02 September 2009

Onion Chemistry

When I started this blog I anticipated writing equally about law and chemistry; as it has turned out, I have written more about law / current affairs than chemistry. I'm still pondering as to why this should be. My understanding of chemistry is a lot greater than law; perhaps I find law/current affairs more interesting because it stretches my understanding of the world: whereas in chemistry, very little comes along that surprises me, and perhaps because of this I subconciously think that anyone reading this blog will not be interested in these posts.

Here's an example.

The other day I was cutting onions and my eyes began to stream. As a chemist I wondered what the substance was called that had this effect. I reached for my copy of Clayden and found everything spelled out for me.

page 1272


page 1273



Don't get me wrong; the work is fascinating. The subtle chemical differences between garlic and onion; specifically, the allylic and the vinylic sulfur compounds and the remarkable difference that they make are fascinating. But to blog this would be just to repeat what is in the text book.

Anyway, if you are interested in this work, have a look at amazon's search inside facility at the pages given of Clayden's book. And after reading and understanding that, you can read about how onions have been genetically engineered to stop you from crying in,

Silencing Onion Lachrymatory Factor Synthase Causes a Significant Change in the Sulfur Secondary Metabolite Profile.

(Impressive work: read it and w———).

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