Who says chemists don’t have a sense of humour?  You know how “funny” emails can get sent around an office despite the usual company policy of “If its funny don’t forward it – someone will get upset and we will get sued”.  These emails are usually either faintly offensive or contain many photo-shopped pictures of kittens.  Once you have seen one kitten in a teacup asking if it can “haz bizkit plz” you really have seen them all (trust me on this).

Today however I got sent a keeper.  Before I share the details with you, do bear in mind that scientists are fundamentally just very tall, occasionally bearded children.  We still have that child like curiosity that makes us question everything.  If you don’t believe me check out this comic which is an excellent example of the scientific condition – http://xkcd.com/242/. This is great for research but does sometimes mean we find the strangest things amusing.

Organic chemists are known for this scientific messing about, probably because of all the solvents! They already have a whole range of amusingly names molecules – Arsole, Moronic Acid and Penginone being just a few examples.

This morning I got an email apparently containing a scientific paper (fairly normal so far).  The paper was an organic one (getting less normal, I’m not an organic chemist) and it was about a whole new species … called NanoPutians! Someone inTexashas been synthesising compounds based entirely on how much they look like little people! 

They started with NanoKid, obviously the smallest of the family, this is him (or her). 

Not satisfied with making one, they then went on to make NanoBaker, NanoTexan, and NanoScholar just to give NanoKid something to aspire to.  Once they were done making individuals they did some polymerization and joined lots of NanoPutians in lines to make dancing NanoPutians.  Their technical names are “anthropromorphic molecules” although I was very disappointed to find they hadn’t included the systematic name for NanoKid.  If anyone fancies working it out there is a prize in it for you! 

While this might seem like a strange thing to spend research money on, the authors do make a good point.  They say that natural product chemists, organic chemists that synthesise molecules already found in nature, do so not because it is easier than extracting the compound from a plant, but because they learn so much chemistry in the process.  They suggest that this should not be limited to natural molecules but could include interestingly shaped molecules of any type as they learn just as much about the chemistry.

Now I just have to work out how to synthesise my name and my life will be complete…. 

If you want to read the paper it published in 2003 here:

Journal of Organic Chemistry, Volume 68, p8750


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