This blog is a project of staff and students of the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol.* The idea that “a picture can be worth a thousand words” may have been mentioned in newspaper advertising for the first time, but it applies to our interaction with the world around us as well – how many words would you need to describe, say, Monet’s paintings of water lilies, images of galactic clusters captured by the Hubble space telescope or the majesty of an elephant to somebody who has never seen them? Pictures are also a powerful way of communicating complicated ideas in science, and every day scientists use both actual images, ranging from telescopes to scanning electron microscopes, and drawings, flowcharts and equations, to illustrate their work, or, more simply, to “Picture it!”
Chemistry is fundamentally focussed on observing, analysing, making and changing molecules, so in this field we use a number of different ways to show the structures of molecules. These form part of a universal language – you may not be able to ask for directions or read the road signs in a foreign country, but if you find another researcher in chemistry, you can communicate about your work in terms of molecular drawings. Knowing the arrangement of atoms in a molecule also allows us to observe and sometimes even predict how changing it through chemical reactions will affect the properties of the molecule as well as its interactions with other molecules.
In this project we have combined interesting and striking photographs of familiar objects with representations of some of the molecules they contain, which contribute to their properties and uses. The photographs have usually been taken in a laboratory environment, allowing us to contrast everyday items with the utilitarian environment in which we “do” chemistry. These have then been enhanced with representations of the molecular structures to create the pictures you see at the beginning of each post. The pictures will hopefully grab your attention because they are interesting and in some cases even beautiful, and they are accompanied by text explaining what you are seeing and why we selected those molecules, as well as how they are made.
We are all really enthusiastic about this project and would like to tell you quite a lot about current research for the molecules we have selected, but we also don’t want you to loose interest when we get carried away, so we have decided to have two rules: each entry will involve at least two people (so we can keep each other in check), and they will all have three sections of text:
1. Introduction, explaining the picture and why it is interesting. (Largely free of chemistry.)
2. Scientific background. (A little bit of chemistry, but quite basic.)
3. Details for chemists, such as the synthetic route used to make some of the compounds. (If you call yourself a chemist, this one’s for you.)
We will also link each post to relevant webpages, publications and our own collection of glossary pages, so hopefully you can find out more if you are interested. And if you ever have a question, comment or suggestion, please use the comment box at the end of each post and page to let us know.
We think the Community Guidelines on the Wellcome Trust blog are pretty good and ask you to stick to them for our blog as well. The most important ones are: please don’t post offensive, threatening or irrelevant topics or spam and stay within the law.
Our Pictures and Content
We are making the images and text on this blog available under a Creative Commons licence, more specifically Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0), which allows re-use for non-commercial purposes, provided you credit the work to this blog/project and don’t modify the material. Each post will show the actual contributors. If you wish to modify the work or would like better quality images or discuss using this work, we suggest that you get in touch with us directly, either by commenting on a post or page, or by emailing us at pictureit.chemistry”at”gmail.com.
Please note that the University of Bristol is not responsible for the content of any external web pages. All views expressed here are our own. While we make every effort to do our research for the blog posts well, the validity and accuracy of the information on any of the pages of this blog have not been confirmed by an academic peer review process and should be treated with caution. If you wish to find out more, we have included links to the webpages and information we have used. Wikipedia is also a resource we use, although we try to follow up the details to original sources. This means that some of the links are to the primary research literature and the papers may not be free to access for all users. However, you may be able to contact the publisher or author for a copy and some libraries, e.g. those of universities and learned societies, may also be able to provide access to you.
*The organisation is not responsible for the content of these pages and all views expressed here are our own.