Monthly Archives: November 2010

Green and Sustainable Chemistry Symposium here at CCIQS

Next week, on december 8th, the Joint Center for Research in Sustainable Chemistry (to which I am ascribed) will host a Symposium on Green and Sustainable Chemistry in which German Alumni -almost exclusively from Mexico- will participate with talks on the impact and development of new techniques on green chemistry. We’ll be honored with the visit of Prof. Dr. Reinhard. W. Hoffmann from the Marburg University, who will give a lecture on strategic planning of organic synthesis. Let us remember that green and sustainable chemistry is a working philosophy and not a branch of chemistry; is a way of undertaking our daily tasks through ways that have as little impact on the environment as possible (less energy spent; less by-products; a narrower spectra of organic solvents used; less purification steps; etc.). I will make sure to post some more information after the event has been held. The full program -in Spanish- for the event can be viewed at

This is a major event for our young research center and a great opportunity to get in touch with major researchers in the field both foreign and domestic, not to mention an excellent opportunity for young students to start thinking green.

Kudos to Dr. Bernardo Frontana and Dr. Monica Moya (current head of the academic community here at CCIQS) for the organization of this symposium which hopefully will become a periodic event at our institution.

2011, The International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011)

IYC 2011In April 2006, during a IUPAC Executive Committee meeting, the idea for an international year of was first discussed. From that meeting a IUPAC committee was appointed to work along with UNESCO in the creation of the event and finally during 2008, the year 2011 was officially designated the International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011); additionally 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to Madame Marie Curie so the IYC 2011 will also be devoted to celebrate the contributions of women to science in general and not only to chemistry. Furthermore, 2011 is also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Association of Chemical Societies so the benefits of international scientific cooperation will also be highlighted.

The International Year of Chemistry represents a great opportunity to celebrate, highlight and raise awareness about the extraordinary achievements of chemistry and how it has mold the way we live. The IYC 2011 motto is “Chemistry- Our life, our future”. To me this motto reflects how chemistry will help to solve the current problems our planet is going through (from global warming to alternative energy sources); I work at a research center that is ultimately supposed to be devoted to research in sustainable chemistry, so the appeal is huge! The main goal of the IYC 2011 is to increase the public appreciation of chemistry by reaching out for the general public (in the end, us chemists are already interested in chemistry) in a wide variety of activities that will range from conferences to hands-on experiments and other forms of interactive performances for people of all ages. Everyone can get actively involved by just visiting the official website (see below)

We live in times where science surrounds us yet people fear it, distrust it, argues it without foundations, school boards in first world countries dare to promote religious-like factoids in education. It is our duty as scientists to raise awareness about the importance of chemistry to the technological and cultural advancement of the human race, at least so next time some TV ad announces a chemicals-free product people raise their eyebrows.

Like every well respected institution around the world, here at UNAM we are organizing a series of events directed to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry. I’m already trying to organize a visit for some of the most brilliant people I had the pleasure and honor to meet and work with at Babes-Bolyai in Romania, hopefully we’ll build some academic bridges between our two institutions. Also a series of books on different aspects of chemistry (from the very scientific to the more philosophical kind) will be published by our university.

I encourage you to promote the events in your local scientific community, but also to raise awareness within your non-scientist friends. I will sign all my emails, twits, blog posts and Facebook updates with something like ‘2011, International Year of Chemistry’. What about you? Chemists of the world: Get involved!

Thanks for reading!

2011, International Year of Chemistry

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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