Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:Fuck you, chemists! (Score 4, Informative) 29

Spectroscopist here (chemical physics). we're not the bad guys here! It's the biochemists fault!

Here are the most recent "pure" chemical physics Nobel prizes: 2014, 2013 (I'd argue this is more a biochemical win than anything), 1999, 1998, 1992, 1991. Maybe you could argue fullerenes in 1996, since Kroto and Curl are pure-bred spectroscopists.

Organic/inorganic chemistry: 2011, 2010, 2007 (sort of), 2005, 2001, 2000, 1994, 1990

Then there's biochemistry: 2013, 2012, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1997, 1993...

I'd say at the rate that organic chemistry develops, I think they're pretty well-represented, same with physical chemistry. Can you think of a major development in organic chemistry outside of cross-coupling and Grubbs metathesis that is Nobel prize worthy at this point? Dave MacMillian has iminium catalysis and chiral Diels-Alder, perhaps, but it's still early. After Corey's win in 1990, I can't imagine that total synthesis needs another Nobel, unfortunately. There is a lot of good developments in this field but nothing stands out to me for Nobel at the moment.

In terms of spectroscopy, maybe the next "big" win is surface-enhanced Raman? Solid state NMR? There's the Nature paper from last year where from John Doyle at Harvard demonstrating enantiomer-specific spectroscopy using microwave spectroscopy, that could be a big deal in the next 10 years perhaps.

Anyway, tl;dr: I'd argue biochemistry is over-represented, especially in the general literature, but that might just be me being bitter.

Comment Re:Just wondering... (Score 5, Informative) 34

Kohn & Pople's prize in 1998 is probably the closest in relation. Pople's work on ab initio methodology is directly related to the GAUSSIAN quantum chemistry suite, and when he become unassociated with GAUSSIAN due to disputes (and was subsequently "banned" from using GAUSSIAN ever again, see this site for criticism regarding this -- note that for some reason Chrome is saying this is a dangerous site though I've been on it many times, so click at your own discretion -- or just google it) he went and started the Q-Chem program suite.

I don't think Kohn was ever associated with any quantum chemistry program suite like Pople, but he was one of the key players in the development of density functional theory, which is available in pretty much every quantum chemistry suite and used by a vast majority of chemists who use calculations in their work.

Comment Re:I always thought Auction house is what make Dia (Score 5, Informative) 219

After playing for 500+ hours, I think the AH did the opposite. The game was grindy because grinding was the only way to develop a bankroll large enough in order to interact with the economy, which was centralized essentially only at the AH (assuming you don't put actual money into your bankroll).

But since the itemization and character design in D3 was so poor that in order to reach end game -- each item type only had one set of ideal attributes to make it valuable, the prices on the AH were absurdly inflated. It made it worse that each class really only had one or two viable builds -- so even having small variations in ideal item attributes was rare, and getting good rolls on those build-specific attributes made items even more expensive than "standard" end-game items.

So it was a vicious circle of grinding -- you had to grind to get good items that were worth selling by default in order to participate in the AH, but since the attribute requirements for sellable items was such a short list you have to grind more and more to find drops that actually meet the requirements to actually get it to sell. I'd say I would sell maybe less than 10% of all uniques dropped, and the majority of that 10% I would sell for maybe 1-2% of the cost of the end game gear that I actually had, so it takes FOREVER to recoup costs unless you're lucky.

Even worse, in order to get good drops consistently you needed to grind at the highest monster power levels, and in order to do that you need end game gear! So vanilla D3 with the auction house was an eternal worthless grind unless you decided to put 20 bucks into your character to make him decent.

Now, hopefully with better itemization and better loot tables it will become less grindy to participate in the economy. Without the AH, trading will hopefully be more like D2 where the currency (SoJs back in the day, and later end-game runes) was much more stable than "gold".

