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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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February 6, 2012

Glass Structure, Atom by Atom

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Posted by Derek

Glass%20structure.pngFor a really stunning electron micrograph of the thinnest possible layer of glass, see here. (If you don't have journal access, here's a release with some details). What's even more striking is that the semi-random arrangement of atoms is basically an exact match of a hypothesis from 1932 by W. H. Zachariasen at Chicago.

And maybe it's just me, but high-resolution images of molecular structure like this still give me the shivers. I mean, I've seen all sorts of electron density maps from X-ray crystallography, but somehow this sort of thing gives one a more direct feeling of looking at the individual atoms. And for some reason, that seems like something Man Was Not Meant to Do - perhaps it's all those old elementary school textbooks that told me that atoms could never be seen. (Then again, philosopher Mortimer Adler made the same assumption, as I found to my surprise when I read his Ten Philosophical Mistakes, on page 184 if you're keeping score at home.

Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Chemical News


1. Anonymous on February 6, 2012 1:47 AM writes...

OK, so why are some cavities bigger than others? What's with that large(r) cavity in the upper left quadrant of the pic? This looks like a living entity and that big black spot is the parent or in CA terms "The Sperminator"!!! LOL. OK...I have to go now and open another beer. Bye the way, the new Guinness lager brew is pretty tasty. Also, if you can get it, the Corona familiar is also quite enjoyable....slightly darker than Corona Extra but smooth. Good options for investments of big pharma severance (layoff) packages!! is your friend!!

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2. Gregory on February 6, 2012 4:07 AM writes...

Beautiful, thanks for sharing, Derek.

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3. processchemist on February 6, 2012 5:26 AM writes...

Great to see this, 20 years after my lab work about metals extraction from glass... low range order, medium range irregularity, the alluminosilicate frame perfectly visible, and maybe some sodium cations in the smaller cavities of the lattice...

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4. Curious Wavefunction on February 6, 2012 8:16 AM writes...

Take that, Mach.

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5. Capek on February 6, 2012 9:03 AM writes...

"Haben Sie einen gesehen", indeed.

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6. Chemcat on February 6, 2012 9:17 AM writes...

I'm awestruck. Thank you for sharing.

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7. CMCguy on February 6, 2012 5:06 PM writes...

The most amazing thing, according to press release link, is that was not made at all intentionally but resulting from a air leak in the system. This indicates much about the real practice of science doesn't it?

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8. lynn on February 6, 2012 9:42 PM writes...

Shivers and chills indeed. I felt that way when I first started doing electron microscopy on plasmid DNA. "We shouldn't be able to SEE that." The glass photo is amazing.

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9. MIMD on February 7, 2012 9:59 AM writes...

Reminds of a Star Trek movie scene when Dr. (formerly Nurse) Chapel was showingVejur-created robotic Ilia's molecular-sized ion pumps, or something like that, on a viewscreen.

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10. GreedyCynicalSelfInterested on February 7, 2012 2:48 PM writes...

This shows the stupidity of trying to predict the future. We still don't know what the rules are and that's why we are doing science.

Global warming is the new Nuclear Winter.

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11. Cartesian on March 1, 2012 5:37 AM writes...

“We must expect, said Bohr, that the paradoxes of the quantum theory, the incomprehensible aspects linked to the stability of matter, are going to be lighted in an always more distinct manner with every new experimental fact. If this is thus, we can hope that with time some new concepts will be formed, and that these new concepts will allow us to seize in a certain way even the not visual processes occurring in atom. But from that we are still very far.” In “Physics and Beyond” of Werner Heisenberg

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