Skip to comments.10-Year-Old Accidentally Creates New Molecule in Science Class
Posted on 02/17/2012 3:59:47 AM PST by SunkenCiv
Clara Lazen is the discoverer of tetranitratoxycarbon, a molecule constructed of, obviously, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon. It's got some interesting possible properties, ranging from use as an explosive to energy storage. Lazen is listed as the co-author of a recent paper on the molecule. But that's not what's so interesting and inspiring about this story. What's so unusual here is that Clara Lazen is a ten-year-old fifth-grader in Kansas City, MO.
Kenneth Boehr, Clara's science teacher, handed out the usual ball-and-stick models used to visualize simple molecules to his fifth-grade class. But Clara put the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms together in a particular complex way and asked Boehr if she'd made a real molecule. Boehr, to his surprise, wasn't sure. So he photographed the model and sent it over to a chemist friend at Humboldt State University who identified it as a wholly new but also wholly viable chemical.
The chemical has the same formula as one other in HSU's database, but the atoms are arranged differently, so it qualifies as a unique molecule. It doesn't exist in nature, so it'd have to be synthesized in a lab, which takes time and effort. So Boehr's friend, Robert Zoellner, wrote a paper on it instead, to be published in Computational and Theoretical Chemistry. Listed as a co-author: Clara Lazen.
Boehr says the discovery and subsequent publication has incited a new interest in science and chemistry at his school--and Clara seems particularly pleased, saying she's now much more interested in biology and medicine.
(Excerpt) Read more at popsci.com ...
Tetranitratoxycarbon Professor Robert Zoellner holds a model of tetranitratoxycarbon. He has a co-authorship on a paper about the new molecule--along with ten-year-old Clara Lazen. Humboldt State University
Wow. Times have changed. When I was 10 we were excited by making cheezy volcanoes in class. This kid discovers a new molecule!
But it hasn’t been synthesized yet. So all it is is a collection of plastic balls on sticks... and a Very Learned Paper.
That said, I'd really like for it to be synthesized, no matter how impractical it may be.
So she randomly put together some sticks and balls and got lucky? That’s the way the article reads. I wonder how many molecules I discovered while playing with Tinker Toys over the years.
She arranged them by color and appearance, repeating a pattern. She basically made a sculpture and got lucky it actually made something. She didn’t “discover” anything.
However, it may get her, in the long run, pursuing a better career than otherwise.
I was always on the verge of a discovery until my dog would show up......
“She arranged them by color and appearance, repeating a pattern. She basically made a sculpture and got lucky it actually made something. She didnt discover anything.”
First of all, the balls representing atoms can only accept as many “bonds” as the real thing - so anything you make with them (with all holes filled) is a valid molecule.
Second of all, a high percentage of discoveries have been by accident. Vulcanized rubber, saccharine, Coke, teflon, plastic, radioactivity, synthetic dye, and penicillin were all accidental discoveries. Sometimes it’s much better to be lucky than good.
So, don’t rain on this girl’s parade, she has something in common with many famous inventors. It’ll be interesting to see how useful this new substance is in practice.
If you read James Watson's The Double Helix, that's exactly how they finally worked out the molecular structure of DNA. Lots of other people were trying it out conceptually, on paper, and in their heads... Watson and Crick had models made of the sub-structures, and they put them together in various ways until they figured out a way that worked.
The little girl needs to patent it fast!
Clara Lazen is the discoverer of tetranitratoxycarbon, a molecule constructed of, obviously, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon. It's got some interesting possible properties, ranging from use as an explosive...DOMESTIC TERRORIST! DOMESTIC TERRORIST! DOMESTIC TERRORIST!
an aside: When I was freshman in HS I had a friend 'Ken' who loved, no lived, Chemistry and had a fair Chem lab set up at his house (He had acid burns all over his hands-yuck). His goal was to make Trinitrotoluene at home from chemicals he ordered by mail. I stopped going to his house after he told me that :-) btw, that stuff is better known as ... TNT.
Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen...... everything you need to make a booooM!!
And you call them on it! What about their self-esteem?
Why hasn’t a computer already figured out the different possibilities? I ask this question out of complete ignorance on the subject.
Not quite, a lady had made photographs (x-ray photographs) of DNA and this prompted Watson and Crick to ‘discover’ the ladder shape of the double helix. She, BTW, was not credited in their accolades.
I suspect it is also a way to store electrical potential in a capacitor type device.
Yeah, you're right... and Linus Pauling didn't win the Nobel either, despite having developed a helix model of his own. The lady in question, Rosalind Franklin, was convinced that Watson and Crick were a couple of crackpots barking up the wrong tree.
Watson did, however, give her credit for her contribution in his book.
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