The Laws of the Universe

December 15th, 2006

I’ve recently discovered the fantastic Web site of Ken Suslick, a Professor of Chemistry at UIUC. His stories about serving as an expert witness during a patent lawsuit and as a consultant for a Hollywood movie are good reads, and his seminar on seminars is right on the mark. Some money advice:

“Your job is to convince and inform, NOT to archive.”

“Don’t get cute [with formatting and animations].”

“Don’t go more than 50 minutes”

Finally, his collection of “Laws of the Universe” is pretty good. My favorites:

Ninety Rules of Project Schedules: The first ninety percent of the take takes ten percent of the time, and the last ten percent takes the other ninety percent.

The Roman Rule: The one who says it cannot be done should never interrupt the one who is doing.

Westheimer’s Rule:
To estimate the time it takes to do a task: estimate the time you think it should take, multiply by 2, and change the unit of measure to the next highest unit. Thus we allocate 2 days for a one-hour task.

So true. Westheimer still roams the halls around here and often attends seminars, including the annual lecture for the Westheimer Medal. In an introduction to the last such lecture, a second Westheimer’s Rule was mentioned: “Two weeks in the lab will save you two hours in the library.”

It never ceases to amaze me how often people waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. Thank goodness for SciFinder.

Previous Comments

  1. Wolfie Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 9:38 pm Hope that the Ninety Percent Rule applies to you, honestly. But your job is certainly to archive at least something for your professor. No Ph.D. without that. This is how science industry normally works.“It never ceases to amaze me how often people waste time trying to reinvent the truth. Thank goodness for Paul.”
  2. Paul Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 10:18 pm Keep ‘em coming, Wolfie. This site will never fade into oblivion so long as it attracts retarded, illiterate trolls like you.
  3. Wolfie Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 10:48 pm Get it going, Paul. Not everything in life is like A+.A fellow sufferer.
  4. Paul Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 11:03 pm
  5. Wolfie Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 11:25 pm Is that you who needs a new shirt ? Apart from the false teeth, I mean.
  6. Wolfie Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 11:30 pm And, you need to admit, as long as it is fun to bite our false teeth together like this ugly guy on your photo, we will continue, and as long as the others will miss us, we will start again.This is called addiction.Well ?
  7. Paul Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 11:54 pm
  8. eugene Says:
    December 15th, 2006 at 11:58 pm Back when Westheimer was in the library, it was a dark and dreary place full of shelves of chemical abstracts. Nowadays, it’s all on the the computer that’s conveniently located inside the lab. I’ve had to go to the library more when I was an undergraduate!Hey Wolfie, how come Heidelberg amalgamated chemistry and earth sciences? Not enough moolah, or was it always that way?
  9. Wolfie Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 12:05 am I resign. For now and forever. Until someone on revitalizes me. Or when Paul has published his first article in an ACS journal. But that’s too long too wait. Even Bengu would flesh her teeth and publish something anywhere before, she has shown that she can do it.
  10. Wolfie Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 12:37 am Eugene,I have never been in the library with anyone called Westheimer. I miss these days when we had to read Chemical Abstracts diagonally to find something valuable, but doing it between the shelves with someone called Westheimer ? No, thank you.
  11. Computational Chemist Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 12:38 am Paul, I suspect Wolfie might either be any of your former mate (enemy) or Sezen herself. You can easly rule out the former by searching your memory with the available trails and comments Wolfie left. If it is latter, her grudge to you is understandable to all your readers.BTW I disagree with your calling him/her illetrate as the comments of Wolfie tells otherwise.
  12. Wolfie Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 1:24 am It is, but it’s not that easy.
  13. Wolfie Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 1:36 am general comment vs. illiteracy: irony is something that Americans do not understand because they are childrenenough now
  14. Paul Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 6:38 am Comp. Chemist: Wolfie definitely has some connection to Sezen (and might even be Sezen herself). Unfortunately, cowardice prevents him/her from coming clean and taking responsibility for his/her comments.Both Sezen and Wolfie have standing invitations to come here (a neutral site) and reproduce the disputed results under video surveillance. For the good of the community, I would dutifully liveblog the event and report the final outcome.Also, since I know that this blog gets a lot of traffic from Heidelberg, I encourage Sezen to disclose the e-mails that she has been sending to members of the National Academy of Sciences. These were alluded to in the recent C&EN story, when Schulz reported that “she has waged a one-woman e-mail campaign to have her published work reinstated.”I bet they’re a great read. Anyone who’s got a copy of one of them (there are many) should feel free to forward it to paul_(at)_chembark-dot-com. Your anonymity is assured, if that’s what you desire.
  15. eugene Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 12:14 pm “irony is something that Americans do not understand”It’s like Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaine!“Anyone who’s got a copy of one of them (there are many) should feel free to forward it to paul_(at)_chembark-dot-com. Your anonymity is assured, if that’s what you desire.”Nah, those emails were only meant for the people who received them (unless the author gives you permission to post them). I disagree we should see them without the said permission.

