Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Sex and the chemist

What is it that chemists really have on the brain? To answer the question, try clicking on this link to a book review in the New York Times, and have a look at the molecular structure to see if anything leaps out at you.

So what did you see? If you’re anything like the chemist that wrote in to the New York Times to complain, you’ll have spotted that some of the carbon atoms appear to have formed five bonds. Fair enough. But did you notice that the molecule is actually spelling out the word ‘sex’?

Credit goes to the Newsmakers section of Science for telling this story of a chemist who was prepared to admit that he missed the point. I have to say, I think I’d have missed the point of the graphic too…


Andrew Mitchinson (Associate Editor, Nature)


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    Kevin said:

    I didn’t see the words at first either and I went looking based on your post. I did see penta-valent carbons and divalent hydrogen.

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    MG said:

    There’s a handful of “HH”ed hydrogen, too. Also, random molecules are “bonded” by dashed lines and no/incorrect hydrogen bonding is noted (if they really want to use that notation)…

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    Andy said:

    Yes, you’re right there’s an awful lot wrong with this structure. As a colleague commented to me the other day, if you’re going to go to the trouble of depicting a molecule that spells out a word, you’d think the least you can do is try and get the basics right. Maybe the chap who complained to the NYT shouldn’t have been so apologetic.