Sorry things have been so quiet around here; it's been a hectic month! Here's something silly born of an unusual conversation over coffee.
The office microwave: unnecessary chemophobia?
The Merck Index, along with Fieser and Fieser's Reagents for Organic Synthesis, Greene’s Protective Groups, March’s Advanced Organic Chemistry and Amarego’s Purification of Laboratory Chemicals is one of those books that any self-respecting organic research group will have a copy of. It’s an iconic reference work, although its usefulness has definitely waned in recent decades with the rise of the internet, Scifinder/Reaxys/Chemspider and Wikipedia. As Derek reported before Christmas, it was recently acquired by the RSC, who have just released an updated edition. I mostly use mine to pass the time waiting for NMRs to run, or when I need a more reputable reference than Wikipedia for a paper or report. However, all of that changed last week when a tea break conversation sparked a bizarre new game: The Merck Index Challenge.
Anyone who’s ever flicked through a copy will probably have noticed that amongst all the drugs, solvents, salts and plants there are a number of… aberrant… entries. For example, Whiskey. And Lard. And Raspberries. And Quorn. And Milk. Thus, the question arose: could a meal be constructed using only ingredients from the Merck Index? Better yet, could one manage three courses?
Happy Christmas from all of us* at BRSM! Thanks for reading and all your comments and help over the past year!
*it's actually just me.
This is an actual cake that my girlfriend made me. I'd share it with you if I could!
Well, I didn't think that this day would come, but I have now been blogging for exactly one year! One rainy weekend last June, I sat down and wrote my first three posts, all on recent total syntheses. At the time, Totally Synthetic had been dormant for several months, and I planned to fill the void left by its absence. I only had about ten months funding left for my PhD, and I didn't know if I'd stay in chemistry after I finished, so I was entirely uncertain about where this site was going. In retrospect, it was probably a pretty stupid thing to start when I was supposed to be working my hardest in the lab to finish up.
Although I was pretty nervous at first, it turned out that very few people actually read my early posts, and I discovered that it's really hard to promote your own blog if you wish to remain anonymous. However, thanks to some advice offered in a comment by Freda I created a Twitter account, and after a few links and retweets by Nature Chemistry and New Reactions, I finally got some readers! Fast forward to the present and, as of this morning, this site has got been viewed almost 104000 times, which is a response I could never have imagined when I started. In my third post, See Arr Oh (in his homeless, pre-Just Like Cooking days) left me some very encouraging advice in a comment:
People are always looking (although they may not seem like it) for erudite but approachable discussions of the literature. Many just don’t have the time or access to look themselves, so they’re happy to have you guide them through it.
The niche takes a while (says the guy who doesn’t manage his own blog!). Just keep writing about good, current stuff, and people will find you.
How right he was! As I started to experiment with different types of posts, I was surprised to see that many people were more interested in shorter, more varied posts than the long, detailed total synthesis-based posts I'd planned to write. In fact, I'm not even sure how to describe this site to people any more - with posts from explosives to etymology, from chemical history and biographies through to the latest stuff you'll never try from slightly disreputable journals, I think I've shed my label of a poor man's Tot. Syn.!
Right, I'm not got to ramble on any longer, as people come here to read chemistry and I try to keep the personal stuff to a minimum. Many thanks to you all for reading, commenting and getting the word out! A special thank you to Dr Freddy from Synthetic Remarks, who offered me space on his webserver after my hosting became too unreliable, set me up with my own domain, and continues to host this site. I don't know what I'm doing next, but hopefully I'll be writing another post like this one next June!
P.s. More science soon! If anyone has any good tips for things worth writing about, or is interested in guest blogging here, please get in touch or leave a comment!
P.p.s. Should you wish to celebrate this auspicious day, but find yourself sadly incapable of making a cake, then here's the recipe that was used for the one above. It's just a regular Madeira cake that's been dressed up a bit, but was quite tasty. Although I love to cook, I don't make many cakes, so this recipe is courtesy of my better half. Enjoy!
