Cool Physicists and Poor Chemists

8 03 2012

All science is either Physics or stamp collecting

~ Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics.

Normally when I ask my Physics friends, “what are you working on these days?” they answer something on the lines of string theory, relativistic quantum effects or dark matter or looking out for some supernova or you know, one of those cool sounding words. Contrast that with my Chemist friends who answer me something like, synthesis of second fragment of a taxol or characterizing my sample with IR or one of those things about no one seems to care much.

My Physicists friend might grumble but then isn’t it true that what a chemist does, affects the general public, or aam aadmi, directly? I mean would you rather prefer a cheaper paracetamol or would it be better if someone told you that some star exploded a few thousand light years away? But then ask people names of famous scientists and what you would hear is Einstein, Newton, Heisenberg, Feynman. You would surely not hear them say Langmuir, Fischer, Wittig or Hoffmann. I mean who cares who was responsible for the wonderful windshield of your car that dries off almost immediately when you would rather be happy about knowing that “the force between the elctrons is an exchange force arising from the exchange of virtual photons.”

Not just that. Physics has wonderful jokes too. You have jokes about Pascal and Newton playing hide-n-seek. You have movies on Heisenberg, Einstein. They are natural philosophers who write wonderful quotes about religion and ethics and say what God doesn’t like to play with. Then there are these legendary stories of Archimedes running nude and apples falling on heads. And then those wonderful T-shirt captions on the lines of “Gravity is a myth. The earth sucks.

Meanwhile we are stuck with one single joke that we repeat everywhere. “My name is bond. Ionic bond.” We don’t have legendary stories except perhaps the elucidation of ring structure when whats-his-name was sleeping and dreamt of snakes. The discovery of fullerene, beautiful molecules that looks like football, might make good movie but then do we care? Even the super-villians are more engineers or biologists who don’t have to sit in front of a foot long column separating R and S isomers of some poisonous chemical. Who cares when we say that we have 117 elements on the last count as opposed to the great GOD who has only 5?


Anyway, why am I whining? Hopefully one of us would be the next savior of humanity or something. May be then, we might get a bit of respect. At this moment all that I can do is take a potshot. No, it won’t be directed at my software engineer friends. They earn 10 times more than I do for their “work”. The above quoted Ernest Rutherford who called my poor chemistry as mere stamp collection, got a Nobel Prize in 1908 in, hold your breath, C-H-E-M-I-S-T-R-Y. **** on that.


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11 responses

8 03 2012
Anonymous

Good Creation. I am tempted to say that you can be a Chemist who will change ‘History’.
BTW, nowadays I am only thinking in terms of Watson-Crick, although I have studied more of Newton and Einstein’s theories.

8 03 2012
Vikrant Payal

Hey! Software development is work!!! Take those double quotes off..

9 03 2012
Anonymous

Applied science is incomplete without chemistry, so enjoy it, we make it worth it. Ask a biologist the relevance of IR, NMR, FTIR……….and you will be happy. 🙂

12 03 2012
Samir

Who’s stopping the Kamaal ke chemists from making movies and spreading mythology? Fume on the incompetence in outreach rather than envying other branches. No school in the city of the National Chemical Laboratories was aware of the International Year of Chemistry ( 2011 😛 ) until an astrophysics institute told them about it 😀

The grass is greener on the other side. Do a Google image search on “scientist” and see who is there! But its not goodie goodie for anyone. Chemistry at least has colourful experiments to attract kids (but they can’t be done easily). Bio ones are slowww & Quantum Mechanics doesn’t have any!

More importantly the Govt. & the scientists hired by it, have no interest in actually sharing the joy of any of the Sciences. So, as yet, Physics = Lasers, Astronomy = Astrology, Biology = DNA and Chemistry = Bombs & All = waste of tax payers money which could be used to buy iPhones running on the same energy as the chariots of the Gods roaming the sky.

So one still needs to be an American citizen to get a Nobel prize and even to save the world. Indians are only good for Yoga & KS!

12 03 2012
vikrantnaik

@Vikrant Payal
Just a slip of my keyboard and an oversight. Hack in to my account and remove the quotes 🙂

12 03 2012
vikrantnaik

@Samir
Don’t even get me started on Indian Chemists or the NCL. I need to control here lest I be looking for a job there in the future :D.

I agree mostly with what you have written expect the KS part. I think the firangs beat us in that too. Its like we are the H Psi = E Psi of KS and they are QEDs now.

12 03 2012
vikrantnaik

@ Samir and Anonymous

I am in a way itching to come back and popularise chemistry. There are ways to make interesting experiments that I have been thinking of …. even small experiments through which kids can understand nano-science.

And I guess if one is interested in taking science to general public and school kids, making a better iPhone battery would be a sort of outcome of all that.

BTW Samir, proud of what you do.

12 03 2012
Kaustubh

Hey that was an interesting write.
You nicely put the difference between chemists world and of physicists with an “aura behind them” in very apt words.
I always used to be awestruck when my physicist friends used to argue on space and time relation, nth dimension, plasma condensate etc and I always ended up feeling dumb infront of them. Then nobody there cared about my carbene generation reaction giving only 2 products selectively either C-alkylation or O- alkylation which was quite fascinating for me.
So, yes ur words made relive those moments.

Good to read once again ur blog.

Hoping to read some more frequently

28 03 2012
Jayanthi

Vikrant, wonderful thoughts …..enjoyed reading….keep writing…

12 06 2013
txyz

Funny post. I missed when you mentioned the guy who dreamed of snakes, I’m not chemist, but after a little research, I found interesting the story of Kekulé. Regards

10 07 2013
Pete Gelb

I like this blog very much, Its a rattling nice office to read and receive info . “The absence of war is not peace.” by Harry S Truman.

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