    I don’t think the Roman Rule would ever fly in industry for too long. There is not as much money in R&D as there used to be and money losing projects get interrupted all the time.

    P.S. I’m pretty sure I saw the ACS article where you’re an author when I followed the link from your resume. I’ve read some of it, but it’s not my cup of tea.

  16. eugene Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 12:22 pm Suslick’s looks like he’s got steam coming out of his head in that picture. So, what were you doing on his website? Admit it, you were looking up Hartwig for a postdoc! If not, I suggest to look up Professor Christina White if you’re trying to waste time. Her group has been doing some excellent work in CH activation catalysis recently. I think we talked about her group’s work at our group meeting.
  17. Paul Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 4:47 pm I forget how I came across that site, but it wasn’t searching for postdocs. I’m quite familiar with Christina White (I used to attend her monthly lit. meetings here) and her chemistry, which is good stuff.Anyway, I don’t think I could compete in the world of C-H activation. If you look at recent history, it’s clear that women are much more skilled in the area than men.
  18. Shrug Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 6:38 pm Holy crap, he *does* looks like he’s got steam coming out of his head.I admire a chemistry prof who doesn’t take him self too seriously to put that kind of picture up on his website.
  19. eugene Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 9:50 pm It probably helps that he has tenure.
  20. eugene Says:
    December 16th, 2006 at 10:00 pm Now that I’ve been looking at that picture again, I think that he is thinking about something really difficult, and when great and smart people think about difficult things, their brain and temple get hotter. He probably poured acetone on himself and decided to think about something really hard before taking that picture…I’m sorry, everytime I look at that picture, it just makes me laugh, sometimes uncontrollably. It doesn’t help that Suslick’s last name stands for a common prairie rodent in its original language (look it up in the google image search, it’s the first two hits). I think they hibernate in the winter. My last name is nothing exciting in the original either of course.
  21. Wolfie Says:
    December 17th, 2006 at 10:28 pm Final post in this blog:Bismarck said “Madmen, drunkards, and the United States of America enjoy special protection by providence”. (GWBush is greeting)And my grandmother said: “These Americans, they could not even march in a row, but they won the war.”What should I add ?
  22. eugene Says:
    December 17th, 2006 at 10:57 pm You should add that you’re going back to the lab to do some work that will appear in an ACS journal instead of posting here in the middle of the night. Geez, normally I don’t mind Germans (I speak their language), but this one is driving me crazy. I’m starting to rethink my plans of becoming a professor at some medium-sized German city. The beer and the football isn’t enough if this is what I have to put up with.
  23. Wolfie Says:
    December 17th, 2006 at 11:18 pm I have a Ph.D. already, that makes the difference.
  24. Tutu Says:
    December 17th, 2006 at 11:45 pm Hi everybody, this is Wolfie’s wife (no kidding) who just would like to know: are you guys actually drunk whenever you are posting here?I would like to write more but our baby is crying, so I have to calm him down.Good Nite, Tutu (I also have a Ph.D. already as I see my husband boasting with this…)
  25. Paul Says:
    December 18th, 2006 at 2:10 am Haha…this is too weird. Guten nacht, Drs. Wolfie and Tutu.
  26. eugene Says:
    December 18th, 2006 at 10:24 am Wolfie, didn’t you say you were leaving 10 posts ago? The Adieu is er… overdue.
  27. bgr Says:
    December 18th, 2006 at 5:57 pm If you get the chance to speak with Westheimer, make sure you get him going on his undergraduate days as the semi-official moonshine quality inspector at Dartmouth.
  28. Tutu Says:
    December 19th, 2006 at 10:33 pm Gee, Paul, what are you writing in your blog in the middle of the night?
    Wolfie is awake at these hours because he is doing the night feedings of our baby (baby only sleeps 5 hour stretches), but you?anyway, I am working during normal hours and have to sleep at night.Good Night again, Tutu
  29. Wolfie Says:
    December 19th, 2006 at 10:37 pm this has been posted without my consent
