Volume 85 Issue 8 | p. 3 | Letters
Issue Date: February 19, 2007

Enthralling Odors

Department: Letters

It's not my intention to carry the comment by my fellow Estonian Jaan Pesti to more volatile levels, but we all have heard lecture titles and seen T-shirts that say "Chemistry Stinks" (C&EN, Nov. 27, 2006, page 2). In fact, many of us were completely enthralled by the odors we experienced in the qualitative organic lab and could, without NMR or high-resolution mass spectrometry, identify many reasonably volatile compounds handed to us as unknowns with just a whiff past the nose.

The acknowledgement in the cited paper to the hog raiser for providing a sample of liquid swine manure also prompts my reaction: In today's literature, we do not see innovative and intriguing phrases describing what made an experiment memorable or identifying an obscure location for the generation of a great idea. As an example of the former, I cite the following: "Evans boldly put 50 atm of ethylene ... in a cell with 25 atm of O2. The apparatus subsequently blew up, but luckily not before he obtained the spectra shown in Figure 8" (Chem. Rev. 1969, 69, 639).

By the way, for anyone raised on a farm, any kind of manure smell is an unnoticeable breeze.

Victor Snieckus
Kingston, Ontario

 
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