31 January 2009

The Most Important Crystal Structure Ever Determined

Ask anyone what they think was the most important crystal structure ever determined and they'll say, DNA.

For me, that just isn't so.

As chemistry progressed it was found that some molecules had almost the same configuration; ie, the atoms were joined together in the same places and in the same sequence but they were mirror images of one another.

At the time it was difficult to get a handle on these mirror image molecules. In the lab, they were usually formed in 50:50 mixtures. Techniques were available to separate the two different forms and hence purify them. When pure, it was found that their physical properties, eg melting point, boiling point ,etc, were identical; except for their interaction with plane polarised light.

Get a source of light. Put a piece of polarising filter in front of it (remember polarising sunglasses?) then shine it through a solution containing the purified molecule and the plane of polarised light is rotated. Repeat the experiment with the other molecule and the plane of polarised light is rotated in the opposite direction.

This meant that the molecules could be labelled on the basis of this property. The problem was that it wasn't possible to correlate the two forms of the molecule to what was called their absolute configuration. In other words, after separating the two molecules and getting them pure it wasn't possible to tell what the molecules looked like in three dimensional space - yes they were mirror images of one another but which image represented which molecule?

At this point in the history of chemistry someone (Fisher) made a guess. Molecules were thus assigned on the basis of this guess from then on. This process went on until Bijvoet,

"In their seminal experiment on sodium rubidium tartrate, (I), the group of Bijvoet (Peerdeman et al., 1951; Bijvoet et al., 1951) performed the first determination of the absolute configuration of an organic compound."


"This experiment changed the history of organic chemistry, because the stereochemistry could now be determined by experiment. It also started a new era in X-ray crystallography, because molecular properties could now be related to the absolute configuration."

This 1951 paper has been looked at again by, Martin Lutz and Antoine M. M. Schreurs.

Have a read and the next time someone asks your opinion as to the most important crystal structure ever determined, you can say ...

28 January 2009

Cannabis Mimic

The February edition of Chemistry World (not yet online, but here is a link to the index) has a story, "Synthetic cannabis mimic found in herbal incense" by Ned Stafford.

The story explains how the synthetic substance is "being used by young people around the world to legally achieve a marijuana-like high".

Drawing done using ChemAxon's Marvin Sketch 2.9.12.

Smiles string


Checked using Daylsight's Depict.

The story goes on to explain that "[the substance] has been found in herbal mixtures sold legally"; the substance was added to the herbal mixtures, and this was only discovered by chance. I'll post more details when the original article appears on-line particularly about the finding by "chance".

The article is well worth reading, look out for it in a week or so.

The original article was published on the 15th January 2009, here's the link!
Other links: wikipedia; binding data (courtesy of Erowid); Spice Product (again, courtesy of Erowid).

29thJanuary 2009 - Thinking about the synthesis of the compound. If you look at this paper, "Acylation of indole under Friedel-Crafts conditions-an improved method to obtain 3-acylindoles regioselectively", the paper reports conditions for the acylation of indole, getting yields of up to 96 %. The authors argue that the order of addition of reagents is important: indole followed by SnCl4 in CH2Cl2 which forms a complex (work done reported in 1929 gave evidence of addition products between Lewis Acids and indoles). Subsequent addition of the acylating agent followed by nitromethane as a co-solvent lead to the desired product after work up. The conditions given are not suitable for scale-up (eg too dilute) but the paper is a useful start.
2nd Dec 2009, Synthetic cannabinoids and 'Spice', a link from the European Monitoring Centre.