Comment Re:Hey, wait a sec... (Score 3, Interesting) 80

Sadly none at all, I don't think. It's a really wonderful telescope, a hidden scientific treasure of the Americas. I hope it goes to private control, like how SRI runs Arceibo now. But ALMA is the big boy now (not a bad thing, ALMA will be incredible when it's fully up and running), and what ALMA wants, ALMA (mostly) gets.

Comment Re:Hey, wait a sec... (Score 5, Interesting) 80

I should also add that it's possible to even map out a molecule's "location" in a region of space. We've done some work with spatially-resolved studies of nitrile-containing molecules (which is where these discoveries came out of) where you can see the specific regions of the cloud where these molecules are most abundant. You can learn a ton about the formation of these molecules from this, since the cloud is actually quite a chaotic beast -- there are cold patches, like temperatures below 20 K, then there are patches where the temperature is 100 K or even more. The chemistry is very drastically different in each of these areas, and learning about which molecules show up where tells us a ton about molecular formation processes in a star-forming region.

Comment Re:Hey, wait a sec... (Score 4, Informative) 80

It doesn't really resolve any of these issues. This is really a result about the formation of simple biomolecules, like glycine (in the case of ethanimine) or adenine (cyanomethanimine). In other words, this is a hint towards solving the mystery of why we have amino acids in the first place, and nothing towards figuring out the synthesis of more complex structures.

Comment Re:Hey, wait a sec... (Score 2) 80

I'm not an astronomer, but this is likely solved by atmospheric subtraction. The telescope gets pointed to a specific radio-quiet area in space, and everything that shows up get subtracted out. I don't know if this is the exact process (I worked on the laboratory part of this experiment, as I'm a chemist), but I'd wager it's pretty close to that.

Comment Re:Hey, wait a sec... (Score 5, Interesting) 80

I'm not one to really speculate on this, since I'm a spectroscopist, not an astrobiologist, but I'll give it a shot. There is a BIG difference chemically (and temporally) between what we detect in clouds in star-forming regions and what we detect on comets or any kind of interstellar surface. There's definitely a cause-and-effect thing going on here, but the real gap in knowledge is what's the mechanism to go from cloud consitutents to cometary material (then obviously to planetary surfaces).

What's really interesting in the context of chemistry is the chemical or physical mechanism for generating complex molecular substance in an early protoplanetary system (either in a cloud, or a disk around a young star, or whatever). We can't really attempt to recreate the conditions of space -- we can do cold, we can do fairly low pressures (though obviously not as low as interstellar space), we can make stuff on surfaces, we can even bombard it with an intense and high-energy photons -- but it's mostly just simple models for the intense conditions of a star forming region.

Most of the research does point to the conclusion that most of the complex organic material gets formed on surfaces of various ices or grains -- it's really the only thermodynamically viable way of forming stuff at such extreme conditions. But how do we probe this spectroscopically? It turns out spectroscopy on surfaces kind of sucks (no offense to surface scientists) -- the absorptions are broad and fairly uncharacteristic, especially on a surface with a potentially complex mixture of molecules of both high and low abundance. It turns out the best way to get resolution is to go to gas-phase. Problem here is that it's damn cold! Complex stuff can't get formed sub-20 K temperatures. But we do see stuff, like this molecule, that give us some sense of what's really going on. There's no way to detect whether or not this stuff is being made on ices or grains and then getting heated off by the absorption of a photon, or whatever, but it's likely the case (especially since there is experimental evidence of ethanimine and cyanomethanimine being formed on cold ice surfaces).

Amino acids (and nucleic acids) might be a lot more abundant than we know. But it's likely this stuff sticks to the ices and grains, or gets formed a lot later in the star formation cycle. That being said, finding these molecules that are studied precursors to major biomolecules is a good sign that the field's on the right track (for the most part. There's a lot of old ideas in the field, and with the advent of the next generation of radio astronomy starting this decade, I think we'll start to see a lot more results like this).

Slashdot Top Deals

Pohl's law: Nothing is so good that somebody, somewhere, will not hate it.