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,