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Crossposted at Politicook.net

Chirality comes from the Greek root χειρος, meaning "of the hand".  (Many thanks to reader codairem who not only helped me with the spelling, but the noun case.  I appreciate the assistance, because I strive to be as correct as possible here.  Sorry that it took this long to correct, but I had to attend to some other things).  Most people outside of us chemistry wanks do not know that many organic molecules have the property of "handedness", meaning that they come in two varieties, a "right-handed" and a "left-handed" one.  Actually, it is bit more complex, and this will become clear in a few paragraphs.

First, let us define what chirality is.  Take a look at your hands.  They are pretty much the same, both with backs and palms and, for most of us, five fingers each.  Now, at first blush one would think that they are essentially identical to each other, except for any accidental scar or the dominant one being just a little larger than the other.

Breaking:  This diary is being hijacked by, well Translator.

I just got my absentee ballot today (Saturday) and filled it out this evening after my stint on What's for Dinner.  Here it is in its entirety.  If illegible, please let me know.

Because of the geometry of the document, I had to break it down into four pictures.  Here is the top one:

It is the instructions and the fill in for voting for President and Vice-President.  You will note that on the right, I just left the unopposed candidates one blank.  The important one in this picture is that I filled in Obama and Biden.  But look at the choices we have in Arkansas.

Here is the picture.

Here is the second half of the front page.  Note that I voted against the Blue Dogs, Pryor and Ross, without endangering our caucus.  Even if the Greens win, they will caucus with the Democrats.  I wrote both Pryor and Ross after the FISA debacle that I would never vote for either of them again.  Nice to be able to do so without supporting Republicans.  Here is the image:

Those votes, whilst important, are not the only things of the ballot.  The Gov race is two years from now, but some other things are more important.  Please look at the reverse side of the ballot and how I voted.


The first one has to do with allowing the State legislature more freedom, and the way I look at it, the less the better, so I voted "NO".

The one just below has to do with allowing the State legislature to meet more often, and, for the reasons above, again I voted "NO".  The less time to make laws, the better, I think.

The middle one is an amendment to authorize a lottery, run by either the state or by an independent, not for profit, entity, and to use all of the proceeds after administrative payouts and prizes for scholorships.  One of the phrases indicates that those monies have nothing to do with apprpriated funds and can not affect them.  I voted "YES", because there have been, and will be, many other much more onerous ones, like the one a couple a years ago that would have privatized it to only one set of corporatists.

The first one on the right side would make illegal for a couple who are not married either to adopt or to foster children.  This is the next swipe against gay marriage in my state, since the anti-gay marriage one passed a couple of years ago.  Of course I voted "NO".

The one under it has to do with the State getting more control on the waters of Arkansas, and I do not reject that out of hand, but the authority to expend $60,000,000 sort of puked me off of it.  There are more important things, so I voted "NO".

Now to the real diary.  I hope that no one was offended by this little tirade.  My voting record is not a secret.

Not so.  If they were identical, you could twist your wrists and rotate your arms such that they appeared the same.  But you can not, even if you are a contortionist.  Hands are mirror images of each other, but because of their spatial arrangement, they are non-superimposible mirror images of each other.

A body is chiral if it is not superimposible with its mirror image.  Take a sphere, for example.  The mirror image of a sphere is superimposible with the original, so it is not chiral.  (The rules say that you can manipulate the images in any way by rotation in any plane, but you can not change the image itself).  A square is also achiral.  But hands are different.  They are constructed such that it is impossible to superimpose one and its mirror image.  Such mirror images are termed enantiomers when molecules are involved.

Molecules are like that, too.  The most important class are organic compounds with a carbon singly bonded to four different atoms or groups, but many other examples exist.  Here is a picture of a simple chiral molecule:

     

For the three dimensionally challenged, get two packing peanuts or other small pieces of plastic foam and eight toothpicks.  Take markers and color pairs of toothpicks so that you have four colors of toothpicks, then push them into the foam so that the arrangement looks sort of like an old fashioned jack with which kids used to play.  Then do the same for the second piece of foam to make a mirror image of the first one.  Try as you may, it is not possible to twist or turn the second one to superimpose it with the first one.

Here is a picture of a pair that I made with scraps of packing material and four toothpicks (I cut mine in half)  They do not look very good, but in person are better:

Here is a picture of pretty much the same thing using my fancy molecular model set that Mrs. Translator bought for me many years ago when I started graduate school.  You would not believe how many times this set helped me understand things, like the unique properties of DABCO.  (Tips to anyone who knows what this is).

OK, please do not go to sleep yet, because you should be proud that you just created molecular models.  A lot of this is done by computer graphics these days, but even we chemists like to have something that we can hold and rotate to get a better feel for things.

So, why is this important?  The answer is, because of life itself.

The proteins and sugars in our bodies are chiral.  There was an episode of Star Trek where Spock was thrown into a mirror image universe and the proteins in food were unusable, so he had to convert them to the correct configuration to survive.  Chiral molecules react with achiral ones identically for the most part, but very differently with other chiral molecules.

Here is an example that everyone just about knows.  Do you ever use caraway seeds for flavoring?  They smell the way they do because the "smelly" molecule is carvone.  Do you like spearmint?  Carvone is the "smelly" compound it it, too.  What gives?

It turns out that the proteins that form the scent receptors in our nose are chiral, too.  The carvone from caraway is "S" carvone, and the one from spearmint is "L" carvone, and the two interact with the receptors differently, giving rise to different perceptions.  Here is a picture of the two different carvones:


The dashed lines mean, from thick to thin, that the group pointed towards the back of the plane of the computer screen, and the wedges mean that the group is coming out of the plane of the screen, towards you.

The "S" designation is from the Latin sinister, meaning "left" and the "D" is from the Latin dexter, meaning "right".  No wonder why the wingnuts think of the political left as evil, the Latin word says so.  This is the convention that we chemists use to define which configuration is present.  Interesting, in some severe Muslim traditions, the left hand is considered to be unclean.  I do not know how much that has to do with Arabic tradition as opposed to Roman influence, and any historian reading this is encouraged to clear up the area.

