Archive for the ‘Arts & Entertainment’ Category
Jerry Seinfeld is not an expert on chemistry, but he is an expert on comedy. That is why we must take him seriously when he says that boron is the funniest element:
That video is a recent interview of Jerry Seinfeld on The Howard Stern Show. For those of you who don’t want to watch it—and the whole interview is really great, by the way—I’ve transcribed the chemistry discussion here:
Seinfeld: What does it take to get a cab driver’s license? I think all you need is a face. This seems to be their big qualification. They put it on the license. No blank heads are allowed to drive cabs. And a name with, like, eight consonants in a row.
Seinfeld: Right? And some of the letters in these names, I don’t even know how I would report the guy. His name was Amal, and then the symbol for boron.
Stern: Right. When I hear “the symbol for boron”, that is the joke. I mean, I cannot help but think how brilliant that is.
Seinfeld: Thank you. Why? You like the choice of boron?
Stern: Boron, boron is the right element.
Seinfeld: That’s right.
Stern: It’s funny.
Seinfeld: Yes. A lot of other elements I could’ve picked.
Stern: Right. But you picked boron.
Seinfeld: It’s the funniest one.
Stern: Right. Now, first of all, when you were writing that bit, did you worry that outside of New York or big cities, that maybe people wouldn’t get that joke. Do you worry about who it’s going to universally appeal to?
Seinfeld: If it didn’t work on the road, I would’ve not done it on the road, but it did.
Stern: It did work.
Seinfeld: Because in the end, funny is funny.
Stern: Right, so, maybe a guy from Kansas understands that the symbol for boron is what we see on a cab?
Seinfeld: You know, Howard, when something is funny… You know, I watched Richard Pryor talk about how it feels to be hooked on…on…on…
Stern: On coke, or heroin.
Seinfeld: And I get it.
Seinfeld: I’ve never done it. I don’t even know what those drugs are.
Stern: But yet, that is compelling.
Seinfeld: If the…the guy takes you there. That’s the thing.
Stern: Alright. So, you were in a cab, and is that where you got the thought, where you saw the symbol…
Seinfeld: And I realized, why am I not scared? And even though this is a ridiculously dangerous…I would never drive like this, I have no seat belt on, and I’m not scared.
Stern: And you trust this guy from another fucking land.
Stern: We’re not even sure he knows how to drive.
Stern: And so that occurs to you. Do you immediately write it down in a book?
Seinfeld: Now this question, I get all the time.
Stern: Right. And I want to kn…
Stern: I’ll tell you why. Because I have thoughts all the time, if I don’t immediately write them down for my radio show, they’re gone. It’s gone.
Seinfeld: Yes. No, I do write things down. But people will ask. People ask me this, and they ask this hundreds of times: Do you have a pad? Do you write it on a…
Stern: Right! What’s the process?!
Seinfeld: Do you write it on a…? You write it! I had a little notebook, and you write it! People make notes all the time for things.
Stern: And did you write down the boron?
Stern: Where does that come from?
Seinfeld: Sitting with it.
Stern: I see.
Seinfeld: I sit with it.
Stern: Now, what do you mean sitting with it? You go home?
Seinfeld: I think this whole thing, the TV thing, I like the idea of the screen. It’s like TV. I go, that’s funny, I’ll play with that. And then the license, and then there was the “O” with the line through it.
Seinfeld: Right? And then I go…I don’t know, and then you think of the joke: you know, it’s a like a symbol from the chart of the elements. So then I thought, ok, which element?
Seinfeld: I’m going to use an element as a reference here, and that’ll be funny.
Stern: And boron was your first choice?
Seinfeld: No, it was not.
Stern: What was your first choice?
Seinfeld: My first choice was, ummm, I can’t remember. And then I looked up the chart of the elements, and I thought, “Oh, boron, that’s the funny one.”
So, there you go. I’m not sure what “the symbol for boron” is, since we abbreviate elements using letters without diacritical marks, but I’m guessing Seinfeld is referring to the archaic pictographic symbols for the elements. Here’s a couple of charts of symbols used by John Dalton, and the “‘O’ with a line through it” appears to be nitrogen. I can’t find an old symbol for boron, probably because it was too funny for stuffy chemists in the olden days to take seriously.
While I personally find boron to be amusing, I think that molybdenum is much funnier.
Tristillation is complete b.s., but they really did present it in a lovely manner.
Hat tip: B.J. for e-mailing the link
Elsewhere: Just Like Cooking
Of course, it’d be even nicer with safety glasses.
Also, beautiful new labs. Yum.
It’s a shame that moving to St. Louis is going to hurt my film and modeling career, but these are the sorts of sacrifices that must be made in the name of science. I suppose it is time for a new generation to take over the Hollywood roles typically reserved for chemists. For those of you interested in picking up the baton, here are some helpful tips that might just change your life:
1) Exfoliate. I hate the skin irritation that can be caused by safety glasses. The pink spots that develop where the frame touches your face often dry out and flake. I used not to care about it, but I later tried a variety of prospective remedies and eventually settled on mechanical exfoliation. Basically, you can purchase a microfiber or hemp facial cloth and use it to scrub your dead skin cells away. The material has a hardness less than your healthy skin—is there a Mohs Scale for cosmetics?—such that you can scrub pretty vigorously without cutting yourself. It also makes your skin feel much softer, which I am not at all afraid to admit. I am still all man.
2) Moisturize. You should apply a moisturizer to your face after exfoliating, but I often don’t and don’t notice too much of a difference. Where I did notice a huge difference was with my hands in Boston. During the winter, the air would become very cold and very dry. On my 30-minute walk to lab, my hands would dry out and crack, even with gloves on. When I got to lab, thawed out, and started wearing lab gloves, it was murder. I used to apply liberal amounts of Vaseline Intensive Care lotion during mornings and nights, and that definitely helped the situation. This particular brand was less oily than most, which was nice because I didn’t want my computer to get icky. Unfortunately, while the lotion helped, the winter cracking never went away until the arrival of spring (which is usually sometime in June for Boston). I would eventually discover a total cure for my problem: moving to Los Angeles.
So, for those of you who just skipped to the end of the post, ChemBark’s two skin-care tips are: exfoliate and move to California.
Yes, you read that title correctly: Jean-Luc Picard, the greatest starship captain of all-time, failed organic chemistry at Starfleet Academy. In his defense, it was probably less to do with intelligence and more to do with being distracted:
I pulled that video clip so I can show it to my students during our opening lecture. It should go well with the “How to Win Orgo” handout.
Update (5/1): Thanks to a tip in the comments from “bad wolf”, I went and pulled a clip from Star Trek: Generations where it is revealed that one of Picard’s ancestors won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It makes his failure in orgo all the more astonishing.