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Tetranitratoxycarbon
February 6, 2012 11:27 PM   Subscribe


 
A computational study of novel nitratoxycarbon, nitritocarbonyl, and nitrate compounds and their potential as high energy materials

This 10-year-old writes a better research paper than most 20-somethings...
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:33 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool, Papa Bell. Thanks.
posted by Maisie at 11:41 PM on February 6, 2012


Who says there's no new ideas under the sun! Maybe it takes a ten year old to find them.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:39 AM on February 7, 2012


Foci for Analysis: This 10-year-old writes a better research paper than most 20-somethings...
Uh, you do realize she had absolutely nothing to do with the research paper, right? That the hard lifting was done by an actual chemist, who then credited her and her teacher in the paper as a courtesy?

Still, this is a cool notion- there's no indication she's some prodigy destined for greatness, but a lot of what we call "intelligence" I've come to believe is little more than the belief in one's own abilities enough to stick with it and thus accomplish something impressive. Getting an achievement like this could inspire her to believe "I'm good at science!" and the result will be... that she's good at science. In every class she takes through high school and college, when faced with a stumper of a problem, she'll muscle through with the conviction that "Surely I can figure this out, right?" and sure enough... that was the magic ingredient in any success she has. Where everyone else gives up and says "Ah, I'm no good at math/science/books" she'll say "No, this can't be that hard" and lo and behold, she'll teach herself to learn, to think differently. That's the amazing adaptability of the human mind.

It's not dissimilar to the Foldit experience. The real reason to be socialist is because even if every Clara is relatively ordinary, the collective intellect of millions of people at play can exceed the titans of their fields. After all, the funniest person I know is on imgur, and the most insightful and balanced is often on Metafilter.

And maybe now I'm reaching with my metaphors, but it's also not dissimilar to the way political and social structures are (mostly) evolving from the aristocratic and hierarchical view- of which there were "special someones", whether emperors or savants, to drive all progress- to a more flat-name-space organization that is free-wheeling and dynamic. So if we can solve the core problems of food, shelter, and energy among others, we'll have a planet full of people who are free to mostly play, and whose purely enjoyable play can also stumble upon breakthrough after breakthrough by sheer chance- not only in the sciences, but in art and music and all forms of creativity.

And that thought is awesome!
posted by hincandenza at 12:52 AM on February 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


"yeah, I can sell this to military for money!"
posted by king of his desert island at 1:07 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


"yeah, I can sell this to military for money!"

The American Dream 2.0
posted by mek at 1:30 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The American Dream 2.0"

And why not when how much money was unnacounted for from the 600 billion war chest?
posted by marienbad at 2:01 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


tetranitratoxycarbon

Hmm. Whenever you see "four" and any compound of nitrogen that close together, you're usually looking at a, well, excitable substance. Heck, TNT only has three of them.
posted by eriko at 2:06 AM on February 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


"yeah, I can sell this to military for money!"

Snark all you want, but I think it's delightful to see a girl that age aspiring to blow things up and get rich. I hope my daughter has a teacher like Kenneth Boehr some day.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:27 AM on February 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: insightful and balanced
posted by fistynuts at 2:27 AM on February 7, 2012


Lazen Peace Prize?
posted by newdaddy at 3:36 AM on February 7, 2012


Neat molecule, but the only way I could see to make it would be involving an orthoacid and nitrogen triiodide and even then I doubt it would work. Both compounds are inherently unstable (for different reasons) and I doubt they would react in the desired way. Maybe using the orthoacid of trifluoro or trichloroacetic acid, because the hydrate would be more stable, but all of the times I've made NI3 were rather eventful.
posted by koolkat at 3:40 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why the girl's teacher got a credit in the paper. All he did was send a cell phone pic of the girl's model to a real chemist that he knew.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:16 AM on February 7, 2012


That's wonderful. Nerdtastic!
posted by rmd1023 at 4:20 AM on February 7, 2012


I'm kind of surprised no one in the story or in this thread noted the type of school she goes to, so I'll just drop it in: Montessori. It deserves at least as much mention as the Genius Child, Inspiring Teacher and Random Chance theories.
posted by DU at 4:29 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: you're usually looking at a, well, excitable substance.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:55 AM on February 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's interesting but it's interesting in a if you ever manage to make some, keep it the hell away from me kind of way.

