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February 2, 2005
Up There, and Down Here
Instead of blogging tonight, I went outside with the telescope and froze my extremities. My wife loaned me a fashionable wool scarf, which saved my ears while I observed the winter sights. Every time I see Saturn (or Jupiter, which wasn't up yet), I wonder how much of those yellow and brown colors are the same things that stick to the top of my chromatography columns in the lab. I had a look at the yellow-orange dot of Titan, and thought about the methane rain that might have been pattering down on the Huygens probe at that very moment.
Not far away from Saturn's current position (in the constellation Gemini) is the "Eskimo Face" nebula. By the time I got around to that one, he didn't look much warmer than I felt, so I packed it in.
In earthbound exploration, tomorrow I'll be making a class of compounds that has never been made before, at least according to Chemical Abstracts. That's just what we need to plant the patent flag and claim the territory, and I was glad to see things show up that were fairly close, but not quite there. That way I can be fairly sure that the chemistry will work.
It's always worrisome when you get hundreds of hits from a literature search, because you know that you're going to have a hard time finding (and claiming) something new. But it's also troubling when you get zero hits across a broad class of related structures, because at this late date, there might well be a reason for that which you, too can rediscover. Of course, you can get literature hits that are all for uses like hair dyes, photoresist agents, corrosion inhibitors, and arthropodicides. Then while you figure you can probably make the compounds, you have to worry a bit about their status as something that you could ask someone to eventually put in their mouth. . .
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