November 13th, 6:30 -7:30 p.m.
Hibbs Hall Room 303

Glimpses of Chemical Wizardry
Dr. Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Laureate
Harvard University

In an evangelical spirit, three vignettes will be presented that have the character of molecular parables: stories with lessons that transcend the specific details. (1) How knowledge of the orientation of a methyl group with respect to a neighboring double bond, obtained from thermodynamics and microwave spectroscopy, enabled chemists to synthesize the single biologically active form of a molecule that has 5 x 1021 different structural isomers.   (2) The lack of a single methyl group on a particular amino acid among billions in each DNA molecule on the Y chromosome of a human fetus is found to result in an infertile female rather than a male.  This mutation is rare, of frequency ~ 10-5.  Consider how different human society would be if it were to become dominant! (3) How molecular beam experiments, on gas phase atoms and diatomic molecules, led John Fenn to develop “electrospray wings for molecular elephants,” making feasible mass spectroscopy of proteins.