Thursday, June 23, 2016

The abortion gun

We need to invent some kind of gun that performs safe abortions. When Republicans can't figure out whether to ban it, women in conservative states might get more abortion access amidst the confusion.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Fathers' Day!

My dad was telling me about this paper of his a few days ago, so I thought it'd make a good Fathers' Day post.

A standard job for industrial chemists is making a lot of some useful molecule. A problem they often run into is that their reactions only make a small amount of the desired product, and make a lot of waste. (If making the molecule is a multistep process, the amount of waste at each step can make the final product very expensive.) With a reaction Dad was working on as a postdoc at Kansas, an input molecule kept reacting with itself, leading to lots of waste products which happened to smell terrible.

Dad got the idea that the surface of silica gel had the right structure to hold the input molecule apart from others of its kind when the reaction was started, preventing it from reacting with itself. So he put some in when he did the reaction, and got very little waste. Later at a conference, two chemists working in industry publicly thanked him for figuring out how to do a clean synthesis of the desired product. One expressed wonder that silica gel, of all things, was the way to make it work.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thoughts on the Orlando mass shooting

When I first visited the French Quarter of New Orleans in August 2014, it was during a gay community event called Southern Decadence. Lots of men were nearly naked, lots of men were wearing elaborate costumes, and lots of men were nearly naked while wearing elaborate costumes. People were throwing beaded necklaces from the balconies as they do in New Orleans, but the structure of heterosexual Mardi Gras nudity-for-beads transactions had been disrupted by the sheer oversupply of nudity. Most of the necklaces were flung wildly into the frolic below, guaranteed to end up around some scantily clad reveler.

Perhaps this is because I'm relatively inexperienced with gay nightclubs, but I tend to imagine them as full of the merry raunch that I saw at Southern Decadence. Mass murder anywhere is terrible. But what happened in Orlando, I think, is mass murder of people who were doing something awesome.