[chemical|anisotropy] the clueless chemist chronicles

…jottings about working, writing and living as a Clueless Chemist in Manila

[jottings] 15 seconds of fame

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The latest issue of the Loyola Schools Bulletin featured my article (which I previously posted here). Can’t say that I’m too, too pleased with my 15 seconds of local university fame. 🙂 Because the readers considered my blurb for “About the Author” as the best part in the discourse. So much for trying to write an in-depth analysis. >_>;

Delayed update–not so much as becoming netblind as to admitting laziness (and sickness) for the past week.  But, a lot of things happened this week (and it hasn’t ended yet): meeting up with the Medical City/ASMPH/SoSE people (and joining the fledgling journal club named “Stem Cell 101”), getting my long-delayed period, “moderating” a Sci10 plenary lecture given by Dr. Cuyegkeng, chasing the final tweaks on the NMR paper, etc. etc.

Hence this post, while listening to Tori Amos on iTunes in shuffle.  I’ve just encountered articles on musical molecules and blogging as a research tool.  And I will work on how to spin these into something bloggable while breaking my head over a set of client 2D-NMR spectra.


Written by Oui

February 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Posted in meanderings, real life

[jottings] happy evolutionary Sunday!

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A few days ago, I gave my usual Sci 10 (Science and Society) lecture to my class–our topic that time was “the origin of life”.  A student of mine raised his hand and asked, “Ma’am, do you believe that man descended from apes?”

Mm, a classic question.  And timely, too, after reading through an article from The Scientist about PhDs and parishioners and the proposal for Evolutionary Sunday.

And what was my answer?  Well…the issue is moot-and-academic. 😀 The classic question, in itself, was “defective” in form.  We did not literally descend from the genus Pongo, BUT we share the same common ancestor, making us not-descended from apes, but another type of ape.

Now, hear the post-Darwinian critics howl.

Written by Oui

February 10, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Posted in meanderings, science

[jottings] of anachronism and lomography

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There’s nothing like creative anachronism.  No, I don’t mean the Renfest and its relatives, not exactly.  But, in this (digital) day and age, using film cameras (or using film) to capture interesting and off-beat images is…so Luddite.

What just got me thinking now are two things: finally getting my cross-processed film roll scanned, and seeing a small exhibit of lomographs in ADMU (for Humanities Week).

Let’s Get Digital!

There’s nothing so convenient, powerful (and stylish) than a digital camera, right?  You don’t have to worry about buying and loading film, getting the rolls developed and sent to almost everyone.  Every image detail is recorded and stored electronically–no more messy chemicals, faded photographs and moldy negatives to store in a box, only to be forgotten.

Now, how do digital cameras work?  It’s….both simple and not-so-simple.  First, your recording medium isn’t light-sensitive film in a roll–it’s a CMOS sensor. This is a semiconductor unit that “senses” light pixel by pixel–imagine a sheet of tiny electronic devices arranged in an array, each one corresponding to one “dot” of light from an image.  So, the more sensors you have, the higher the definition of your photo, the more exact the image you reproduce.

What About Film?

The only advantage of using film is that it can still record images at the highest amount of definition as possible.  Why is this so?

Remember that the amount of sensors present in the camera determines image resolution–how the picture is defined exactly.  You can have millions of pixels (millions of sampled “dots” of light) in a CMOS sensor, but…film has more of these “sensors”–a sheet or a strip of film contains light-sensitive silver halide crystals which coat the surface.  Each crystal–no, each molecule of silver halide receives its “dot” of light, so light-sampling from the image is continuous and not limited to the number of sensors in a square area of semiconductor.

And What About Anachronism?

Digital photos are still cheaper than film photos…but why in the world am I posting shots taken with a film camera?

It’s a personal reason, really.  Aside from the fact that film records images “more precise” than digital cameras, I can do a lot of things with film rather than in digital.  By just picking the kind of film, camera angles, a certain play of light and odd ideas for film processing (courtesy of lomography), I can do crazy things like rendering modern Cubao a la 1970’s, even if Gateway Mall wasn’t there during the Seventies…

Of course I can do that in Photoshop using a digital camera. But, having worked with all sorts of digital cameras, I find the products…too crisp and error-free.  Easy, too.  Like any other electronic equipment.

