The Who, What, When, Where and Why of Chemistry
Chemistry is not a world unto itself. It is woven firmly into the fabric of the rest of the world, and various fields, from literature to archeology, thread their way through the chemist's text.
Chemists are the Zen masters of science. Chemistry is a minimalist art. Its structures and mechanisms resemble the spare ink characters which trickle down scrolls. We seek elegant syntheses in which a few, carefully chosen pieces collapse into a whole. There is particular pleasure chemists take in crafting a molecule that strains the bounds of possibility — such as cubane — which evokes the aesthetic of Noh, where nearly impossible movements are made to look effortless. And despite our abilities to peer into the depths of a molecule with lasers or beams of neutrons, we haven't lost our connection our history. We are still distilling and crucibles are not merely historical artifacts. Zen sees a beauty in the old and well-used, a touch of wabi.
I've a piece in this month's Nature Chemistry on what makes a molecule beautiful (here, $), through the lens of the ten molecules that I consider to be most beautiful. I've already had a couple of emails suggesting gorgeous molecules that didn't make my list. What's on your list of elegant molecules?