It is possible for a molecule to contain more than one carbon bonded to four different things (an asymmetric carbon), and indeed that happens often.  The acid from grapes, tartaric acid, is a good example.  It was actually Louis Pasteur who figured this out, sorting mirror image crystals of cream of tarter by hand with only a magnifier and forceps.

Compounds with two different chiral centers are called diastereomers.  I mention this only because one my students, who was struggling with the concept of chirality, answered a quiz question by saying disastromers.  I suppose for many this topic does seem to be disastrous.  I gave her full credit, by the way.

Complex molecules can have many chiral centers, and proteins and polysaccharides (see a previous post for them) can have millions.  All proteins are composed of amino acids, and on our planet almost all of them are of only one chirality.  The others just do not fit together with them, so the cause of Mr. Spock's near starvation.

I am not going to beat this to death tonight, but there are two other concepts that bear mentioning.  Chiral compounds interact with light differently.  The implication is that light itself is chiral, otherwise it would not interact at all or interact the same with either enantiomer.  At the risk of being wankish, you can tell the difference between caraway and spearmint oil just by passing light that is polarized through it.  Polarized light has been filtered through the same material that Polaroid sunglasses are made, and it filters out light except for only one small set of vibrations.

When you shine that light through caraway, you will find that it has been rotated by 61 degrees with respect to the vertical.  That is like taking two pairs of Polaroid sunglasses and rotating them that amount and trying to read through them.  But is you pass it through spearmint, it is -61 degrees.  So light is chiral.

I could go on, but would rather respond to comments and questions.  Remember, this is an open science thread, so please do not limit your thoughts to this subject only.

Warmest regards,

Doc

Originally posted to Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:04 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for (23+ / 0-)

    asymmetric centers?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

    In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

    by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:04:46 PM PDT

  •  the correct word (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator

    is SUPERIMPOSABLE

    •  Chiral pairs (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lemming22, drchelo, earicicle

      are NONsuperimposible with respect to each other.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:16:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  apparently (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator

        nothing is "imposIble" in your version of chirality :-)

      •  Or, from Alice in Wonderland (movie) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator

        when Alice is trying to get through a door, she says she can't because it's impossible, and the doorknob says:

        You mean impassible.  Nothing's impossible

        •  As apt as this phrase is, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          plf515

          I disagree.  Some things are not allowed by physics.

          Having stated that, I will also submit that we do not have a perfect understanding of physics.

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

          by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:29:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, I also disagree (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Translator

            but, of course, ordinary physics didn't apply in Wonderland

            And the question of whether the same physics has to apply everywhere ... that's a deep one.  Although, in my diary this morning, we got into that about mathematics.

            •  I guess that the simple (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              plf515

              answer is that we just do not know if the physical laws at we understand them apply universally.  My guess, simple minded at it is, is that they do, but we just do not understand the special cases.

              Newtonian physics was perfect for a long time, in our perception, and that upstart Einstein made some seminal observations and calculations that corrected parts of it.

              Then those quantum mechanics did the same thing on the microscopic scale.  Now, Hawking and others are trying to combine them all.

              I am unsure that we ever will know the fundamental truth, because there is more than we can assimilate and make sense of in this plane of existence.  Perhaps, if we do not kill ourselves off, we will evolve into a more intellectual race and understand more.

              Warmest regards,

              Doc

              In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

              by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:45:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  How about unlikely. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Translator, plf515

              More user friendly and likely to provide solutions to what we think is impossible but mistaken about.

              But I do agree, some things are impossible, and that is usually more simple to explain than what is possible or why.

              Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

              by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:16:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  When you get down to it, (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko, plf515

                our understanding of physics now is driven by statistics, and that has everything to do with probability.

                Einstein said that god does play dice with the universe, and there is some truth in that expression.  However, it is factual that, at least on the small scale, probability rules the roost.

                Warmest regards,

                Doc

                In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:22:18 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I left out a word (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  koNko, plf515

                  and that makes all of the difference, and I apologize for being sloppy.

                  Einstein said that god does NOT play dice with the universe.

                  Please forgive me for the mistake.

                  Warmest regards,

                  Doc

                  In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                  by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 08:06:30 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  enantiomers are non-superimposeable... (5+ / 0-)

      ... mirror images.

      Which is what you're trying to say, right?

      I used to teach undergrad organic chemistry, and when I told my students "they're like your hands", that resulted in several minutes of people in lecture trying to superimpose their hands, and failing ;-)


      And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too / I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

      by Page van der Linden on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:16:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  nice diary, but the greek is off (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Translator

      the word is chi-epsilon-iota-rho,
      genitive chi-epsilon-iota-rho-OMICRON-sigma (and note that the sigma at the end of a word has a different shape - it looks like an s.)

      I love the caraway example..

      Silvio Levy

      •  Thus you are saying (0+ / 0-)

        it transliterates to "cheir" in the nominative, and "cheiros" in the genitive.  I can hang with that.  By the way, I am hip to the different shapes of sigma.  Usually you see "σ", but at the end of a word it appears something like "ς".

        Warmest regards,

        Doc

        In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

        by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:36:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I was too tired to make the changes last (0+ / 0-)

        night, but if you relook, I think that it is correct this time.  I applied not only your advice about spelling, but the fact that the word that we use is actually the genitive, which I roughly translated to what most folks think of as the "possessive" in English.

        I knew better than to use the round sigma at the end of a word, and was just not thinking.  I will attempt to pay more attention to detail in future.

        I do not remember seeing you comment much, if at all, before, and will tell you whence I come.  Except for some background work (and my use of the Greek word should have been a part of it), I do not look things up once the diary is "hot", except for fundamental physical constants as may be necessary for an intelligent discussion.  I went with what I remembered, and am certainly not a scholar of Greek.

        I like to put it that I dance naked once a post is made, so every mistake and inaccuracy is mine alone.  After saying that, I always want to improve the accuracy of my posts, and your counsel allowed me to do so, but a day late.

