WWWTP? – MORE University Decorations

February 20th, 2012

It’s déjà vu all over again. Today’s edition of What’s Wrong with this Picture? comes to us courtesy of a concerned reader who discovered this grotesque conference room at Iowa State University:

If I were Ben or Gail Plummer, I’d be furious. These structures are a hot mess. Texas carbons, irregular bond angles…yuck.

Remember the new undergraduate labs at Georgia Tech? It seems interior decoration with nonsensical chemical structures is really catching on.

If you encounter chemical nonsense you’d like to share, please send it in. Blog editors are standing by.


21 Responses to “WWWTP? – MORE University Decorations”

  1. @pseudoknot Says:

    maybe this is what some bonds look like when they approach a black hole?

  2. Hap Says:

    1) It must be really hard for their graphic designers to ask someone for help, and it must not be a career-limiting move to make your clients look dumb. They must not have been able to get any magenta spotlights for the door.

    2) I didn’t think Big Pharma actually did toxicology anymore. You could send him back to Wonderland, though, right?

  3. amanda Says:

    Yes! I was like #250 on facebook. Do I get a prize?

  4. Paul Says:

    Ed’s gone. I shipped him last night and hired a troop of random animals to take over his duties. D.Z. Penguin specializes in inorganic chemistry. I’ll see what I can do to get Ed back, but it might be too late.

  5. Hap Says:

    Outsourcing is spreading. What else will it take from us?

  6. Lyle Langley Says:

    I don’t see that this one is as bad as others. These are clearly not real molecules and are simply meant for “art”. Kind of like someone painting a Campbell soup can in colors that are not red and white. Not meant to be taken literally. Whereas many of the other examples shown are clearly molecules that were simply drawn incorrectly.

  7. Hap Says:

    I think it’s actuallly worse. Someone making a Campbell’s soup can in the wrong colors is trying to make a point to people with no particular technical knowledge (and presumably using the commonality and nature of the knowledge that the artist assumes – probably correctly – of the viewers).

    On the other hand, chemistry labs manipulate and find specific technical knowledge. The nature of the knowledge and its commonality are not usually relevant to art – nature doesn’t care whether people know or like valence rules, and the distribution of that that knowledge is not generally an imputation on society at large. There is generally not much of a message in getting the structures wrong, and information on correct ones is immediately present (it’s a chem lab). If someone gets the structures wrong, in the presence of so many people who could have given them correct ones, it’s because they either couldn’t be bothered to get the structures right or because they were too lazy to get help from people who could. Neither is complementary to the artist or the school.

  8. Lyle Langley Says:

    Your argument only holds if, in fact, the walls (glass doors, etc.) were intended to “teach”. They are not, they are intended for artistic purposes only and should be looked upon in that sense.

  9. Hap Says:

    Why be wrong if you don’t have to? If you draw something that makes no sense around people who will notice, one presumes that there’s a point (because you could have made it correctly and presumably also made them look attractive, no?) – either you’re trying to make a point or you’re making the point that you couldn’t be bothered.

    I think the glass is teaching – but what it’s teaching (no, the accuracy of your work doesn’t really matter) probably isn’t what they meant to say.

  10. Lyle Langley Says:

    Again, I see this as an attempt at art. No different than someone painting a real object something different than it actually is. Why are chemists so offended by these? I don’t see the soup militia going into the Warhol museum and making a protest because he didn’t accurately portray those cans. Why did Warhol paint cans orange and purple, when gosh darn it, everyone knows they are red and white. What a buffoon! It seems to me all these posts are trying to say is: look we are so much smarter than everyone else we can scoff at these.

    I see the issue when it’s in an advertisement, but here? C’mon, get off the high horse. Next time they hold a chemistry class outside this conference room ‘teaching’ these as actual structures, give me a call.

  11. See Arr Oh Says:

    @Hap – I’ll ride to your defense on this one!

    @Lyle – Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective.

    When I enter a museum, I suspend disbelief; I realize I’m there to see artists’ conceptions of the world with crazy colors, shapes, minimalism, etc. Walking through the museum doors, you realize that what you’ll find on the other side doesn’t necessarily have to be real or true, but that’s part of the fun.

    When I enter a lab, the intention is to perform research and learn something. So I want the facts: the why’s and how’s, not someone’s wild interpretation. I know we chemists can sound like sticks in the mud, but, damnit, it says “Science and Technology” on that door, so why can’t it be ACCURATE science?

  12. Lyle Langley Says:

    Sorry, you’re both sticks in the mud. If a professor puts this on the board in a class, shame on him. Anything else is for architectural or artistic purposes. Stop being a d-bag. “Well, when I walk into a science building, there damn sure better be nothing, and I mean nothing but accurate depictions of molecules….harumph.”

  13. Hap Says:

    Architecture is for the use of the people inside. The primary purpose (despite what architects seem to think) is to make buildings that fit the needs of the people inside. Since the art is there for that purpose (and it’s a school, on top) then the expectation is that the art serves a pedagogical purpose. Art in museums or public areas is taken as having an artistic purpose – in private areas, it generally is taken as serving the interests of the occupants or owners.

    All >that art teaches is that one can get paid without knowing what one is doing, correctness doesn’t matter if you have the right friends, and taking the time to know what you’re doing and doing it correctly is overrated. Unless you’re looking to recruit financial engineers, I’d say it isn’t doing what the school would like it to (or maybe it is – financial people probably have more money to give back to the school after graduation than chemists or chemEs).

  14. Lyle Langley Says:

    “Art in museums or public areas is taken as having an artistic purpose – in private areas, it generally is taken as serving the interests of the occupants or owners.”

    Iowa STATE University – seems pretty public to me…

  15. Hap Says:

    I’m guessing if the random public walks into a chem lab, security will be called. So, no.

  16. Lyle Langley Says:

    Well, you do keep trying Hap, I’ll give you that. The door in question is outside a conference room. The random public tour State university buildings all the time, whether it be prospective students and family or just Joe Q. Public (I hear he’s very nice as well). And more, importantly, the random public pay for the university, so, hence, it’s a public place.

    Keep trying…I love the internets…

  17. Santi Says:

    Lyle, imagine something like this :
    Somewhere in a Humanities building, someone found it more aesthetically pleasing to put a text with lots of spelling mistakes.
    Would you find that normal? I would find that irking.
    The same happens here, IMO.

  18. irii Says:

    santi >> now that you say that, it reminds me that I have seen something like that actually. A very big art installation, text of a long document, multiple spelling mistakes, no spaces between the words. I have no pictures, but yes it was quite difficult to read what it said.

  19. Lyle Langley Says:

    Depending on intent. Art is not meant to be literal.

  20. See Arr Oh Says:

    But chemistry IS. Sorry. Atoms only bond and bind in certain ways, and artists, no matter how hard they try, can’t make that change with a few extra lines.

  21. Lyle Langley Says:

    OMG, another stick up his ass chemist I see. *We are so much smarter than anyone else, I get it.* News flash, these are not REAL, they are just pictures. I know, I get it, nobody better ever take any liberties when it comes to chemistry – the Cosa Nostra is out in full force, watch out, knees will be taken out. Again, if these are written by a professor in a course, then for shame. Otherwise, it’s not a learning tool.


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