Friday, 26 April 2013

Chemical poetry

This week on Twitter has been all about Real Time Chem, if you've somehow missed it then you are spending too much time in the lab.

Real Time Chem is a great community project on Twitter using the hashtag #RealTimeChem. Chemists all over the world have been sharing their daily experiences, lab work, cool articles and finding solace in the fact that they are not the only one failing to purify that unknown black mess.

Amongst other things this week, I have been doing some isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC). A wonderful technique (when it works) of measuring the binding enthalpies and association constants for non-covalent interactions. It's one of my favourite pieces of kit to use; it can give great insight into the success (or failure) of synthesised ligands and makes some pretty graphs.

ITC machine
ITC results

After setting the experiment going I had about 30 minutes to procrastinate before the run was finished. So the internet gets fired up and through a strange connection of aimless link clicking, on websites including "Facebook", "Chemistry World" and "Jet2 cheap flights" (possibly not in that order), I came across Nobel prize winner Roald Hoffmann. Whilst obviously being a great scientist, Professor Hoffmann is also the author of a large number of poems. Some of his work focuses on chemistry and I thought what a fantastic medium poetry is for expressing the wonder and excitement of uncovering nature. I'm sure it would work equally well for portraying the torment and anguish at failed reactions, but let's stick to the wonder for now.

Back at the ITC, a flash of inspiration hit me and I came up with a poem all about the technique...

Isothermal Titration Calorimetry

Separate they contemplate their lives alone
But this the only thought they share
Not knowing their worlds are about to collide
Never loneliness will they again bear

One passively waits for an injection of life
Floating in their own little cell
The other poised to mix at the first chance
That stirring sensation will tell

But it takes another to set their paths
One who knows what makes them attract
To turn up the temperature, wait for the calm
Push the right buttons, see them interact

An initial touch, not sure where it will lead
At first you can never quite know
But a second feel, a larger reach
The heat given off starts to show

As if they had always been as one
They're together and will never part
The creator watches his successful work
Plotting their lives as a chart

Their story lives on for others to see
An example for anyone that looks
To find a guest for that elusive host
Written down in the wisest of books

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