Update 10th January 2011. Interesting comment to a post (More on homemade street drugs),
"I work for a contract outfit in the Midwest. We made alot of money these past two years off "legal high drugs".
When the projects started coming in a couple of years ago we were told by management it was shipped to Europe for making incense. Of course, something didn't quite ring true so we got online and discovered the true end use of what we were making.
Our boss, a complete jerk, believes he has no liability because he thinks he can hide behind one sentence on the label of these bottles: "not for human use".
I have to say that when I was growing up and studying to be a chemist I always thought I would use my synthetic knowledge for good. Cure cancer or something. Never in a million years did I think I would essentially become a drug dealer and worse, make a living off something that could kill people. The sad fact is these compounds have been the only thing standing between me (and my colleagues) and the unemployment line.
Update 18th May 2011.
Fascinating paper, Palladium-catalyzed synthesis of indoles via ammonia cross-coupling–alkyne cyclization, which could be used for the preparation of these cannabis mimics.
DOI: 10.1039/C1CC11874A

26 January 2009

Hypothesis Fitts

Catherine Austin Fitts is an interesting character reaching high levels of political office (Poppy Bush's Office) then falling out with her colleagues. In a note from 2002, The Pogo Problem: We Have Met the Enemy and It is Us, part 12 of Narco Dollars for Dummies, she tells the following story about a presentation she gave:

"Last summer, I made a presentation called "How the Money Works on Organized Crime" to a wonderful group of about 100 people at an annual conference for a spiritually focused foundation in Philadelphia. This is a group of people who are committed to contributing to the spiritual evolution of our culture.

After walking through the various Sam and Dave dilemmas with Sam's SLIM PERCENTAGE profits sugar business and Dave's BIG PERCENTAGE profits drug business, as well as the intersection between the stock market and campaign fundraising and narco dollars for about an hour, I asked the group what would happen to the stock market if we decriminalized or legalized drugs?

The stock market would crash, they said.

What would happen to financing the government deficit if we enforced all money-laundering laws? Since most of the bank wire transfers are batched and run through the New York Federal Reserve Bank, this should not really be that hard, right?

Their taxes might go up. Worse, yet, their government checks might stop, they said.

I then asked them to imagine a big red button at the front of the lectern. By the power of our imaginations, if they pushed that button they could decriminalize narcotics trafficking and stop all money laundering in the United States.

Who would push the button?

It turns out that in an audience of approximately 100 people committed to spiritually evolve our society that only one person would push the button. Upon reflection, 99 would not. I asked why.

They said that if they pushed the button, their mutual funds would go down and their government checks might stop.

I commented that what they were proposing is that an entire infrastructure of people continue to market narcotics to their children and grandchildren to ensure that their mutual and pension funds stay high in value.

They said, yes, that's right.

Which is why I say that America is not addicted to narcotics as much as it is addicted to narco dollars.

All very interesting ... now fast forward to this story from Reuters, UN crime chief says drug money flowed into banks,

"The United Nations' crime and drug watchdog has indications that money made in illicit drug trade has been used to keep banks afloat in the global financial crisis, its head was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Vienna-based UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in an interview released by Austrian weekly Profil that drug money often became the only available capital when the crisis spiralled out of control last year.

"In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid investment capital," Costa was quoted as saying by Profil.

Update 4th February 2009 Financial Coup d’Etat


Lord Justice Sedley

"... In place of the principle painstakingly established in the course of two centuries and more, and fundamental to the civil rights enjoyed by the people of this country - that an arrest must be objectively justified and that no more force may be used in effecting it than is reasonably necessary - the section gives immunity from civil suits, not confined to those involving personal injury, to constables who make arrests on entirely unreasonable grounds, so long as they are not acting in bad faith, and accords them impunity for using all but grossly disproportionate force in so doing. Conscious of art. IX of the Bill of Rights 1689, we say only that there is no indication that Parliament was aware, much less intended, that what it was enacting would have this effect."

From Adorian v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2009] EWCA Civ 18 which looks at s329 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

It appears that someone got a good kicking when being arrested - "He was taken to hospital where he was found to have suffered multiple fractures of the head of the right femur and of the acetabulum, the ball and socket of the hip joint. This is a class of injury associated with head-on car crashes or falls from a significant height" - and went on to sue the police.

He found the caltrop of section 329 in his path; fortunately, the courts cleared the path for him.

Another victory for justice. Interesting to see the court of appeal being slightly annoyed at the same time being explicit about the Supremacy of Parliament (the 'being concious about art IX of the Bill of Rights 1689' bit).