        The one thing that I do not  you to take away from this is that in any way do I resent your comment.  On the contrary, I welcome it, and others if you believe that I am incorrect.

        Peer review is essential, the only difference between here and in a scientific journal being that the review comes rapidly, and sometimes brutally.  Yours was rapid, but not in any sense brutal, but helpful.

        I defy you to find a journal that corrects entries in real time, or even overnight.  Folks refer to these posts from time to time, so the correction is now done.

        Once again, thank you for the input.  Please join us every Sunday night.  I might want to use you as resource from time to time.

        Nothing but my warmest regards,

        Doc

        In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

        by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 07:42:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  chemical applications of group theory (5+ / 0-)

    Nightmare graduate class from hell.


    And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too / I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

    by Page van der Linden on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:14:54 PM PDT

    •  I hated the Cotton book! (5+ / 0-)

      But now, in retrospect, I see the beauty and the deep implications of group theory.  Some things indeed improve with age!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:17:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I actually love that book. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator, palantir, earicicle

        I used to sleep with it, but, um, then I met my wife.  (blush, blush.)

        Advanced Inorganic Chemistry is however, a far more beautiful book.   I never got tired of just opening at random and reading.

        Truth be told, I was was unfaithful to my books, and never knew whether to sleep with one of the Cotton sisters, or March's Advanced Organic Chemistry.

        I had a wonderful flirtation with Lowry and Richardson's Mechanism and Theory in Organic Chemistry.

        In my sleeping around I also spent some wild nights with Loveland and Seaborg's Elements Beyond Uranium.

        In recent years I've been sleeping quite a bit with William Stacy's Nuclear Reactor Physics and that lovely pop book The First Nuclear Era - Life and Times of a Technological Fixer by that wonderful, remarkable, under appreciated genius Alvin Weinberg.   Weinberg also wrote, with Wigner, the very first textbook on nuclear engineering, back in the 1950's.    I have often dreamed of sleeping with that book, but haven't had the pleasure.

        It's not easy of course to sleep with me.   I can always tell books with whom I've had long, passionate affairs.   Their bindings are broken, and they're falling apart.   (Wiley sent me a shitty copy of Nuclear Reactor Physics - it was broken almost from the first day.)

        I hope I've been gentler on my wife than on poor books.

        •  As a matter of fact, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, NNadir, earicicle

          I have two editions of Lowery and Richardson still.  I never get rid of a textbook, even the ones that I have from college were written in cuneiform.

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

          by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:50:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Nor should you. Pauling's general chemistry (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, Translator, earicicle

            text, and of course, The Chemical Bond are still great chemistry text books, even though Pauling's been dead a long time now.   It's not like any of it has become untrue.

            I often pull these books off the shelves to talk to my boys.

            I am very proud of my nine year old boy who has taken to pulling math, chemistry, astrophysics and biological texts texts off the shelf on his own initiative and reading them independently.   It's kind of remarkable.   He definitely grasps what's in them too.   Sometimes I'll be talking to him about some subject and he'll say, "Oh yeah, I read that," and show me exactly where he read it.

            He's way, way, way, way ahead of where I was when I was his age, but then again, I don't think my parents ever owned a science book in their lives, except for the kiddie books they bought for me.

            •  Oh, Linus! What a guy! (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RunawayRose, koNko, NNadir

              Winner of TWO Nobel Prizes, in different fields.  I do have his The Nature of the Chemical Bond, and his college chemistry text.

              I congratulate you for encouraging your boys to read and think.  Hey, if they turn out to be poets, well, we have need for them as well.  Just being engaged is the important thing.

              I was lucky in that my parents bought a set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica the year that I was born (I still have the entire set).  I read and read and read it, and the pages on electricity and magnetism show the wear from my young, grubby fingers.

              Good work with your children!

              Warmest regards,

              Doc

              In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

              by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:12:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  My parents also bought me that encyclopedia. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko, Translator

                I tended not to read the science sections, but I was very interested in biography and history.

                They didn't get them until I was almost in high school though.   They were always on the financial edge.   My dad was a Union laborer and we had worries through a lot of strikes because my Dad's company didn't want to pay the protection rackets.

                (His pension disappeared with Jimmy Hoffa's body.)

                I discuss scientific subjects with my sons, but I don't push them there.   My oldest boy, I think, will probably end up in the arts.    He just doesn't have the same native interest in the sciences that his brother has, although he's good at them.

                If they ask my advice - and they don't all that much - I suggest a career in nuclear engineering.   But I'm just a father, and I know I have no right to push them to what I have come to love.  

                The older boy, who's going to start high school next year - has his heart kind of moving in the direction of architecture I think, which is nice for the science and art mixture.   He's always built interesting structures from blocks and other stuff from the time he was a baby.

                He's very much into Japanese Anime, particularly Miyazaki.   I have no interest in that kind of stuff, but I feel my boy is into it on a deeper level as art.  (I am not an artist and have no artistic talent.)   Recently he has begun to discuss with me the anti-war themes that Miyazaki evokes.   One of the recent films my boys watched was about the American bombings of Japan, graphically emotional as well as graphically complex.   It was kind of tough, because these boys hate war already.  This film gave us an excellent chance to talk about the moral complexity of war.

                •  You are doing great with them. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  koNko, earicicle

                  Mine are all in college now (Eldest Son is wrangling alligators for his thesis), and they all have their own unique interests and personalities.  But all of them are wonderful, in their own ways.

                  As for artistic abilities, they are all very accomplished musicians.  As I said somewhere else, I am lucky to play the stereo.  As far as art goes, I am lucky to draw a glass of water from the tap.

                  But their mum is very musical, and almost completely a visual learner.  Interesting how things interact.

                  Warmest regards,

                  Doc

                  In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                  by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:49:49 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Linus Rocks. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Translator

              I originally read that in Chinese translation in the mid-70s, and then got an English copy in 1980 which I still have.

              This great site makes a nice introduction for lay readers

              Go for it. Great stuff.

              Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

              by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:25:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Is the (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, koNko, earicicle

          Advanced Inorganic Chemistry book to which you refer the one with the red cover?  If so, I still have mine as well.  I just can not think of the author's name at present.

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

          by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:56:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, once the brown dust jacket falls apart, (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, koNko, Translator, earicicle

            the book is red.

            I hold on to dust jackets for as long as they last.

            •  I bought most of mine (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RunawayRose, koNko, earicicle

              used, so dust jackets were not usually included.  That is a good book, and its explanation of crystal structure is good.

              Warmest regards,

              Doc

              In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

              by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:04:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Mine has a big burn stain on the cover. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose, koNko, Translator

                I actually opened in on to a burning candle.  I'm very fortunate that I didn't burn every book I own in that event.

                I have begun to haunt the libraries at Princeton University.   It is unbelievable what you can find in these libraries.   It is hard to choose between the electronic journals and the books.

                I am currently working on a major project, so I stick to the electronic journals.   But if I am ever again truly free, well then...

                Tonight I'm writing from the Trustee Reading Room, thinking to myself how Michelle Obama probably sat near where I am sitting.   They have a bust of Frederick Douglas in here, and a plaque with the names of the winners of the Frederick Douglass Award.   (She didn't win it.)   I have heard that she hated it here, and that may be - I hear students muttering about the place from time to time - but for the library alone, it is a great University.

                If I didn't need money, and I didn't have a family, I could stay in here forever.

              •  Ha! Mine is from the UCLA Bookstore. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Translator

                I remember fondly looking for the editions with damaged bindings, these have the lowest price and can be repaired with cheesecloth and shoe adhesive!

                Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:40:11 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Got it. I think. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Translator

            Cotton, Wilkinson et al?

            Cassic reference text. Sits next to Oxford Chemical Dictionary on my shelf.

            Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

            by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:37:16 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I really hated group theory (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              koNko

              back in those days.

              Now I have come to appreciate the elegance of it, and the simple beauty of symmetry, some of which is difficult to elucidate.

              Warmest regards,

              Doc

              In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

              by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:40:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  OT but do you read New Scientist? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, koNko, Translator

          An issue ago they had a whole issue on renewable fuels; I'm not expert enough to comment sensibly, but it seemed to go against some of what you say in some of your nuclear energy diaries.  

          Again, I may be misinterpreting the issue, or your diaries; in this stuff, I am strictly an amateur

          •  I do not regularly read (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, koNko, plf515

            New Scientist, but I will tell you that the field of energy, particularly nuclear energy, is very controversial.

            I am not surprised that opinions differ from mine, because there must be eighty ways in hell to skin that cat.  All I can do is examine the chemistry, physics, engineering, and economics and make my best evaluation.

            It is an opinion, and we all have differing ones.  I take no offense when challenged about my opinions.  On the other hand, I take great offense when what is known to be fact is challenged, like the current administration often does, when it simply ignores facts.

            Warmest regards,

            Doc

            In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

            by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:17:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  actually, it was nnadir's views that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Translator

              I thought the article disagreed with.  He is (as you probably know) very pro-nuclear energy, and contends that it's really essential.  The articles in New Scientist seemed to say that it is not needed, and that we can get all our electricity  (world wide) from renewable, green and non-nuclear sources (not today, not tomorrow, but soon enough)

              •  For the most part, I agree (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko, plf515

                with NNadir that fission is a viable bridge from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

                The devil is in the details.

                Warmest regards,

                Doc

                In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:25:23 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Fission will happen. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  NNadir, Translator, plf515

                  It now has enough international funding and support from major nations/EU, and based on the progress made in Chinas prototype reactor, I do believe if this continues to have international support research will accelerate. It's very pleasing that this will get done by a consortium of nations, shared risk, shared benifits, share intellegence.

                  Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                  by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:46:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Agreed, but we must (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    koNko, plf515

                    not be complacent.  There are better alternatives, just not immediately available.

                    Warmest regards,

                    Doc

                    In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                    by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:49:05 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Not to the exclusion of anything else. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Translator, plf515

                      Certianly not.

                      In fact, we need many solutions including bridge technologies that would ultimately be replaced or take their place beside others. This is something I always stress, because people tend to fall in love with one thing or another until they do the calculations (if ever).  In so many words, right tool for the right job, or best available tool.

                      I think the importiance of fission is to provide massive, reliable, clean power to meet baseload and transportation needs, to get rid of the coal and petrol. Wind and solar are simply not efficient or reliable enough for that. Geothermal and hydroelectric (including waves) is great where it's available, but can't meet the world's needs.

                      Fission has the potential to replace not only fossil fuels, but provide a safer/cheaper alternative to Nuclear.

                      So, some years later .....

                      Meanwhile, start by conserving power, that is usually the most sime, cheap and cost-effective first step. So-called negawatt.

                      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                      by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 08:36:38 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I believe that you mean (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        koNko

                        fusion.  Fission is conventional nuclear.

                        Warmest regards,

                        Doc

                        In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                        by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 01:44:18 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Correct. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Translator

                          I certianly mean 融合 not 分裂 !

                          Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                          by koNko on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 08:04:53 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  You have me at a disadvantage, (0+ / 0-)

                            because I do not understand those characters.

                            It is possible to magnify them a bit, so I can see the subtle detail that no doubt your eye catches, and show me their meaning?

                            I know that this asking a whole lot, but I love to learn new things, and if my first words were "nuclear fusion" and "nuclear fission" it would be pretty awesome for me.

                            As always,

                            Warmest regards,

                            Doc

                            In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                            by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 08:30:45 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Translation .... (0+ / 0-)

                            融合 literally "friendly gathering" or "close gathering" is the term applied for Fusion

                            分裂 literally "tiny crack" or "minute crack" or even "micro crack" is the term applied to Fission

                            Chinese is a very idomatic language and many terms are rather obscure, but these are approved modern technical terms normally used.

                            In case you want to auto-translate, the text is Simplified Chinese (verses the more complex Traditional Chinese).

                            Inside China, simplified (CH) text is normally used while outside China traditional (ZH) or "Big 5" text is used.

                            I think you may be able to copy and paste to Word or Excel to magnify the text. I use Chinese Windows so I can automatically switch between typing modes, but if you use English Viata or XP, you should be able to add CH to your browser and office applications using control panel for international language/font settings.  XP may require the East Asian Language pack (download) installed to support typing, but is you can read, copy and paste the double-bit characters it should already be enabled.

                            Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                            by koNko on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 10:43:20 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                  •  I am very impressed with Chinese work (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    koNko, Translator, plf515

                    on the HTGR-10 and the work on thermochemical hydrogen cycles.

                    All of humanity is in this together.

                    •  Indeed we are! And I appreciate (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      koNko, plf515

                      their work, but at the same time China brings on line more coal fired electrical plants that the rest of the world combined.  That has to stop.

                      In the end, cooperation between the economic powers to devise more sustainable power sources is not just necessary, it is imperative.  I just used my new term!

                      Should I talk about the fictional benefits of hydrogen next time?

                      Warmest regards,

                      Doc

                      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 08:00:10 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  China has a problem (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Translator, plf515

                        Too much coal, and not enough (or fast enough) everything else.

                        I fact China has aggresive conservation and development efforts in many directions, but coal is what we have for base load.

                        Recently (this year) the plan was revised to include a higher investment in nuclear because, as you note, the rate of increasing coal generation (clean coal isn't that clean) suggests we would miss targets by a wide margin and the environmental efects are immediate and well as long term.

                        China has made high investments is seed project for renewable over the past several years and notable, has significantly increasing investments in Wind and Solar (may be the largest solar producer soon, overtaking Germany and Japan), but this accounts for less than 5% of generation capacity and won't go beyond 10% for several years (rolling projections).

                        The mid-term platform to manage baseload increase will be nuclear, hydroelectric (not too keen by the west) and expansion of Rail Mass Transit by building more Metros and High Speed ICEs.

                        Regardless, the total generation capacity from coal will continue to grow, with the improvements from "Clean" technology only incremental.

                        BTW, I like your use of the term "sustainable" verses "Renuable" because we need to get people thinking about what is sustainable and what is not.  many technologies may be sustainable at a certian scale or for a certian period, but not at larger size/timescales.  Current solar technology is such a case - needs lots of improvement (including storage solutions) that are in the pipline, but not quite the total solutions some people think.

                        Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                        by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 08:54:55 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I firmly believe that there (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          koNko

                          is no single solution.  There are unintended consequences of even the most innocuous technologies.  For example, let us just say for the sake of the argument that magically we could generate all of our electricity (plus enough to produce hydrogen from water) globally.

                          I suspect that there would be some significant climate change associated with that, and not just from eliminating carbon dioxide emissions.  The energy to spin the wind turbines comes from the atmosphere, and removing that much energy from the atmosphere is bound to affect weather and climate.

                          The very best thing that we can do is to reduce demand for all kinds of energy, but certainly that can go only so far before standard of living conflicts arise.  But conservation certainly has to be part of the solution.

                          Reality can be a pain from time to time.

                          Warmest regards,

                          Doc

                          In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                          by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 01:50:42 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Problem? What Problem? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Translator

                            CFCs were invented to make refrigerators safe because the ammonia charged systems of the era tended to spontaniously leak.

                            In a few hundred thousand years, most of the the CFCs in the earths atmosphere will have degraded to the point they are no longer a hazard.

                            For certian, we need lot's of silover BBs before we get to silver bullets (whatever that might be). And where power is concerned, there are a lot of bits and pieces of enabling technology that make solutions work (like microlens arrsys to improve solar cells).  And then there is the stuff we have to continually rediscover, like insulated pipes and light dimmers .....

                            I think the potential for fussion is that it would provide relatively high generation potential at a much lower cost, securety risk and (presumed) environmental risk than nuclear.

                            If the consortium can produce working systems by mid-century, it will have done well. Sooner than that would be a break-through and may be possible due to computational modeling (the human genome project sure has changed bioscience). Until/after then, we huse what we have, improve what we can and change minds/behavior, no?

                            See you.

                            Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                            by koNko on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 07:59:07 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You acutally reinforce my point to a large (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            koNko

                            extent.  We have to be smart, and do better risk analyses.  Freon was great, except we did not check out the ramifications.  Nontoxic, good physical properties, stable, noncorrosive.....who could ask for more?

                            Except our understanding of atmospheric science was imperfect to the extent that they came close to killing us.  Such is the way with human imperfect understanding.

                            We have to do a better job with alternative energy sources.  For example, if we could magically eliminate all sources of electric power except for wind, what happens to air patterns?  I submit that removing many exojoules of energy from the atmosphere might, just might, have unexpected consequences.

                            Warmest regards,

                            Doc

                            In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                            by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 08:36:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  China recently joined the consortium (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      NNadir, Translator, plf515

                      That's good, because it opens the channels between scientist a bit wider and that's where to innovation and solutions come from.

                      I think the HTGR-10 will get rolled into this work, energy is a very high priority in China's sciences, Space gets more public attention but power generation has more projects and funding.

                      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

                      by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 08:40:07 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

          •  I occassionally read popular science magazines. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            koNko, Translator, plf515

            This was particularly true when I was finding myself stuck in airports with long delays, with all of my carry on reading material read.

            I often found myself reading New Scientist, or Discover, or Scientific American.

            The problem with some of these magazines is that they are for a general public consumption and often represent not scientific work per se, but interpretations of scientific work spun to give popular appeal.   In this sense they tend to result in a stultified rehash of popular opinion.

            This is less true - but not entirely untrue - of Scientific American, where many, if not all, of the authors of articles are primary researchers.    But look, primary researchers spin because they're human beings, like everyone else.   One can read many things that are wrong in the scientific literature, and just as one needs it when one is reading a newspaper or a public affairs magazine, one needs to engage in critical thinking.

            Real science is always about struggle and proof, and many of the best ideas have had to survive great controversy to test their worth.    Many contentions by great scientists published in the literature have been wrong.    When I was young I was more credulous than I am today:  But I never read anything with the notion that it is correct.

            My feeling on the energy issue is that people are more interested in hearing what they want to hear - that they can live this life style with zero environmental impact - than what they need to know.

            I have more or less stopped writing energy diaries here, because I think we all need to get through this most important election and get this most remarkable man, Obama, in the White House, before we start fighting over details.

            I will say this:  My skepticism about so called "renewable energy" is something I have learned from the research I have done in connection in writing diaries as well as in my proprietary work.   I have come to believe that the primary reason that the external costs of many hyped forms of renewable energy are over looked is precisely because they have failed to produce meaningful energy.

            That does not mean that they are as bad or as dangerous as dangerous fossil fuels.   It does mean however that they are not the best option in a time of very dire emergency, the scale of which I believe is not generally appreciated.

            It's scary to read science, particularly environmental science.   Between the dry lines of technical prose there is a great sense of disaster.   That's how I see it.

            After the election however, I hope I will find some time to fight for my ideas, because if we do as well as we hope in the election, we will need not just to criticize that bad guys and make easy promises, but we will need to govern responsibly to save the world for future generations.  That is a far more difficult task.

            I have great faith in Mr. Obama, but it is not unqualified by the knowledge of the vastness of the task before him.   He will surely fail many times, and make many mistakes, because all those who aspire to greatness must do that.

            My ideas about energy are hard won and I have made many mistakes.   I can tell you that I have often found myself corrected on my initial impressions - and even articles of faith - as I have struggled to understand this issue.   I was a very vicious and mean anti-nuke in my past and only changed my mind after Chernobyl.   (If you think I'm rough as a pro-nuke, you should have seen me then.   I was not only obnoxious, but stupid and poorly informed then.)   It's no secret that I have very little respect for the anti-nuke argument, but I feel that I have earned the right to hold that lack of respect.

            We, and our life style and our myopia are not leaving a fair remnant of the world for our decendents.  We have not been just. That's where I'm coming from on this energy issue.  I am deeply concerned, deeply concerned.   I have at least one more major diary to publish here.   It's called "Death, Faith, Eternity and the Amtrack Subsidy."  It is, in part, a spiritual diary written by an atheist, and it is all about our debt to the future.    

            •  Three things: (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              koNko, NNadir, plf515

              First, you should expand this comment into a diary.  There is some profound thought contained therein.

              Second, you have made me reconsider the concept of "renewable energy".  I will no longer use that term for what I consider to be the energy sources for the future.  I will henceforth use the term "sustainable energy", to distinguish it from things like corn to ethanol that are, probably renewable in a sense, but in no way sustainable.

              Third, I write these kinds of things because I wish to expand my knowledge base and to be challenged intellectually.  You, sir, do this very well.  This is not a criticism, but a compliment.  As I often say, if both of us agreed on everything, one of us would be unnecessary.  But we agree much more than we disagree.

              Thank you for making me think about this issue from a different perspective.

              Warmest regards,

              Doc

              In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

              by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:34:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks for the kind words, Doc. I appreciate (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko, Translator, plf515

                your work here and I enjoy our friendship, our occassional disagreements, very much.

                •  The most important work that you do (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  koNko, plf515

                  is with your children, and from what I can tell, you are more than excellent in that area.  Even if we disagreed on everything else, I would still respect you for that alone.

                  We disagree only on small details, and I will concede that you may have better ideas than I have.  I will also consider the possibility that others than us have good ideas.

                  I just do not like the concept of making fuel out of food.  That just sounds to me to be not just foolish, but actually insane.

                  Warmest regards,

                  Doc

                  In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                  by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:53:08 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Agree, non-food based energy makes more sense. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Translator, plf515

                    Biodiesel from non-edible oils like jatropha and waste cooking grease and ethanol from lignin are much more efficient and sustainable, but we're at a transition point and getting anyone to take the first steps toward non fossil fuels is important. People who have been involved with biofuels for any length of time understand that grains and soybeans/canola are a losing proposition as feedstocks in any number of ways, but getting the support of farmers gains access to their lobby and gets the ball rolling. Jatropha has one of the highest gallons/acre production of oil of any plant, even outperforming palm kernal oil, ( those plantations are a menace), it's non edible and thrives on marginal soils inappropriate for food crops, so it is non competietive with food crops in every way and is being developed. As are the enzymes from gut bacteria that allow herbivores to digest woody plants and free the sugars from the lignin.  But we have to build momentum before we can direct it towards the most efficient paths, so we go one step at a time.

                    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                    by FarWestGirl on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 09:28:48 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Agreed. I like (0+ / 0-)

                      the idea of growing nonfood crops on marginal land, especially if irrigation is not required.  Otherwise, we are essentially trading water for fuel, and water is going to be our next pinch point.

                      Warmest regards,

                      Doc

                      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                      by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 01:53:28 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  It also puts food production on the back burner (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Translator

                        when there are still an awful lot of people who are marginally able to feed themselves. The profit margin is considerably higher right now to grow fuel feedstock for the rich countries than subsistance food for poor ones. This has driven prices beyond reach and caused food riots in many places.

                        Jatropha is hardy and doesn't require irrigation or pesticides, (at least at present), in most areas. And again, the yield is much higher than edible oil sources. I looked for a yield table that used to be on the Biodiesel site and couldn't find it, but according to Wikipedia-

                        The plant yields more than four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean, and more than ten times that of maize (corn). A hectare of jatropha produces 1,892 litres of fuel.[2]

                        Goldman Sachs recently cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production.[4] However, despite its abundance and use as an oil and reclamation plant, none of the Jatropha species has been properly domesticated and, as a result, its productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of its large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown.[5] However, because jatropha is not edible, and because it can grow in harsh climates, it can be planted in areas where it won't compete for resources needed to grow food.[6]

                        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                        by FarWestGirl on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 05:30:24 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  This approach makes sense. (0+ / 0-)

                          Taking food (and by extension, productive land and water) out of mouths makes no sense to me.

