May 4, 2007

Why the title?

I imagine if people were to read this blog they might wonder why it is called what it is...it's a rather complicated answer that requires a bit of background.

One might say that getting an undergraduate degree in chemistry is the process of unlearning everything you learned in intro chemistry. Sure, what they teach you there is useful in some circumstances, but it turns out it's all bullshit. I'm still not sure why they go about it this way, but I'm not a professor, and it's not my place to speculate about such things.

Still, when you're in intro chem and organic chemistry (O-chem), you learn about these things called orbitals. These little devils describe what the electrons in the atom are doing, and there are various rules for how they fill up, how many electrons you can stuff in each one (two), etc. The most important ones are probably the p orbitals, because those are the bonding ones for carbon, which is the most important element to humans for obvious reasons. In intro and O-chem they tell you that the standard p-orbitals are shaped like dumbbells, with two lobes sticking in opposite directions. This is a good visualization and it makes sense for a lot of simple bonding theory...

Except it isn't true. The p-orbitals are actually shaped like doughnuts, which to this day confounds the shit out of me. Someday I hope to understand enough math that I won't need the visual crutch to understand the underlying physics, but until now, I'm stumped.

So doughnut orbitals symbolize all the things I don't understand but want to, in addition to all the inconvenient detail that people tend to sweep underneath the rug. The world is stranger and more complicated that we imagine, in fact, it may be stranger than we can imagine. I think Feynman said that.

Plus, I like doughnuts. What does that have to do with this blog? I'm not sure.

I'm going to bed.

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