Archive for the ‘WWWTP?’ Category

Better Drinking Through Chemistry

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Hey, look what the American Chemical Society produced for St. Paddy’s Day: it’s a tutorial on the chemistry of alcohol, including its effects on your body and how your body attempts to rid itself of the poison.


Uh oh, but there’s a WWWTP? in there. If you pause at the 2:45 mark, you can see that they flubbed the structure of “amyl alcohol”:



While there are several isomers of amyl alcohol, instead of drawing one of those, the ACS has shown the structure for isoamyl acetate (commonly known as banana oil). When banana oil is dilute, it kind of smells like Juicy Fruit bubble gum. In concentrated form, it smells really gross. I know, because I made it in 6th period orgo lab in high school and the people around me in 7th period religion paid the price.

But good effort, ACS! This is exactly the sort of info we (as chemists) should be communicating to the People. It’s news they can use. Of course, in the future, try to get the structures right! (And for the record, you also misspelled “judgment” at 0:49. Boo.)

H/T to Kim the Magnificent for the tip.

WWWTP? – Garnier Fructis Shampoo Edition

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Sometime last year, my girlfriend DVR’d a copy of this commercial for Garnier Fructis shampoo because she saw it had chemistry in it and because she is awesome:


If you pause the video at 0:13, you will notice quite a few chemical atrocities:


Basically, nothing is right. Note the surfeit of Texas carbons. I also love the asymmetry of their elemental fluorine, though maybe those things labeled “F” are atoms of fruit? And what is up with that ideal gas law? You’d think they’d be able to get a structure for biotin in there, considering how big they wrote the word on the chalkboard. Argh…

Anyway, great catch by the ol’ g/f…whom I am now happy and proud to call my fiancée.

WWWTP? – Mohawk Edition

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Bobak “The JPL Mohawk Guy” Ferdowsi dyed his hairdo several weeks back to celebrate the discovery of chloromethane on Mars:

Very nice, though I’m not a big fan of the atomic radii. That turquoise chlorine atom should be huge—4 times the diameter of the red hydrogens.

You just can’t trust engineers these days…

WWWTP? – Sci-Fi Classic Edition

Monday, September 17th, 2012

It’s time to start attacking the ChemBark mailbag. Let’s begin with this little gem sent in by Excimer:

Photo credit: Excimer


Excimer writes:

I’m currently reading the sci-fi classic series Cities in Flight by James Blish, and hooray! there’s organic chemistry in it. Unfortunately, it looks like this.

Indeed. You’ve gotta love the: (i) Texas carbon, (ii) doubly-bonded hydrogen, and (iii) calcium–carbon bonds. I guess this sci-fi classic is heavier on the fiction than the science.

WWWTP? – Nomenclature Edition

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

There is nothing like a trip to my mailbox to bring a nice little blogging hiatus to a crashing halt. While attacking my pile of C&ENs, I caught this ad for TOSOH Organic Chemical Company on page 43 of the 11 June 2012 edition:

I guess the hair net and painter’s mask ensure that—unlike my Orange Chicken at Panda Express—these products arrive free of human hair. Matters of lab attire aside, what actually piqued my interest in the ad were the compounds for sale:

Sigh. That is not how I was taught to name organic compounds. My orgo professor—on the recommendation of IUPAC—told us to start by numbering the longest chain of carbons. Thus, 1-bromo-2-ethylbutane is properly named 3-(bromomethyl)pentane, and 1-bromo-2-ethylhexane should be 3-(bromomethyl)heptane.

Avid readers of ChemBark know that I love trick questions, and structures like the ones above make for great nomenclature practice. Many students will instinctively assume the carbon chain extending from left to right is the longest. When I taught orgo, I had to purchase red pens by the dozen.