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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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September 12, 2012

Honking, Squawking Chemical Ignorance

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Posted by Derek

If you would like to see one of the most idiotic, cloth-headed attempted "explanations" of a chemical structure ever, take yourself to this wonder-rejuvenating-skin-treatment site. And learn what can be accomplished if you take the time, and the effort, to draw the structure of phenol the right way. I am not responsible if you hurt yourself while burying your face in your hands, especially after reading that table in the lower right-hand portion of the page. Spotted by Kevin Booker-Milburn, via Twitter

Comments (44) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Snake Oil


1. The Iron Chemist on September 12, 2012 7:41 AM writes...

Everything that has a pKa is a "strong basis?"

I don't want to live on this planet any more.

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2. Chemist of the Year on September 12, 2012 7:50 AM writes...

Poe's Law at work, perhaps?

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3. LeeH on September 12, 2012 7:50 AM writes...

I don't think it's a good strategy for a German company to be mentioning that their product is NOT the same as a compound used in Nazi concentration camp human experiments - when it fact it is.

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4. Anonymous on September 12, 2012 7:50 AM writes...

Clicking on the link leads to this defunct URL?

Doesn't sound very chemistry related to me.

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5. Kissthechemist on September 12, 2012 8:11 AM writes...

Check out the table listing the differences between phenol and carbolic acid. Injecting phenol gives......death! Bummer! Better take the round thing out of the ring and draw some sticks instead and make it safe!! And WTF is "like in jayle" ?? Unless that's where these charlatans have been living recently ?

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6. petros on September 12, 2012 8:12 AM writes...

Seems to be a bad machine translation from the German

It seems the "inventor" is Swiss and Googling Endopeel led to this

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7. petros on September 12, 2012 8:14 AM writes...

Seems to be a bad machine translation from the German

It seems the "inventor" is Swiss and Googling Endopeel led to this

and this says a little more

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8. Anonymous on September 12, 2012 8:23 AM writes...

"if injected in a blood vessel: death, or nothing happens"!!!!!! HAHAHA I love it.

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9. SGP on September 12, 2012 8:27 AM writes...

Made my day. Had a good chuckle at this. Direct comparison pKa with pH is a good one.

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10. hhelibebjc on September 12, 2012 8:35 AM writes...

Eyes! My Eyes!

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11. Secondaire on September 12, 2012 8:36 AM writes...

Oh dear heavens.

...was this run through Babelfish sixteen times?

Reading this MAKES me want to intravenously inject phenol and kill myself just so that I don't have to read these kinds of things again. *facepalm*

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12. John Wayne on September 12, 2012 8:40 AM writes...

Now we all know that phenol isn't dangerous as long as you keep the proton distracted...

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13. Another Kevin on September 12, 2012 8:42 AM writes...

Colleagues came running to investigate a thumping sound from Another Kevin's office. The sound was Another Kevin's head hitting the desktop.

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14. newnickname on September 12, 2012 9:03 AM writes...

I have a box of throat lozenges that contain phenol. Should I expect an FDA recall notice anytime soon?

Opportunity: reformulate using carbolic acid instead of phenol and steal the market away from the lethal phenol version. Be sure to include "Contains no phenol" on the label.

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15. Ryan Grannell on September 12, 2012 9:09 AM writes...

Let's not inject Phenol or 'Carbolic Acid' into our blood vessels. I doubt it'll end well...

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16. Bemused on September 12, 2012 9:11 AM writes...

Looking at the wiki page for carbolic acid, I see it incorrectly sends me to the page for phenol. However, looking at the two pictures, I guess phenol is the one with the circle and fat carbons while carbolic acid is the one with the sticks and the skinny carbons.

Obviously, this is how the circle -> stick transformation occurs... By reducing the size of the carbons (and the other atoms it seems), the circle breaks up into individual sticks. I assume this is how the different biological effects result?

I'm not an experimentalist, but can some kind of separation be done for fat vs. thin carbons to eliminate the phenol contamination, yielding pure carbolic acid?

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17. Jeff on September 12, 2012 9:27 AM writes...

Maybe thin carbons slip easier through the bars of jayle?

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18. Curious Wavefunction on September 12, 2012 9:34 AM writes...

I feel like I want to throw Woodward, Strunk, Williams and Justice Robert Jackson all at once at these guys.

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19. Jeff on September 12, 2012 9:44 AM writes...

Good grief! I am so under-informed these days. That ijcs link says there are no contra-indications for psychic patients. Since when aas that something we could differentiate?

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20. startup on September 12, 2012 11:27 AM writes...

Whatever. If they can make a living off of it - more power to them. I certainly would not hesitate to say things like that, not at this point in my life.

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21. Matthew Schiller on September 12, 2012 11:29 AM writes...

I love that the logo is a direct ripoff of the Enbrel logo...

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22. Hoot on September 12, 2012 12:38 PM writes...

I thought the standard of English was at least as bad as the chemistry. Including spelling their own name wrong. You can't blame that on machine translation.

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23. Josh on September 12, 2012 12:42 PM writes...

