Thursday, March 29, 2012

A test tube full of fun.

Chemists are a radical lot. Whatever they do causes a reaction. If they bond well, there’s equilibrium. If they develop a complex, there’s entropy all around. If they turn radio active, something explosive happens. And if they decide to stay inert, the thermodynamics of life faces a litmus test. To stereotype them as colourless white-coats is as uni-dimensional as remembering Dravid for his ‘dour defence’ or Sonia for her ‘sphinx-like silence’.

The fact is, most of us aren’t even aware of the kind of fun they have while whipping up their alcohols and aldehydes. Thankfully we have Paul W. May, the Professor of Physical Chemistry at University of Bristol. He’s been generous enough to give us an inkling of the chemist’s wit by penning ‘Molecules with silly or unusual names’.

From the book, I’ve culled out some rip-roariously amusing names that feel like they were coined in a room filled with laughing gas.

Moronic Acid is going to be my Exhibit No.1. Extracted from Mulberry trees (biologically called the Morus family), Moronic Acid is not used to dissolve the Big Mooses of the world. On the contrary, the triterpenoid organic acid is often deployed by archaeologists to wash away the dirt from ancient wooden relics.

Then there’s Arsole, the most ingeniously named compound in the chemistry of mankind. Arsole or the Arsenic equivalent of Pyrrole is predictably known to be mildly aromatic. It seems the curious tag tickled quite a few scientists into queuing up to research the aroma of the Arsole!

Another bold nomenclature is Bastardane. When confronted with a look that felt very different from the papa molecule, it seems someone with a tongue firmly in cheek took the liberty of opting for this drop of blasphemy.

‘DEAD’ (the acronym for the explosive Di-Ethyl-Azo-Dicarboxylate) is a stark example of the black humour of the lords of the lab. The hideously memorable ‘SNOT’ (Tritiated Tin Hydroxide) is an equally clever derivation, made up from the chemical formula SnOT. And if that didn’t regale you enough, consider DAMN, the acronym for the fairly toxic Di-Amino-Maleo-Nitrile. Ain’t that befittingly caustic?