow black green red. It's such a simple design famously described by Pierre De Coubertin : link
 The Olympic flag ... has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre: blue, yellow, black, green and red ... This design is symbolic ; it represents the five inhabited continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colors are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time.

Chemists have been inspired by the design, notably Fraser Stoddart, Nobel Prize winner. Olympiadane was synthesised by Stoddart and colleagues in the early 90's and has the correct topology for the interlocking rings. Olympiadane is a catenane with five interlocking rings.
I had to laugh when I was reading Chemistry World this month. A molecule called olympicene with five fused rings had been in the news. A pretty picture of this molecule was made using noncontact atomic force microscopy. To be fair it's a stunning image, showing what can be achieved in terms of visualisation these days. Anyway, Stoddart and Amabilino sent a letter in to Chemistry World basically saying, "Oi, what the hell? That's not Olimpics, this is Olimpics, and we did it 15years ago!"

...we would like to point out to the readers of CW that this molecule has nothing to do with the Olympic symbol. Topologically, it is a completely different animal.
In 1994, we published the first report of the synthesis of five interlocking rings in a linear arrangement, the molecular equivalent of the Olympic rings. The molecule was named olympiadane and the preparation was also symbolic at the time, proving the preparation of large and complex structures using the tenets of molecular recognition and self assembly.
In advertising, timing is everything, and in research too! 

Oooooh! Burn! :-)

14 July, 2012

Chariots of Fire

Saturday- a day to relax and unwind. Unfortunately the weather took a day off too, with rain, clouds, flooding and dreariness (see pic from twitter below). A perfect day for the cinema though, where Chariots of Fire was on. This re-release is out for the Olimpics 2012 and describes the story of two Brits training for the 1924 Olimpic Games, competing in athletics. I liked it, but the cinematography was not brilliant. A good few instances of hats and walls and people blocking the camera. Also it just felt like an old fashioned film, with credits at the start, lots of silence during scenes, could have been  in B&W, but it was released first in 1981! I thought I would like it more than I did to be honest. I'm usually one for seeing old films that are "pop culture" but not many people have seen, like Taxi Driver, Dirty Dancing, Jaws.

"Chariots of Fire" reminds me of the story of Phaethon. Ancient Greek myth where this guy's dad is the sun god Phoebus. So his mum says, "If your spirit impels you, be off on your way and question the sun god himself!". "As soon as his mother had finished speaking, Phaethon darted out in excitement. The sky was already his own! Crossing his native Ethiopia and India, nearing the land of the sun, he hastened east to discover his father.". "He asked for his father's chariot, with leave to control the wing-footed horses, for just one day."

 Aww yeah, chariot of the sun god.

13 July, 2012


Awesome photo! And it's blue, the title of this post (totally didn't think of the title after seeing this photo). Anyway, link to the picture on the cover of the British Dental Journal.

As the theme of this blog can include chemistry here are some blue structures that came up in my reading at work today. Prussian blue, with the idealized formula Fe7(CN)18.
(Come on Marvin, some real structures!). Next one is methylene blue:

Not to be confused with methyl blue, a nice C3-symmetric molecule:

Or new methylene blue:

Hmmm this is taking longer than expected so I'm going to stop there. I'm on a 10.1" Asus Eee PC, with no mouse, a touchpad that works most of the time, an old version of ChemDraw, a left hand button that works some of the time...and a hot girl on the couch beside me ;-)

PS For some really funky blues why not try polyfluorenes!

12 July, 2012

Formula 1..2..3..

Hey I made it to my second post in two days. I better keep this up or my legions of readers will hunt me down.

Tough day at work today (well, more annoying really), but let's talk Formula 1. I was at the British Grand Prix last weekend with three of my friends from home. The headlines from this weekend were mud, mud, more mud and a decent race during the only two hours in the weekend when it didn't rain at least a bit. We got up around 5.30 and stationed ourselves at Luffield corner (general admittance) beside a group of Blackpool FC supporters ("Blackpool FC!", shouted in a nasal American accent) who had a very tall flag which blocked the view of some Americans in the grandstand behind us. The time went by really quickly  before the main event, with buses racing followed by sweeping machines race (clockwise then anticlockwise), GP3, Porsche supercup and GP2. An Irishman (sort of--Conor Daly) on the podium in theGP3 race. Hurrah! http://www.lotuscars.com/gb/racing/gp3 
The Red Arrows acrobatic flying team put on an amazing show before the race. I can't quite imagine how these guys can do it. I mean, just how do you start doing stuff like that? It's beautiful, breathtaking stuff. 
Best bit iin the F1 was Webber passing Alonso into Luffield (yes I saw it with my own eyes!) I do generally support Alonso, but this decisive moment was pretty much all down to the fact that his tires were in pieces.

After the race I saw more stuff with my own eyes : More mud, drivers Button, di Resta, Hulkenburg, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vergne, and then Coulthard, Jake Humphries (OMGOMGOMG), Eddie Jordan, Murray Walker (he did, "GOGOGO!", yay!)

Yesterday I watched a documentary on bbc4 about Gordon Murray, the Formula 1 car designer for Brabham and McClaren ( he also designed the McClaren F1 road car) back in the day. I wanted more of the F1 stories, because there was quite a lot about his current project-a lightweight city car for mass production. This guy has charisma and I want to know more about him. I bet he could write a sweet blog. And put more pictures in too.

Til tomorrow,

11 July, 2012

Post 1

Hello world...
As my first-blog-post-ever this is bound to be a pile of drivel and if you're reading this I hope you know the meaning of the word coprophagia (which I only learned this week...here [first ever link on my blog]).

Plans for the blog :
  • Quantity not quality. (We'll see how long this lasts, but everyone knows the most annoying type of blog is one not regularly updated). My favourite blog is --bikesnobnyc-- (the reason I chose blogspot. Yes).
  • Improve my writing and presentation skills.
  • Meet new people and get more involved in social networking.
  • Themes could include : chemistry, music, swimming, cycling, the origins of my name, language, literature (scientific or otherwise), stuff I think about.
  • Keep a sort of diary. In future I (and you) can look back and wonder how I was how I was. 
  • Learn some html/coding/programming (are those last two the same? Oh dear it's a low level starting point)
I've tagged this post as "quantity not quality" (sic). I trust in my ability to produce quality work, but sometimes I lack the motivation, or whatever, to output at a high rate. During times when I've been most productive (quantity), quality does tend to stay up too. Hmmm low quality paragraph construction right there...

Anyway, I'm Marvinthefish on an Asus 1000Eee PC signing off for today.
See you tomorrow,