I bet Dr. Oz could sell it

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24. Nothermaus on September 12, 2012 12:47 PM writes...

This is something from The Onion, right?

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25. jtd7 on September 12, 2012 12:53 PM writes...

I could use some help here picking my jaw up off the floor.

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26. gippgig on September 12, 2012 1:07 PM writes...

Whoever wrote that has probably been drinking too much spin-polarized wine.

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27. Helical_Investor on September 12, 2012 1:11 PM writes...

All you need to do is quantum freeze the product as part of the manufacturing process. Keeps the proton from traveling "from positions ortho to meta and para". Easy Peasy.

Zz - organic chemistry engineer

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28. Dr. Manhattan on September 12, 2012 2:15 PM writes...

I'm particularly glad these lovely children
were here today to hear that speech.
Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish,
it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age!
-Blazing Saddles

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29. Todd on September 12, 2012 2:26 PM writes...

I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything while reading that link. It would have shot out of my keyboard and ruined it. I'd say they should be arrested, but it's too funny to take down.

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30. partial agonist on September 12, 2012 2:27 PM writes...

Last weekend I went to a busy and popular non-chain nutritional supplement store, since a doc recommended pediatric vitamin supplements for a child of mine.

Posted all around the place is pages of sciencey-sounding stuff that makes that link seem sensible in comparison. There are, according to the store-keeper, "chemical-free" plant root extracts out there help you sleep, keep you awake, give you a stiffie when you need one, make you lose weight, and apparently that can even cure a rainy day!

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31. wearinbeads on September 12, 2012 2:48 PM writes...

OMG. I am still laughing.

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32. Kerry on September 12, 2012 5:48 PM writes...

That's nothing. I just injected myself with some hydroxybenzene (which has a pKa of 3.3!), and I've never felt bett....AAACCCK!!

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33. gippgig on September 12, 2012 8:54 PM writes...

The discovery of nomenclatural isomerism should be a leading candidate for the Ignobel prize.
I wonder if the author always insists on brand name drugs.

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34. NJBiologist on September 12, 2012 9:42 PM writes...

From the web site, a moment ago:

"Some ignorant chemists working for pharmaceutical companies have attacked the contents of this website diffusing bad comments and even more and have even hacked some of our websites !
Einstein used to say that it was easier to break an atome than to break prejudges.

Jalousy and ignorance are the characteristics of troglodytes"

Wow. Just... wow.

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35. NJBiologist on September 12, 2012 9:49 PM writes...

The histology tab doesn't look much better than the chemistry tab. There's a report of intramuscular dosing of Endopeel... here's their description of the effects at 10 days:

"Here you may see the formation of the vacuoles which are surrounded by lymphocytes. Vacuoles are different from tissue necrosis . The presence of lymphocytes is related to the permeability of the cell membranes."

Right, I'm sure those vacuoles have nothing to do with necrosis, the same way those lymphocytes have nothing to do with raging inflammation.

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36. DrSnowboard on September 13, 2012 2:13 AM writes...

Although Dr Alain Tenenbaum stops short of hurling a thousand curses upon the evil chemists in pharmaceutical companies who have diffused 'bad comments', and has removed some of the chemical gibberish, can we still indict him for crimes against web design?

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37. Still_laughing on September 13, 2012 2:18 AM writes...

so who hacked their website? naughty naughty

In the page now:
"Some ignorant chemists working for pharmaceutical companies have attacked the contents of this website diffusing bad comments and even more and have even hacked some of our websites !
Einstein used to say that it was easier to break an atome than to break prejudges.

Jalousy and ignorance are the characteristics of troglodytes"

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38. Lexyboy on September 13, 2012 3:35 AM writes...

The original page can still be seen in Google's cache:

What I don't get is why you'd put all this bumpf on the website rather than just, well, not comparing your ingredient with something awful. Mysterious that the other ingredients are links to Wikipedia whilst carbolic acid doesn't have a link to the Wikipedia page of that name... which is, erm, a redirect.

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39. Anonymous on September 13, 2012 8:05 AM writes...

The saddest part is that there are people who would probably swallow this argument hook, line and sinker rather than trust an explanation from an educated chemist.

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40. ANon on September 13, 2012 12:11 PM writes...

The same hackers must have also removed all the incorrect chemical structures as well. Funny how that works!

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41. Peanut on September 13, 2012 8:12 PM writes...

I've been looking at the apparently updated website for 5 minutes wondering what all the fuss was about (and also second-guessing my chemistry knowledge at the same time).. Thankyou for posting the cache'd page!

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42. Anonymous BMS Researcher on September 14, 2012 12:25 AM writes...

I guess my 1970s CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (acquired when I was an undergraduate) must be obsolete when it says "carbolic acid" is a synonym for "phenol" since that website said these are not the same thing!

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43. nyallergydoc on September 15, 2012 9:07 AM writes...

"Hi doc, I may have had a reaction to this cream I bought online."

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44. Lindsay on September 17, 2012 6:30 AM writes...

Well, I CAN tell you phenol tastes fantastic.

At 40 ppm...

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