The reason why no one but suicide bombers uses Acetone Peroxide as an explosive is that most people want an explosive that explodes on their terms. This makes me think of a typical movie doomsday device with a little LED counter on it reading "EH, WHENEVER". I'm kind of thinking that there aren't a lot of exposives workers who are that much Myers Briggs P types.

At least not for long.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:08 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


so can you smoke it or what?
posted by nathancaswell at 5:39 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why the girl's teacher got a credit in the paper. All he did was send a cell phone pic of the girl's model to a real chemist that he knew.

Everything I know about working in a lab I learned on Metafilter, so I could be wrong, but....he taught her chemistry. He's kind of like...her PI.

In any case, he did just a little more than take a photo.
posted by rtha at 5:55 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those who like funny discussions of excitable compounds....

http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/things_i_wont_work_with/
posted by coust at 5:58 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember doing this at school, thinking I've made a new molecule.

And then my teacher told me: "no, that's carbon dioxide".

Needless to say, my current career is not science-based.
posted by hudders at 6:03 AM on February 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Requires more high-level research at Humboldt State university. I like where this is going..
posted by obscurator at 6:37 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, while we're at it:

MetaFilter: a doomsday device with a little LED counter on it reading "EH, WHENEVER".
posted by The Bellman at 6:39 AM on February 7, 2012


Everything I know about working in a lab I learned on Metafilter, so I could be wrong, but....he taught her chemistry. He's kind of like...her PI.

Yes, but shouldn't she get first author credit over the professor? After all, he's a full professor while she's just starting on the tenure track.

Trust me, when she comes up for promotion, there will be HOURS of discussion over whether this paper counts. Trust me. I've BEEN in that meeting. Stupid faculty promotion and tenure committees.
posted by dw at 7:19 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


No wonder it explodes: Have a look at the bond angles around those oxygen! Not exactly an ideal situation there.
posted by Canageek at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2012


Mwa ha ha ha... now I really can tell the modeling guys that a 10 year old could do their job.
posted by maryr at 7:46 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


And the teacher gets credit because he's the guy who said, "Huh, wonder if this actually works..." instead of just dismissing the molecule as "not real". That's a real skill in a PI.
posted by maryr at 7:54 AM on February 7, 2012


Excuse the ignorance- but what is a PI? Professor Instructor?
posted by T10B at 8:17 AM on February 7, 2012


PI = Principal Investigator. PI is the one who heads a laboratory and determines the research direction.
posted by tickingclock at 8:35 AM on February 7, 2012


For those who like funny discussions of excitable compounds....
http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/things_i_wont_work_with/]


Heh, yeah, before I clicked through the to the paper and saw that it was "A computational study of novel nitratoxycarbon, nitritocarbonyl, and nitrate compounds and their potential as high energy materials," I immediately assumed that the Klapötke group at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich must have tackled it. They seem to have synthesized half of the absurd nitrogen-rich compounds featured in the "things I won't work with" series.
posted by ubersturm at 9:27 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stupid faculty promotion and tenure committees.

Careful. I chair one of those.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:58 AM on February 7, 2012


I don't understand. She put some blocks together with absolutely no idea what they meant other than that the holes all had to be filled, and it happened to be an interesting molecule that may or may not be synthesizable. It'll be neat trivia in a century if it turns out to be synthesizable and useful, but... so?
posted by cmoj at 10:11 AM on February 7, 2012


Not wanting to belittle the work of a kid, but students come up with weird molecules like that all the time when playing with chemistry ball and stick models. I was a lab demonstrator during my honours year and the students would always try to build complex knots of things just to play about.