  30. excimer Says:
    December 20th, 2006 at 12:21 am I’m a stud(ent?) at Illinois. Suslick is a pretty neat guy (though I don’t work for him). His lectures are mostly him telling non-sequitur stories that are, on occasion, pretty funny. He’s definitely one of the more likable people in the department.
  31. eugene Says:
    December 20th, 2006 at 4:05 pm Hey Excimer, as a concerned non-Illinois person, I feel that you should bring up the fact that in the faculty pictures, not all of the faculty look, well, sane. And I don’t mean Suslick (he looks just fine). I mean that some people just need to get waaaaay better pictures. fact, in the first column on the left, everyone looks just fine (exept for a couple really intense guys), but the picture taking could use some work in the middle and the right columns. At the very least, photoshop it so that steam is coming out of everyone’s head as some sort of great equalizer.
  32. excimer Says:
    December 20th, 2006 at 11:54 pm Yeah, the pics for the most part are pretty bad. But the website people make do with what they’ve got.The worst pic probably goes to Christina White. I hate that pic of her- she has since cut her bangs and looks way cuter now. Far be it from her, however, to give a shit about such things. She’s an awesome chemist, but man, I could never work for her- she’s a very intense person.Lauterbur’s too senile to take a newer pic. That one’s ten years old at least.
  33. Proton Says:
    December 23rd, 2006 at 3:13 pm Back to the subject of the laws… Let’s not forget EJ Corey’s 3x scale up rule. Every organic chemist should know it.
  34. Paul Says:
    December 23rd, 2006 at 5:54 pm What is this scale up rule of which you speak? Is it to make 3x whatever you think you’ll need?
  35. Proton Says:
    December 24th, 2006 at 6:53 pm The 3x scale up rule is, I am told, attributed to EJ Corey (it would be a good idea to double-check with a past member of his group for the accuracy of this explanation). The idea was that you NEVER scale your reaction up more than 3-fold at a time. I found out about it the first time I scaled something up 10x and the yield went into the single digits. It is a practical idea that synthetic chemists should know about.Let me give you an idea of how it works. If you were Sezen, you would ‘run’ your first reaction on a 1 mmol scale before you decided to scale up to a 5 mmol ‘reaction’. Of course scaling-up a ‘reaction’ was a bit easier for her to do…By the way, I would like to encourage the Eds to put a block on Wolfie. I am a neutral bistander taking no sides (except that I too am disgusted by the fraud at Columbia). This person who posts under the moniker Wolfie is clearly belligerent and their petty comments detract from this blog. Go elsewhere please.
  36. Wolfie Says:
    December 26th, 2006 at 12:04 am Altri gerunt belli, tu felix Austria, nube.I don’t know what they say in Iraq or elsewhere.
  37. Wolfie Says:
    December 26th, 2006 at 12:18 am Sorry for my failure again, the right citation would have beenAlii bella gerunt, tu felix Austria nube…..stria_nubeThere are, of course, translations available into international knowledge, but not on Wikipedia these days.
  38. Proton Says:
    December 29th, 2006 at 10:37 am Clever use of your second language. It makes you ALMOST come across as an intellectual but from your earlier posts I think we all know better. I too know a second language but see no point in using it in this forum where English is the common thread.
  39. Wolfie Says:
    December 31st, 2006 at 1:06 am But, I thought this blog was international ? And since we all know that you Englishmen, at least you in the United States, have little general Bildung, and this is why your country (USA) is still so uncivilized, this is the only reason why we refrain from using any educated language here. We will come back when you will have learned how to do this.Wow. I’m proud of myself. I can almost use Harvard jargon.
  40. Wolfie Says:
    December 31st, 2006 at 1:26 am Ihr Engländer seid Ihr nicht Toren,
    Ihr gebt Euren Weibern den WillenThis is from W.A. Mozart, The Abduction from the Seraglio
  41. eugene Says:
    January 9th, 2007 at 12:32 am Tor!!!!! Schevchenko scores!This is from July 2006.Hey, my non-American ancestors had advanced civilization while you Germans were still climbing around in trees. Now I share it with all my American brethren.

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