Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Irish Jig Chemical

We here at GKC's Favourite Blogg visit a few other bloggs, some of which are Chestertonian, and some of which can be found elsewhere on this web page. One of them is the poetic musings (!) of a young woman named Meredith, who writes For Keats' Sake!. She recently had an interesting discussion of how she was reading some elvish poetry (elvish meaning Quenya and/or Sindarin, languages invented by the great J. R. R. Tolkien) and noted some - uh - technical poetic and linguistic effects about polydactylic hexagon meters or some other measuring device. (Hmm.. how many fingers does a hexagon have? hee hee)

But yes, it was very interesting. I have a very difficult time with that whole "foot" thing in poetry, I can get numbers of syllables OK, but the long and short of it is I cannot seem to get the longs and shorts. Perhaps I ought to study Morse Code, but I recently learned that hams (those who practice amateur radio) are no longer required to know it. Too bad. Morse is very clever, and an interesting example of the Hamming code technique, which is... why are you laughing? Hamming? No, that's no pun! I'll explain that another time. (Excuse me. I meant Huffman. Hm. maybe I thought it was a pun.) But if you want to see Morse being used in fiction you might go to the ARRL and get their great "young people's" novels. There's a little Morse in my own novel, too, though very little radio, 'cause it's mostly about cable TV. (hee hee)


Anyhow, in keeping with our fundamental foundation, as specified by our dear Uncle Gilbert Keith Chesterton - that is, of trying to see everything for the first time, even if we've seen it nine hundred and ninety-nine times before - and to always recall that there is no such thing as a different subject, I was reflecting on the strange thing that Meredith had observed, cross-pollinating Greek verse to Elvish, and remembered one of the odd things I learned in organic chemistry. Another time I will tell you the Latin secrets of "trans" fats, and why they are trans, and what they are called if they are not "trans", and also the jokes that come from all this. Lots of fun, and instructive, too. But it's not that funny, at least not that part, and besides, it isn't what I was trying to talk about! Ahem! Let me try again.

Anyway, I remembered that there was a chemical called "the Irish jig chemical" which all good organic chemists are able to synthesize (to say nothing of being able to spell) long before they can tie their shoes. It's a fairly long name, not quite so long as some, but, as you will see, quite easy to pronounce. (Note: some authorities believe that organic chemicals do not qualify for the on-going "long word" contests, but that's not for us to deal with here.) OK! The Irish Jig chemical:

also known as
4-dimethylamino benzaldehyde.
That is,

Let's sing it together, shall we? (Sorry, I do NOT dance.)

para - di - methyl - amino benz-al-de-hyde...
para - di - methyl - amino benz-al-de-hyde...
para - di - methyl - amino benz-al-de-hyde...

(Repeat until tired, or until your lab assistant begs you to stop, and threatens to squirt you with an unidentified reagent...)

When you become an organic chemist, you learn about the positions on the benzene ring, and how things attached at opposite ends are in the para- position, and that the group CH3- is called "methyl", so two of them is "dimethyl" and so on. Lots of fun.

Yes, it is a real chemical. Here it is, on page C-124 of the wonderful CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, number 1730. Some interesting facts about it:

Molecular weight: 149.19
Boiling point: 176-7 °C
Melting point: 74 °C
Solubility: alcohol, ether, acetone, benzene

So now you know. Print this out, doodle some shamrocks on it, and file it for next March 17.


At 28 August, 2008 20:14, Blogger Sheila said...

The picture looks like my Irish dancing friend clicking his heels together.


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