Besides…film cameras (especially the plastic, toy ones) are dirt-cheap.  And no self-respecting thief would dare to steal one.

Written by Oui

February 1, 2008 at 10:59 pm

[jottings] remembering B’t X

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(image from www.all4seiya.com)

Today was…hm, indescribable, I suppose.  Doing QA over a manuscript for submission to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry for factual, logical and stylistic faults–including revising the data points of a major chart one by one–is tedious and neuron-killing in the long run.

Speaking of neuron-killing, there’s nothing like a nostalgia-trip to ease the numbness in the head.  After reading the article about switching blood types, I remembered the animé series B’t X, back when it was shown on ABS-CBN in the afternoon.  That translates to eight or nine years ago.  Man, that’s a long time ago!

Anyway, the premise of the series was that the main character, Teppei, revived an old kirin-type mecha (called a B’t) by the eponymous name of X, by giving it a bit of his blood.  Teppei’s blood, however, is not his “original” blood-type–X’s former mistress, Karen, donated hers to save Teppei in the past.  Since B’t’s are linked to their owners by their masters’ blood, Teppei became the new owner of X.  So the story goes.

The real-life story, though, about switching blood types, is much more scientific.  An Australian girl had a liver transplant, with a surprise bonus of liver stem cells from the donor.  The doctors were not aware of the surprise until her blood test showed that her type has changed to that of the donor.  It is surmised that the stem cells from the donor’s liver migrated to the recipient’s bone marrow and replaced the whole system.  How this change was triggered…is still a mystery.

(image from www.duke.edu)

Written by Oui

January 30, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Posted in meanderings, science

[jottings] of old stars and second chances

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We are accustomed to think that life is very linear. Non-recursive, with every kind of time or event happening just once. As Ecclesiastes said: “There’s a time to live, and a time to die…”; opportunities knock only once; this is your only chance in your lifetime, etc. But Nature begs to differ. Lives, after all, are not simply threads spun out by the Fates, but are woven in a web, with the promise of second chances if we look for them hard enough.

Take this news, for example–old stars giving birth again. Carl Melis, a UCLA grad student in astronomy, found out that there is “a new class of stars, ones that display conditions now ripe for formation of a second generation of planets, long, long after the stars themselves formed.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Oui

January 26, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Posted in meanderings, science

[essay] A Nobel Thought – Musings About the Nobel Forum

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(N.B.: I think this will be published in the university newspaper [LSB].)

The 10th Eurasia Conference on the Chemical Sciences—held last 7-11 January 2008 in PICC —achieved nothing short of a casting-coup in hosting the Nobel Forum, with four Nobel Laureates in Chemistry. The audience came from private and public sectors, aside from those belonging to the local and international scientific circles. Despite the disparate background, the forum itself was not a highly-technical talk on the latest aspects of chemical research, but an open discussion about science, creativity and innovation, sprinkled with dry wit.

The four Laureates—Aaron Ciechanover (Israel), Ryoji Noyori (Japan), Hartmut Michel (Germany) and Yuan T. Lee (Taiwan)—shared their unique insights gained from their scientific life before and after winning the prize. Some of their one-liners were humorous as well as thought-provoking.

The following are some of my personal favorites.

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Written by Oui

January 24, 2008 at 8:57 pm

[jottings] of fuchsia shoes

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I am a proud owner of fuchsia rubber ballerinas by Noosa, a local shoe brand that aims to outdo Crocs in terms of quality and price (they’re on sale at Php250 a pair). Yes, I wear them to school (and I don’t care if people stare down at my brightly-shod feet) because (a) they’re comfy and (b) they’re practical for lab, especially when I work in the NMR room.

Of course, there’s (c)…because the pair’s colored fuchsia! Vibrant, pearly, fluorescent pink that I’m quite sure glows in the dark like an embarrassing valentine. It brightens up my day! 😀 Heck, as Reg commented, she could see me (or my feet) a mile away.

Color aside, what makes Noosa, Crocs, Havaianas and Ms. Ang’s Durawalk/Advan footwear popular is comfort. Comfort due to the softness and flexibility of rubber. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Oui

January 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Posted in meanderings, science