The amount of traffic that this site has got since Thurday's conditions you'll probably never be desperate enough to try post has been truly unbelievable. Thanks to Derek for featuring this page on In The Pipeline, as well as other readers for submitting it to reddit and getting the word out on twitter. Hell, I somehow even got on the front page of actual news site arstechia.com:
Spot the odd one out!
1. What's funny about this, is that that post took me all of about 30 mins to write. I already had the links saved from when I'd first come across them. I didn't really think it was very good, but wanted to write something that wouldn't take too long. On average, a total synthesis write up can take me 4 or 5 times that long to write, and they don't even get 1/10 of the traffic that post has. Oh, well. The response it got was still incredible!
I was just going to let you all wonder (or not) where I've been for a couple of weeks more, but it turns out that having readers makes me feel really guilt for just disappearing. So, for the last two years, among other things, I've been working on a total synthesis project. After more than a few false starts, dead ends and detours, things picked up and progress has been good for the last couple of months, with the end finally in sight. To make things more interesting, I desperately wanted to finish the darn thing for a conference abroad at which I'm speaking next week. This effort has left me with little free time for things I enjoy, blogging being an early casualty. Fortunately, I completed my synthesis on Tuesday (with 4 days to spare!), the data match and I'm leaving triumphantly this Sunday to go and brag about my work. I'm out of the country until 21st December, after which I look forward to having a lot more time for writing again, and I'll get some posts up as soon as I can. Until then there's not much point checking this blog. I have about half a WW post on Woodward's epic synthesis of chlorophyll A, which I hope to finish while I'm away, and that'll probably be the first thing up when I get back.
Thanks for your patience!
P.s. An actual quote from my supervisor on Tuesday: "do you think you can get the paper written before you leave?". Don't count on it...
Hi all! Although this news is actually over a week old (and things are still in progress), I have an announcement to make. As many of you may have noticed, my old webhosting sucked - my domain was unmemorable, and when you did find the site it was often down for some reason. Well, thanks to a generous gift from DrFreddy over at Synthetic Remarks I now have a new domain name, and some decent hosting to back it up! So, the reason for this post is twofold: firstly, to tell you all to update your bookmarks for I can now be found at brsmblog.com and secondly, to again thank DrFreddy for helping out a poor student - this is easily the nicest thing anyone's done for me all year!
By way of warning I should say that the database which powers the blog is still over at eristocracy.co.uk, which is slowing things down at the moment but it will hopefully be migrated soon, as are the schemes of posts written before last week because I can't seem to get the links to change to the new server. When these issues are resolved then everything should be much better. In the meantime, please be patient and expect things to be a little shakey for the next week or so while I work things out!
A couple of quick, non-chemical things. Firstly, I now have a Twitter account (@BRSM_blog, as @BRSM was taken), so if you're not into RSS or just hitting F5 every ten minutes I'll tweet something when I post things from now on. I promise there will be no non-chemical updates, rants, or boring stuff. Secondly, I'm contemplating moving the blog, and probably getting a more sensible domain sometime in the next few months. The hosting I currently have is pretty basic (no PHP5, which really limits what wordpress plugins I can use) and I'm pretty close to maxing out my meagre monthly bandwidth allowance even with a fairly small number of readers and a simple layout. I'm inclined to just get some better hosting and do everything myself, as that'd be nice and easy, and I could migrate the whole site pretty quickly, but I notice a lot of people are using wordpress.com for hosting. My main concern for wordpress.com is that I don't know how easy it'd be to migrate the site over, and I think you have to pay extra in order to stay ad free, which I really, really want to do. So, fellow bloggers, what are people doing? Who's good?
Also, I'm inclined to get a more sensible/memorable domain name while I'm at it, but brsm.com, .co.uk, .net, .org etc. are all taken. I can either get something silly like brsm.xxx, brsm.mobi or brsm.asia, or get something slightly different like brsmblog.com. That's pretty memorable, right?