By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Cancer
Tetranitratoxycarbon may have the potential to store energy, combust or do a little of both.
Despite being somewhat of a hollywood cliche, serendipitous scientific discoveries rarely ever happen. Just ask any scientist and that person will tell you about all the painstaking detail that goes into designing an experiment to hone in on specific probable outcomes. But when they do happen, heck, they make for pretty good stories. And when it's a 10-year old girl accidentally discovering a potentially explosive molecule, it's definitely worth me telling you about it.
The little prodigy in question is fifth grader Clara Lazen, whose class assignment was to build a molecule using one of those modeling kits with the colorful balls and plastic connectors. Many kids would probably throw together a little H2O and call it a day -- but not Clara. She randomly pieced together a combination of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon atoms to create a molecule her chemistry teacher, Kenneth Boehr, had never seen before.
"I just saw that these go together more," Clara told the Fox News local affiliate in Kansas City. "Like they fit more together. And they look better. And all the holes have to be filled in for it to be stable."
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Astonished, Boehr emailed his friend Robert Zoellner, a computational chemist at Humbolt State, to confirm whether it was legit. "Ken sent me a picture of the molecule on my cell phone and usually I can tell right away if it’s real," Zoellner says.
This time, he couldn’t.
To check whether Lazen had just discovered a new molecule, he ran the molecule's formula through an Chemical Abstracts, an online database of chemistry research dating back to 1904. He found one match: nitrogylcerin
But (and it's a big "but"), Lazen's molecule, dubbed tetranitratoxycarbon, had a different structural arrangement, which meant they could now tell the world they had just discovered a new molecule. Similar in composition to nitroglycerin, an explosive, Zoellner says tetranitratoxycarbon may have the potential to store energy, combust or do a little of both. At the very least, it's a molecule chemists can attempt to synthesize and toy with to see if there are any possible technological applications.
Boehr and Zoellner have submitted their findings to the journal of Computational and Theoretical Chemistry for publication in the january issue. And, yes, Lazen is listed as a co-author.
"Me and Mr. Boehr were talking about if we sold it we’d split they money,” Clara told Fox News. "And I was like, 'Yeah, I can sell this to the military for money.'"
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Feb 6, 2012
That's one reason why he, or at least his labs, were so productive. It's also the way George Washington Carver worked. While technically not efficient because it seeks to know, rather than to exploit as it's primary consideration; it succeeds in finding the unknown because it does not rely on the assumed validity of prior "knowledge". Reminds me of a patent my father-in-law held that violated the so-called laws of fluid dynamics as understood in the 60's or 70's. He didn't "know" it couldn't be done, so he built the thing to do the job. It worked, proving that the law in that case wasn't valid.
How is it that Clara Lazen's teacher, Kenneth Boehr -- who is presumably paid for teaching -- gets to move in on any profits flowing from the young lady's invented molecule? Why is this OK?
No kidding, I've been noodling about finding a more stable form of Nitroglycerin for years. And this brilliant little rug rat beat me to it ! Grr. For those of you who haven't figured it out, Nitro can store whopping amounts of energy, but we can't use it to power our cars. One little pothole, and BOOM ! Major disincentive to the consumer. But... a stabilized form of Nitro... something that ONLY became unstable when exposed to high amounts of heat... You could spray this into a piston chamber, one tiny droplet at a time, zap it with 100,000 volts and BANG ! Pulse detonation. Pocket-sized jet engines would be possible. JetPacks would be practical. Even flying cars ! All we'd need is sufficient solar energy to synthesize the Nitro-9, and our dependence on oil would be over. And this kid beat me to it. Why didn't I take Chemistry when I was ten ?
Okay, I was very impressed. Very impressed. I read the article with interest and fascination, knowing that this child could very well be one of the golden ones who change the world for the better. Until I reached the last line. Poor thing. I really feel sorry for her. Totally brainwashed at 10. Not only is money foremost on her tender young mind, but the first place it lands is the military. Someone should tell this girl what the military invariably does with brilliant inventions that could be used for peaceful ends. So I will: In the hands of the military, it always -- ALWAYS -- is used for destruction of life.
This shows that sometimes 'rote' education is stifling the creative process. Students don't know something is "impossible", or "you can't do that", so they just do, or build it! Old school was to teach the '3Rs'. That is all they did, and this led to many mechanical innovations, as students WEREN'T taught what they 'couldn't do'. Take railroads: coupling rail cars with the 'link and pin' system led to many deaths, and the 'knuckle coupler', in use today, was invented; the term, "the real McCoy" was coined for an invention of Elijah McCoy, the designer of an automatic oiling system for steam engines, which allowed them to run faster and longer, although he was only an oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad.
New molecule (yawn) happens all the time. A new explosive, especially one that can be handled safely...that's news! Hope she patents it. The educational trick is not in creating it, but in recognizing it as unusual....
The student used a molecule model set and followed the chemistry rules to make a different molecule. What helped in this case was not knowing if such a molecule is impossible and building something that fit the rules. It would be interesting to find out what the actual properties of this molecule would be and how useful it would be.
a new molecule and then not only that he had contacts that could recognize the uniqueness of it. She just arranged some play blocks.
Is it making money or is it selling the discovery to the military? As a veteran, it bothers me that the military is seen as evil. The military is one of the institutions that makes it possible for the US to enjoy freedom of speech at the cost of the soldiers' lives. What is evil is using the military for conflicts that are wars of choice and not a war for defense. The end of the article with the statement about selling the discovery to the military is premature in that this molecule has yet to be made and tested. This is a case of counting chickens before they hatch.
In my opinion, this puts a spotlight on what's wrong with higher education. Granted, I'm in IT, but I constantly see people saying something is not possible because so-and-so said it was. I'm sure my perspective is tainted by PCProSchool'd people, but I really hope the "Let's see what happens" type of experimentation is not ridiculed merely because the summary of the experiment sounds impossible to 'experts'.
1000 yrs of war for very limited freedom in some regions.... wouldn't it be easier to kill those wanting to go to war?
freedom of speech my ass. have you seen the FBI recently? "...What is evil is using the military for conflicts that are wars of choice..." That's exactly what it is..9/11's a lie you know.