The Sceptical Chymist | Glasses, glasses everywhere, but not a drop to drink

Published in Chemistry

WARNING! This blog entry contains a joke with chemical content! Those of a nervous disposition may want to look away.

For those who didn’t read my last entry, I’m currently at an RSC symposium on organic chemistry, held in Cambridge (UK, not MA). It’s traditional for UK conferences to be held at universities, apparently so the delegates can be shocked at the quality of the food. Last night was particularly cruel, because all the tables were laid out with wine glasses, creating an expectation of alcohol. Sadly, no wine was actually forthcoming, so the delegates had to face the evening lecture unfortified.

Still, we’ve had some cracking talks. Today, Varinder Aggarwal presented some powerful chemistry for homologating boronic esters; this allows carbon chains to be ‘grown’ with control over the relative and absolute stereochemistry. This work has yet to be published, but he reckons the paper will be ready later this year – so keep your eyes peeled.

Shu Kobayashi discussed various topics in catalysis, ranging from scandium complexes that enable carbon-carbon bond formations to be performed in water (click here for an example), to lab-on-a-chip hydrogenations that are performed in channels coated with polymer-encapsulated palladium. And Dean Toste gave an overview of his work on gold catalysis – a truly amazing lecture, delivered with such aplomb and rapidity that it was difficult to tell when he drew breath.

So who told the chemistry joke? It was Amos B. Smith III, at the evening lecture last night. Dithiane groups feature heavily in his work, and he was questioned about the best way of removing them. This prompted the following gag:

Why are there 32 methods for removing dithianes?

Because none of them work…


Andrew Mitchinson (Associate Editor, Nature)

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