On another point, curious to see Pepper v Hart having a brief outing and then quickly being packed away.

End of Alcan Northumberland?

One to watch. The Newcastle Journal reports, "Alcan future threatened by Euro pollution laws."

"The court papers lodged by the EC with the European Court of Justice outline its position. "The commission submits that the coal-fired power plant at Lynemouth in Northumberland constitutes a combustion plant within the meaning of the directive.

"Initially the UK shared this view but, following a radical change of position, now vigorously contests it.

"In the commission’s view, emissions from the plant should have been significantly reduced by January 1, 2008.

"The failure to significantly reduce emissions constitutes a breach of community law."

Worrying for the people of the North East. The court case will be heard later this year.

Background from Defra Air quality - European Directives: Large Combustion Plant Directive.

25 January 2009

Drugging Children

In, "Dispatches from Prozac City, an estate somewhere near you" by Matthew Parris, October 11, 2003; a depressing story of drug abuse is recorded. What makes the story all the more depressing is the complicity of the State via NHS policy and ignorant GPs in ensuring that poor people life their lives in a drugged stupor.

Fast forward to today. I'm reading, R v Donavan Matthews Sentencing Remarks (9 page pdf document). Not with any view to discovering anything about drug abuse but something caught my eye.

Paragraph 5 says, "Most significantly, it is clear that she [Shannon Matthews] was also drugged in this period with the adult sedative temazepam and with a travel sickness preparation called “Traveleze” of which the active ingredient is meclozine hydrochloride. Each of these drugs tends to induce drowsiness and lethargy when administered. Scientific testing revealed that the drugs were administered to Shannon not only in the period of her detention in the flat, but also for a period of up to 20 months prior to her recovery on 14 March. The unavoidable inference is that this drug had been given to her on a regular basis and as a matter of routine while she was in the normal custody of Matthews. It was also administered in the period when she was kept at the flat."

What I find disturbing is the idea that the child had been drugged over a 20 month period prior to her abduction.

This, to me, suggests that it may be common place not only for Matthews but for other 'mothers' to drug their children with sedatives provided by the State.

I wonder whether or not this is common practice?

Further notes for consideration.

  • 'Shannon had been drugged over a 20 month period'; presumably this fact was determined by the chemical analysis of hair samples. Was consent necessary to take a sample of Shannon's hair, and if so, who gave the consent?

  • Paragraph 26 of the sentence note says, "... having regard to their low intellect [Donavan and Matthews], as emerged in evidence at trial and in the presentence reports, it must be doubtful whether they could have conceived or continued these offences without the assistance or connivance of others.

What Ever Happened To The Linux Chick?

About ten years ago I was into the whole Linux thing. One of the things that I remember from that time was the above picture.

Does anyone know what she's doing now?

For some reason I imagine that she made a fortune during the dot.com bubble; then she went back to college to finish her PhD (which she had to put on hold during her time as a CEO), and now she's living on an island off the west coast of Canada?

Anyone else want to make a guess in the comments?

Does anyone else actually know????

Update 25th March 2011 - I'm crushed ... it looks as though the model was gimped, see IT Conservative: Linux Whores: I hope he's wrong but ...

22 January 2009

Ross's Liabilities

Jonathon Ross returns from his twelve week suspension as reported by, amonst others, The Guardian.

Imagine that the known facts relating to his suspension were outlined in an undergraduate law exam; can you answer the question, what were his liabilities?

Lets begin with section 43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (c. 12) which provides,

"43 — (1) A person who—
(a)sends, by means of a public telecommunication system, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
(b)sends by those means, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, a message that he knows to be false or persistently makes use for that purpose of a public telecommunication system,
shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to [F1 imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both].
(2) Subsection (1) above does not apply to anything done in the course of providing a [F2 programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990)] F3 .

It seems to be a clear breach of the Act until you get to s43(2) which provides a get out clause. (The 'within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 refers to 201 Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42) which covers a radio broadcast).

This raises the question of statutory interpretation: a literal interpretation lets the man off the hook, but is that the correct interpretation?

In the absence of any case law for clarification it is not possible to say. I would imagine that the provision was put in place so that drama containing offensive and abusive communications within it could be broadcast without incurring criminal liabilities. If that is true, one can make a good argument for not interpreting the Act literally. There wasn't a prosecution, so the argument is merely of academic interest.

Analysis of section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21) takes one to the same point.

A further laibility is found in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (c. 40).

But this is a civil remedy. It would be up to the receiver of the 'phone calls to initiate the prosecution.

Why wasn't this done?

Perhaps there was an agreement to raise Sach's grandaughter's profile?

The Liabilities List

Just reading the Times Online law section which linked to "David Ross affair revealed as tip of iceberg", a story about City Directors using shares as collateral for personal loans.

Read the link it, is of interest. However, what tempted me to post was the comments section where 'Peterfieldman' says ...

"It's going to be a hard time to compile the Rich List this year. Perhaps it might be an idea to list the liabilities of the wealthy rather than their assets.

peterfieldman, paris, france"

One rule of the list would be that once you're found out, eg Madoff, you get kicked off the list; if not, eg Donald Trump, the race is on!!!!

16 January 2009

Blyth Windfarm Connected

The Newcastle Journal reports, Blyth windfarm back in action after three years.

"THE UK’s first offshore wind farm in Northumberland is back up and running after three years out of use.

The 4MW offshore wind farm off Blyth has been out of action after the export power cable was damaged by the rocky conditions on the seabed.

E.O N explains that the project cost GBP 4 million. As yet, it isn't clear how much revenue has been lost during the three years that the projected has been disconnected. Both the price of electricity, the price of Renewable Energy Certificates and the amount of energy that could've been generated by the turbines isn't easily accessible.

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) reports, "Eligible renewable generators receive Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) for each MWh of electricity generated. These certificates can then be sold to suppliers, in order to fulfil their obligation. Suppliers can either present enough certificates to cover the required percentage of their output, or they can pay a ‘buyout’ price for any shortfall. All proceeds from buyout payments are recycled to suppliers in proportion to the number of ROCs they present. The buyout price is set each year by Ofgem, and in 2007/08 stands at £34.30/MWh,and ROC trading is administered by Non-Fossil Purchase Agency Ltd.".

Using this figure and working through we have 34.30 x 24 x 365 x 4 = GBP 1,201872 per year.

Was it really so hard to connect a cable?

14 January 2009

To Proscribe Or Not To Proscribe?

The Terrorism Act 2000 is an interesting read if you're into that sort of thing. I say this because it gives a glimpse of State politics; not the usual horizontal left-right dialectic distraction but the vertical dialectic of state vs non-state.

The Act gives a definition of terrorism (section 1) and the manner in which terrorist organisations are proscribed: essentially, they are listed in Schedule 2 on the say so of the Secretary of State.

Looking at the organisations in the list and the timeline of their enrollment is quite informative.

In the beginning it is obvious that the Act was being used against terrorism in the province of Northern Ireland. Then came along the unthinking cultish chant of 'everything is different now' after what is called 9/11 and along came the proscription of anything Islam by the magic of statutory instrument.

The problem is, how do we know whether or not these groups are real or not?

The only proscribed group that has challenged their proscription has been the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran. When they challenged their proscription, they won. The UK Gov folded like an irritating drunk after being punched in the solar plexus - you can read about the case PC/02/2006, here, on the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission's website.

So, what of the other proscribed organisations? Are they real or fictional?

I don't know ... but I get the impression that this separation of powers thing, particularly the rule of law, really gets on the wick of some governments. Have a look at what's happening in Europa - People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

Update 27th Jan 2009

The Asia Times is carrying an article, "EU's risky relief for Iranian resistance", that gives some analysis of the situation. However, there isn't any mention of the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission's decision of 30th Nov 2007, in the Asia Times article. I would imagine that the driving force behind Europa's decision is the decision made in Blighty - what else could Europa do?

9th February 2009 For reference purposes, Secretary of State for the Home Department v Lord Alton of Liverpool & Ors [2008] EWCA Civ 443.

Is Honesty Prejudicial?

"A robbery victim saw one of her alleged attackers cleared on Tuesday because the judge said she was too honest to give evidence", reports the Metro in, "[j]udge axes trial as victim is 'too honest' to give evidence".

The story is interesting but it doesn't provide any legal analysis.

Firstly, for a trial to be lawful, it has to be fair. Secondly, when admitting evidence into a trial there has to be a balance between its probitive value and its prejudicial value (so that the resutling trial is fair).

This is what appears to have happened in this case.

Read the article and you'll see that it was her word against his. And that was it. There was no further evidence.

In the case in hand I have no reason to doubt the veracity of her evidence.

But just imagine a situation where it is your word against someone else's. Imagine that you aren't as intelligent or articulate as you most probably are and the other person is articulate. They come across as honest; they come across as though butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. Now, would you say that you had a fair trial in this situation if the other person was lying? Can you see how their evidence would be more prejudicial than probative?

A big plus for justice and credit to Mr Justice Tabor - this was the right decision.

However, I can appreciate that Ms Dawson (the woman who was robbed) may not think so.

Lastly authorities: the 'trial to be lawful has to be fair' and the 'probitive vs prejudicial' stuff are from R v Sang [1979] UKHL 3 where Lord Diplock says,

"A fair trial according to law involves, in the case of a trial upon indictment, that it should take place before a judge and a jury; that the case against the accused should be proved to the satisfaction of the jury beyond all reasonable doubt upon evidence that is admissible in law; and, as a corrollary to this, that there should be excluded from the jury information about the accused which is likely to have an influence on their minds prejudicial to the accused which is out of proportion to the true probative value of admissible evidence conveying that information. If these conditions are fulfilled and the jury receive correct instructions from the judge as to the law applicable to the case, the requirement that the accused should have a fair trial according to law is, in my view, satisfied; ..."

Update: Here's what the Telegraph has to say, "Robbery trial collapses after judge finds victim 'too believable'.

13 January 2009

Egger 50 MW Power Plant???

The, as ever, excellent They Work For You site has revealed two interesting written questions from Peter Atkinson (Hexham, conservative); both to Mike O'Brien (Minister of State, Department for Energy and Climate Change; North Warwickshire, Labour) on 12th Jan 2009.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how his Department plans to assess the sustainability of large-scale wood biomass energy plants of 50 megawatts and over; and if he will take into account that assessment in the potential impact on UK wood processing industries of large biomass plants purchasing their feedstock from UK wood markets.

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether (a) the effect on existing wood industries and (b) the sustainability of material is taken into account in deciding whether to grant planning permission for large-scale biomass energy projects of 50 megawatts and over.

One of the industrial concerns in Peter Atkinson's constituency is Egger UK: from their website, "[w]e are one of Europe's leading wood based panel producers. Our product portfolio ranges from decorative products, such as Melamine Faced Chipboard, Decorative MDF, Laminate and Edging, to construction products, such as Chipboard and OSB."

The website also talks about, "Biomass Energy

The new energy plant which has been built as part of the new development has the objective of reducing EGGER’s fossil fuel use. As a major user of fossil fuels this has both economic and environmental benefits. EGGER use the waste-wood produced from their processes, such as dust, and burn it to create energy for the manufacturing processes as well as providing energy for two office blocks. This has reduced the company’s dependence on gas and electricity to less than 30%.

All this sounds excellent until you realise how the renewable energy market in the UK works.

Essentially, everyone who buys electricity in the UK will subsidize Egger if they can sell renewable energy into the grid. Not only will the subsidy come from the price of electricity sold into the grid but by selling Renewable Obligation Certificates.

Of which, more in a later post.

07 January 2009


Sousveillance1, watching from below, is becoming easier and easier as technology becomes cheaper. