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The Chuck Norris of chemistry


It is widely known by now, the existence of a list called “The Chuck Norris facts” in which macho attributes of this eighties redneck action hero are exacerbated for the sake of humor. The list includes such amusing facts like:

  • “Chuck Norris doesn’t eat honey, he chews bees”
  • “When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he’s pushing the Earth down”
  • “Chuck Norris counted to infinity; twice!”
  • “There is no evolution, only a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live”

This last one is funny also because Chuck Norris is a Born-Again-Christian who doesn’t believe in evolution. The list is very funny although the original site has become plagued of not so good ones thanks to uninspired people with web access.

A not so old list, and definitely funnier for us people in the science business, is “The Carl Friederich Gauss list of facts“, which includes gems like:

  • “Gauss can divide by zero” (funny although a bit obvious, right? well this is warm up)
  • “Gauss didn’t discover the normal distribution, nature conformed to his will”
  • “Gauss can write an irrational number as the ratio of two integers”
  • “Gauss doesn’t look for roots of equations, they come to him”
  • “Gauss knows the topological difference between a doughnut and a coffee mug”
  • “Parallel lines meet where Gauss tells them to”.

All these facts imply one thing: impossibilities being allowed to one paradigmatic character for humor’s sake. What could be considered an impossibility in chemistry by now and who could be the one to bear Norris’ fame? Who could be deemed as the Chuck Norris of chemistry?
The impossibility of synthesizing noble gas compounds comes to my mind as the historical impossibility in modern chemistry most imprinted in chemists minds since its written in Pauling’s textbook and is supported by Lewis’ theory; yet Bartlett achieved their synthesis during the 60’s! Chemistry is a science which generates it’s own study matter and as such, impossibilities become challenges. What are the current challenges in chemistry? what is the direction our science is taking or even worse that it should be taking?

So here is my first attempt at emulating the list of facts in the chemistry field and my chosen one is Roald Hoffmann!

  • Roald Hoffmann can make a C atom hybridize d orbitals into its valence shell
  • Roald Hoffmann drinks AlLiH4 aqueous cocktails
  • Roald Hoffmann can stabilize a tertiary carbanion and a primary carbocation
  • Roald Hoffmann can analytically solve the Schrödinger equation for H2 and beyond (of course)
  • Roald Hoffmann denatures a protein by looking at it and refolds it at will
  • Roald Hoffmann always gets a 100% yield
  • Le’Chatellier’s principle first asks for Hoffmann’s permission
  • Roald Hoffmann once broke the Periodic Table with a roundhouse kick
  • Roald Hoffmann can make a molecule stop vibrating at absolute zero; it’s called fear!
  • Born-Oppenheimer’s approximation is a consequence of nuclei being too frightened to move in the presence of Roald Hoffmann. Electrons? they are just trying to escape
  • Roald Hoffmann’s blood is a stronger acid than SbF5

A pretty lame attempt I admit. Who is your favorite chemist in history and why? Try to come up with your own Chuck Norris of Chemistry list and we’ll share it here in this site.

As usual thanks for  reading (yeah! the whole three of you)

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