                          Taking otherwise unusable land and growing a crop to produce value (energy) without those compromises makes a lot of sense to me.  But, I am pretty simple minded, to keep that in consideration.

                          Warmest regards,

                          Doc

                          In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                          by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 06:46:44 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

            •  I'm intruiged by your proposed diary. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NNadir, Translator, plf515

              Actually, I've been planning to make a diary or series of diaries about the nexus of enery, habitation and trasportation, where I think the USA is really falling behind and missing opportunities, but for the lack of imagination and political will.

              But then, got a new baby and ... temporary diversion, etc.

              I think our shared concept is the future, mass, inetia and momentum, in 4 dimensions.

              Are you making procgress?  If you post it, please give me a shout, I'd like to read/comment.

              BTW, do you live near Princeton?

              Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

              by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 07:53:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  contractors vs concepts (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Translator, plf515

              One of my biggest objections to nuclear energy, particularly in America, is that the damned contractors are perfectly willing to cheat and cut corners, (fake  radiographs, etc), then overcharge like defense contractors and cover up the deficiencies. Much too dangerous, when greed is factored into the equation. The waste issues remain significant, too. I did read that fast breeder reactors could actually get rid of significant amounts of plutonium and ordinence bound fissionables and that I could probably live with if the contractors were watched like hawks.

              Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

              by FarWestGirl on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 09:10:01 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Fast breeders have (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NNadir

                some advantages, but that requires reprocessing, and this has turned out to be a losing proposition.  Great Britain, as I understand, is phasing it out due to cost.  Uranium is still pretty plentiful, and one school of thought it that in the long run it is cheaper to use the once through approach and store more waste.  Like all issues nuclear, this is controversial.

                Warmest regards,

                Doc

                In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 01:56:28 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Actually Japan has just finished a reprocessing (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Translator

                  plant, and the French plant operates quite nicely.

                  The British have some management problems at Sellafield, but every problem involving the word nuclear is vastly over inflated.    It's not like 50 years of operating Sellafield has been as toxic to the North Sea as the Norwegian oil platforms.

                  If I were the British, I'd keep Sellafield open.

                  As for the once through cycle - I'm against it - big time.    It is typical "me, me, me" thinking that sets the convenience of the people of our times against the interests of future generations.

                  As it happens, the matter will either be decided by dire need, with the attendent hysteria - or by rational planning.

                  It is easily shown that the plutonium in used nuclear fuel in the United States alone, is equivalent to about 200 exajoules of primary energy.   Thus this so called "waste" contains approximately enough energy to fuel the entire United States for two years, without burning a single liter of dangerous oil, a single gram of dangerous coal, a single liter of dangerous natural gas, without damming a single river, without grinding a single bird in a windmill, without accumulating any dangerous electronic waste on roof tops, in fact without the operation of a single mine.

                  Imagine for a minute that the infrastructure were in place to recover this 190 exajoules and we used it alone for about two years.    The air in the United States would become absolutely clean.   Lung cancer rates would fall.   Children who have never seen the Milky Way from their neighborhoods would suddenly be able to see it (at least when light pollution is low).

                  The list goes on and on.

                  Plutonium becomes competitive with virgin uranium at about $1000/kg when measured in internal costs alone.   (The current virgin uranium cost, last I looked was pushing $200/kg).   However, a kg of plutonium contains about as much energy as 600,000 gallons of gasoline, and of course, it is much safer and cleaner than gasoline.    When external costs are included, the fissioning of plutonium is relatively cheap, even compared to virgin uranium.

                  This plutonium is especially valuable inasmuch as it represents "starter fluid" for the use of the best nuclear fuel of them all, thorium.

                  It is wrong not to reprocess used nuclear fuel.   All of the stuff in it is way to valuable.   The future demands we get this under way.

                  I note that there is a process, probably going to commercial in Korea, and possibly Canada, that will use the uranium from used nuclear fuel directly, without much processing.   This process is called the DUPIC process, and I've written about it somewhere here before in one of my diaries that I haven't got time to track down.   It requires CANDU type reactors that are available in Canada (where they were invented), South Korea, India, Romania (where they are coupled with district heating systems as well as to turbines), and Argentina.   Regrettably we have none in the US.   The world definitely needs to expand the fleet of CANDU's.   They are simply great reactors that would be a big part of making nuclear resources very close to infinite.

                  •  I do not disagree, but point out that there is (0+ / 0-)

                    a radically different school of thought.  Managed properly, reprossesing could work well.

                    My concern is a chemical one.

                    It is exceedingly difficult to enrich natural uranium to be of value as fissile fuel, because 235 and 238 are identical chemically, so the very small difference is mass has to be used.  Tack on 6 fluorine atoms, and the effective difference in mass is even smaller.

                    Plutonium, on the other hand, has chemical properties sufficiently different to make is relatively easy to separate, and because of its slightly higher neutron yield per fission, is much more efficient for making the nasty things, like fission explosive devices.

                    I am not completely against the concept, but in my opinion, much more study is required, both in the technological arena and the security arena, before we commit.

                    Boy, you are good for making me think!

                    Warmest regards,

                    Doc

                    In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

                    by Translator on Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 06:42:18 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  I've had a rather assymetrically bad day. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    houyhnhnm, Translator, drchelo, palantir

    Posting silly comments and making my dKos friends LOL has saved me by shining a little light through my soul.

    Nice to see you, Doc. As usual, the science flies over my head. But I understand the ballot--and am getting pumped up to go to the polls myself. And I always like the purdy pictures and diagrams!

    ;-)
    ear

    We are all droogie6655321 now.

    by earicicle on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:17:00 PM PDT

  •  if one piques a geek, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, drchelo, palantir, earicicle

    does the sleek, piqued geek shriek - or squeak? or is it a meek, weak sort of geek?

  •  From the beginning... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, palantir, earicicle

    ...of your discussion on chirality, I was wondering when you'd bring up light polarizing properties of proteins.
     I didn't know that about caraway and spearmint. One I like, the other...
     Excellent discussion, Translator.

