The Secret of All Life

Your DNA?  Made of heterocycles.  LSD and cocaine?  Made of heterocycles.  Why would anyone give a fuck about these so-called “heterocycles”?  Initially, I was interested only because I’m eternally intrigued by basically anything of mild importance, however, after learning about the presence of heterocycles in nature, my eyes glazed, my mouth hung open with a little drool, and excitement spewed from the top of my head.  Heterocycles are in almost anything you can imagine.  Histamines you take Benadryl to neutralize?  Made of heterocycles.  Your blood?  Made of heterocycles.  Sugar?  Made of heterocycles.  Chlorophyll in plants?  Made of heterocycles.   And that’s not even tapping into pharmaceuticals where they really begin to shine.

Your life… made possible by heterocycles.  Holy fucking smokes.

So what is a heterocycle anyway?  Simply put, a heterocycle is a ring of carbon atoms plus at least one other atom. Pictorially:

BAM!  Carbon ring is not a heterocycle.  Carbon ring plus another element IS heterocycle.  Here we show nitrogen.

BAM! A carbon ring is not a heterocycle. A carbon ring with another element in in IS heterocycle. Here we show nitrogen. Sorry if this incredibly high tech graphic crashed your computer.

So what’s the deal with these guys?  What makes them so popular?  Well, carbon is the basis of all life on Earth, so it’s useful really anywhere.  Interjecting other elements in a carbon ring allows for all kinds of fun things and processes to happens, given the right tools.  For example, the ring can open up and some atoms can be pulled out or more can be added.  Think Minecraft with molecules, the possibilities are endless!  Big rings, small rings, one nitrogen, three nitrogen, borons, oxygens, cyanides… anything!  Life begins and ends with a heterocycle.  How cool!!!

Pardon the enthusiasm, but I’m very delighted in this.  Go share this knowledge with everyone you meet.  It will serve you well in life.  Maybe.

Yours Truly,

Ze Tsarina

The Phoenix Arises from Her Ashes

Two days ago, smoke whistled out of my ears and I shattered into cinder… For, by anyone’s standards, less than good reasons.

The first day of my Analytical Chemistry lab consisted of lab practical, where by the instructor says nothing and the students go forth and complete the assigned experiment the way they see fit. It was a very easy experiment that any veteran chemistry student can do without problems, yet for some reason I continuously bungled it at every turn! By the time that class was over, I had lost a substantial amount of points before thorough grading even began. It was heartbreaking.

I had done everything as carefully as possible, taking note of details, but Lady Luck was just not on my side. Such train wrecks are not abnormal for me, I seem to be plagued by random bouts of temporary brain death, however, such a mess on the first day was a big blow for me.

As I exited the laboratory, my ears whistled like a kettle and I shattered the moment I sat down in my car to drive home. My anxiety plumed like a mushroom cloud, and depression washed over me like an oil spill. I felt like I was at the bottom of my internal pit again. That old friend of mine. I pondered that maybe I could just drop this class and get a BA instead of a BS. I did have options.

I went home and cried.  Swallowed by depression, it was all I could do to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue the process of merely living.  Tears soaking the pillow, laying in a blackened place, I went to sleep to arise anew.  And that I did.

-cue Rocky theme music-

I awoke the next day determined that though that might have been the shittiest start to a semester possible, short of physical ailments or death, that that didn’t mean the rest of the semester was ruined.  I have four months to work off that bad grade, and gods be damned, I can do it!  I have aced “hard” exams before and I have bested some of the “toughest” chemistry classes.  This semester wasn’t going to be one train wreck after another!  Not on my watch, and not as long as I still have a killer brown leather bomber jacket and black combat boots to rock confidently.  ((please, God, don’t let me lose those tomorrow somehow!))  No, no, you see, I will put the Rocky theme on repeat, and I will begin pouring over my studies effective immediately.  I’ve done it before, and I can do it again!  I will claim my “A” in May, and it will be glorious.

Look out Analytical Chemistry Course from Hell!  Ze Tsarina is barging in!

Yours,

Ze Tsarina

Arsenic in “Pick Yer Poison! … then let’s talk about the science behind it!”

Everyone has heard stories about scorned people getting the ultimate revenge through poisonings and just nearly getting away with it.  It’s an age old tale that is slowly fading out due to modern advances in science, but it’s a familiar one, and it always gets the best of our morbid curiosities.  The scientist in me always wants to know why a specific poison works and how.  Why is arsenic so toxic but not selenium?  I mean, they are close enough on the periodic table, right?  Let’s find out and take a closer look at some infamous poisons and investigate why they are so deadly!  Let’s begin today with arsenic and at another time we can look at other fun ones like thallium, mercury, etc.

Arsenic was the poison of choice for a good long while.  In low doses over long periods of time, it can mimic other ailments and death by arsenic poisoning can appear to be a “natural death” if no suspicions are aroused.  Then modern science came roaring in.  Nowadays a quick autopsy will reveal obvious deposits of arsenic throughout the body and any would-be discrete murderer will soon become acquainted with a jail cell (unless they leave the country immediately, in which they may have a fighting chance… just saying).  But why is arsenic so lethal?  Check out this side by side comparison of an arsenic (As) compound with that of a phosphorous (P) compound:

Image

Pretty similar.  So similar, I bet if those letters in the center were removed, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart at all!  The problem is… neither can your body.  Worse yet, phosphate is an extremely important compound used in the most basic and fundamentally necessary processes carried out in the body.  In other words, if your body did not have phosphate, it will die.

When arsenic is present in your body, it sneaks in like a secret agent and replaces phosphate with itself in the arsenate form.  Once it has been misidentified as phosphate and integrated in, the bodily functions try to take place like normal, except, arsenic can’t carry out the same tasks as phosphorus, it just looks the same, so those key processes that are vital to life can’t occur anymore.  Multiply this onto a large scale and your body is no longer able to work, resulting sadly in death.

And that’s it.  A case of mistaken identity that has tragic consequences.  The truth is always stranger than fiction.  At least in my opinion.  So if there is one thing you can learn today, it’s that it does not pay to murder with arsenic, you’ll inevitably get caught and you’ll go to prison, unless you do it exceptionally well, but that’s still more trouble than it’s worth.  Hey, I’m just telling it like it is!  Let’s be practical about this.

I think next time we should discuss thallium.  With a nickname like “the Poisoner’s Poison,” what’s not to love?  ((my curiosity knows no bounds))

Yours,

Ze Tsarina