Saturday, August 18, 2007

Stet! — On genius — Our favorite symbol

1. A genius of literature!

2. In "Black Magic" (review of Esther Leslie's Synthetic World, TLS, 8/3/07):

At about the same time a young German chemist, August Kekulé von Stradonits, had an epiphanic moment on a London bus that led him to intuit the combinatorial power of carbon. This discovery, abetted by another "vision," would assist in just a few short years the German production, first, of synthetic colours, then of therapeutic drugs, and later of war materials...

What was the vision? From Wikipedia:

He said that he had discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a reverie or day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is a common symbol in many ancient cultures known as the Ouroboros). This vision, he said, came to him after years of studying the nature of carbon-carbon bonds.

3. Random cryptic Portland picture:

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