Usually these molecules are either impossible, or already known to science. When I was doing first year organic chemistry, I "invented" adamantane. I'm sure that particular feat has been repeated countless times.

No doubt a huge majority of the "is this real?" molecules which teachers will submit to chemistry professors after seeing that story will turn out the same way.

She demonstrated an aptitude for tinkertoy play in that she built something complex, but there is no suggestion in the articles that she's any kind of chemistry genius bound for scientific greatness.

That said, a lot of science is actually done in that way. Many molecules are designed in that way, starting off as somebody's "I wonder if this will fit here", then they get to work figuring out whether it's something they can synthesise.

Good on the teacher for going the extra distance to check it out with his chemistry professor friend, well done to the professor for looking into it and writing a paper. A gold star of encouragement to the kid and I do hope this stimulates her to greater interest in chemistry or science in general, but I don't think anyone's going to give her a college scholarship based on this work...
posted by Mokusatsu at 10:13 AM on February 7, 2012


I'm pretty sure every curious teen ever handed a molecule kit for an hour has created a new molecule.

Of course theirs weren't explosive....
posted by Twang at 11:13 AM on February 7, 2012


When I was a young'un, I "discovered" dodecahedrane.
posted by Jpfed at 11:28 AM on February 7, 2012


the Klapötke group at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich
SCIENCE FOR KNOWLEDGE AND PEACE

fluorine, halogen and nitro chemistry:
research for science and military
a past to build a future on
It's not just me that finds this mission statement somewhat spooky?
posted by zamboni at 12:29 PM on February 7, 2012


If you look up explosive molecules, you'll find a huge number of them feature nitrogen with multiple bonds. It's an inherently energetic bond which releases that energy when the bonds break.

Spend an hour making random molecules with a molecular model kit, incorporating plenty of nitrogens and oxygens bonded to each other in various ways and you'll probably "reinvent" a great many explosives.

I could practically tell you sight unseen that any molecule you make along those lines will be an explosive. Whether it will be a useful explosive is another matter though. An effective explosive for military applications should be capable of being stored for a long time over a wide range of temperatures, transported places on the back of a bumpy truck, manhandled by soldiers then delivered to the target and explode only when triggered.

If it's too touchy for that, it's not useful.

Consider touch powder for instance...
posted by Mokusatsu at 1:16 PM on February 7, 2012


Stupid faculty promotion and tenure committees.

Careful. I chair one of those.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:58 AM on February 7 [+] [!]


Yes.

Of course you do.
posted by R. Schlock at 1:22 PM on February 7, 2012


"I immediately assumed that the Klapötke group at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich must have tackled it. They seem to have synthesized half of the absurd nitrogen-rich compounds featured in the "things I won't work with" series."

That must be an interesting, well-shielded place.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:16 PM on February 7, 2012


They've got to invent rocket fuel somewhere.
posted by maryr at 6:24 PM on February 7, 2012


It's not just me that finds this mission statement somewhat spooky?

I ran away after the fourth word.
posted by eriko at 8:09 PM on February 7, 2012


That must be an interesting, well-shielded place.

Microscale synthesis has a lot of things going for it including less hazardous waste, and it being hard to blow a finger off with a milligram of nearly any explosive.

Don't interpret that as some kind of personal challenge.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:33 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not just me that finds this mission statement somewhat spooky?


Yup. Seems depressingly sppoky. However, look at his staff, particularly, the first one.

Quirin Axthammer works in his group.

I didn't realize that the Nihgt's Watch supplied doctoral students to German Universities...... I assumed it was against their vows......

posted by lalochezia at 2:43 PM on February 8, 2012


Doh: blink error! Playing with all that wildfire has damaged my typing....
posted by lalochezia at 2:44 PM on February 8, 2012




Stupid faculty promotion and tenure committees.

Careful. I chair one of those.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:58 AM on February 7 [+] [!]


Yes.

Of course you do.
posted by R. Schlock at 1:22 PM on February 7 [+] [!]


Psst
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:22 AM on February 9, 2012


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