Tuesday, 21 May 2013

What am I on about?

Seriously, what on earth am I going on about?

When trying to get your point across, have a debate or tell a story it is very important to say the right words. Communication is all about language and used well can be an incredibly powerful tool.

First some common words

I wanted to have a look at the language I've been using on this blog and see if I'm saying the right things or in fact (more likely) saying some very strange things. I thought that a quick trip over to Wordle, a nice website for making fancy word displays, could tell me what I wanted to know. The 75 most frequently used words from my last 10 blog posts are displayed below.

blog wordle

The most obvious and bizarre thing is that I apparently say first an awful lot! I say first more than any other word. Why? I don't see second in the wordle. Maybe I don't think second is important. Maybe I get so distracted with the first thing that I ramble on and then start talking about other questions like oh look questions is pretty big on the picture too.

Science is up there, journal, work, cover (I do talk about covers a lot) but there are other surprising big ones such as one. When do I say one? Am I talking about unique occurrences or again get bored after the first? I'd like to see more superlatives being used. Great is there, but I have much better words than that in my vocabulary. I think science is wonderful and we should use equally wonderful words to describe the amazing world we live in.

There's no point doing ground breaking work and not telling anyone about it and that's where words come in. Language can not only be useful but also fun. Playing around with your split infinitives can allow you to boldly go where no scientist has gone before.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Birthday celebrations

This week is my birthday. Woohoo! I'm now into my late 20s, one step closer to death...

Birthday covers

To celebrate my constant loss of brain cells and the failure of my DNA to replicate properly, I thought I'd have a look at another big birthday that happened this year. My favourite journal, Angewandte Chemie, celebrated 125 years of publication.

To celebrate the occasion a gathering of the great and the good was held in Berlin earlier this year. Backs were patted and many nice things were said, including a piece from Stuart Cantrill with some interesting trivia. The journal started as a magazine for industrial chemists published in German, the journal title itself translating as 'applied chemistry'. English readers had to wait until 1962. The journal has actually been going for 126 years but had a year off in 1946 due to the war. So with 125 years of published articles, the covers in January were fittingly congratulatory; fireworks and champagne all round. The Issue: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 1-466  (notably open access).

Angewandte birthday fireworksAngewandte birthday drinks

The original cover

There really is a lot to celebrate for the guys at Angewandte. They've been at the forefront of the evolution of journals over the past 50 years especially. They were the first chemistry journal to introduce graphical abstracts and also the first journal to have pictures on the covers. Before this there was simply a list of featured articles and other journals at the time just started straight off with a table of contents.

The January issue in 1977 was a breakthrough. Scientists now had a platform to paint a picture worth a thousand words. Ok, they weren't as flamboyant as the fireworks quite yet, but a massive leap it must have been.

Angewandte first coverThe paper: Experimental Electron Densities and Chemical Bonding
Found at: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 16, 32-40, 1977

Taking a look at that first cover, all I can say is, wow! What on earth is going on there? To start with, it's in black and white (colour wasn't invented until 1986). A pretty simple picture compared with today's outings but pretty intriguing for a first attempt. There are some contours which suggests an energy landscape with peaks between the, presumably, atoms of C, C and N.

The paper is all about electron densities and quite frankly is way out of my field. But I was right with the contour map, so go me! Taken out of the paper the caption for the image states, "Deformation density in the plane of the three-membered ring of 2,3:5,6-bisepimino-p-benzoquinone at 143 K." Well that certainly clears everything up.

As we've seen, things have moved along significantly. There have also been a few surprises along the way, a humorous cover from 1987 used cartoon acrobats to demonstrate radical chemistry. Perhaps Angewandte should also be congratulated as the original place for TOC ROFL.