    "Respect for the rights of others means peace" Benito Juarez

    by drchelo on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:22:39 PM PDT

    •  I just thought that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drchelo, palantir, earicicle

      I would mention light polarization in passing, because it puts most folks to sleep immediately.  Now that you bring it up, I will say that, historically, chiral materials have been called optically active, because of this property.

      And yes, proteins certainly are optically active.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:25:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One way to think about chirality is screws (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, koNko, Translator, earicicle

    The more I learn about science, the more I see that almost everything is geometry. Chirality is a REALLY BIG DEAL but one way to think about it is in terms of screws. You can have right handed screws and left handed screws (a screw motion means you have a rotation and an axis to move along). A technical name for the shape screw threads make is a helix (like DNA is a double helix).
     If you put four dots on each of your hands in corresponding locations, you will see that moving from dot 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 will trace out a helix (as long as all 4 dots are not on the same plane). One helix will be right handed, like a right hand threaded screw and the other will be left handed. If you look at the nice colored diagrams A and B, visualize the object in 3 dimensions (the hard part) and number the colors 1-4;  you will discover the mirror image helices.

  •  Hexahelicene :) n/t :) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, wondering if
  •  So sunlight is a mixture (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator

    of left-handed light and right-handed light? And Polaroid stuff can separate them? And if you make a greenhouse out of plastic some will smell like spearmint and some will smell like caraway???

    •  Sunlight is randomly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko, Leo in NJ, earicicle

      polarized, consisting of light in every possible plane of polarization.  Polaroid filters eliminate all but one plane of polarization.

      As for the greenhouse, it depends on what you grow in it.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:34:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sunlight is greatly diffuse (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Translator, Leo in NJ

      Meaning the light is transmitted at a multitude on incedent angles.

      Some keywords you can study to learn more:

      Spectrum
      Diffusion
      Incident
      Integrated
      Polarized
      Columnated
      Coherent
      Emitted
      Transmitted
      Filtered
      Refraction
      Diffraction
      Reflection

      Each is importiant to light!

      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

      by koNko on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 08:22:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, Doc, good job but about that DABCO... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, wondering if, palantir

    ...it may not be the best molecule to evoke in a discussion of chirality.

    It has 2 planes of symmetry, a C3 axis of rotation, and 6 C2 axes of rotation.

    Not too chiral.

    Nice presentation though.  I liked the marshmallows.

    (Believe it or not, I have no idea how to embed pictures on this website.)

    It behooves to point out that there are many known systems wherein the chirality exists in spite of the absence of chiral centers.

    •  I did not intend to imply (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir

      that DABCO is chiral.  However, molecular models allow one to figure out a rather unique property of it in the arena of photochemistry with enones.

      It is easy to inbed.  Just post up to a free Photobucket account, save the address, and modify it to look like, well I tried but got an error when I tried to post because the editor thought I was trying to post a picture.  The FAQ's give a pretty good overview.

      You correctly point out that chirality does not necessarily involve asymmetric centers.  Usually it does, but that is not a necessary requirement.  The requirement is that there is a nonsuperimposable mirror image for the material in question.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Oh, by the way, I believe that DABCO also has several S symmetry elements as well.

      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:42:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes it does. I didn't note the improper axes. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator

        I am, the model of propriety.  ;-)

        •  We are really getting wankish here, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lemming22

          but that is a good thing.  My entire goal in this series is to demystify science, and if getting down into the grass of science does the trick, so much the better.  But I defy you to find anyone that has not studied group theory to grasp the concept of reflection/rotation, or is it rotation/reflection?  LOL!

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

          by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:53:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  NNadir obviously knows (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator

    but DABCO: 1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane

    •  Some of us affectionately (0+ / 0-)

      refer to it also as TED (triethylene diamine).  The thing about DABCO is that is just like triethylamine, except it is in a rigid structure, so the lone pairs of electrons on the nitrogens can not ever overlap with any significant electron density of carbon-hydrogen bonds.  Since there is free rotation in triethylamine, the properties are quite different.  In essence, DABCO has it ears pinned back.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:48:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Two sets of questions, before I go and read (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Translator, earicicle

    One from me, one from my 12 year old son

    Me:
    How do candles work? How come the wax melts at the same rate that the wick burns? And what about the candles in jars, where does the wax go to make room for the wick?

    My  son:
    What's the most explosive thing per gram? (I'm not sure if he means element or compound)

    thanks!

    •  Your son asks excellent questions. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, plf515, earicicle

      A well designed candle has a wick in proportion to its width.  As the candle burns, the wick actually bends at the very top tip and ashes, essentially going away.  The wick contributes very little to the combustion, just serves as a vehicle to bring the molten wax to the atmosphere where it vaporizes and burns.

      As far as in the jar, it is the same thing.  The solid part of the wick is pretty much nonexistent as it tips and ashes.

      The most explosive thing per unit mass probably, as far as we know, is plutonium.  (But antimatter is moreso).  However, the question is a little ambiguous, so if he will rephrase it, I will try to give a more detailed answer.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

      by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:03:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, Translator

        He rephrased it as
        What is the most explosive element?
        which sounds like it would be plutonium. But I'm not sure what the ambiguity is.

        •  Explosions occur from diverse (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko, plf515

          reasons.  Some things just blow up naturally, like a critical mass of plutonium.  Other things need a bit of energy to get it going, like TNT requiring a detonator.  Then there are materials like nitrogen triiodide that are pretty stable until the fly alights on it.

          It is relative, and explosive output can be reckoned in different ways.  The term brisance is one way to look at it, but it may not be related to total output.

          That is why I say that it is ambiguous.

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          In do not know everything, but I can learn anything. -6.25, -6.05

          by Translator on Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 06:22:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  very cool stuff (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Translator, earicicle

    semi OT, but I was just reading a book by a guy who read the entire Oxford English Dictionary (8 hours a day for a year).  One word in there is ambisinistrous .... having two left hands (figuratively) that is, being equally clumsy with both

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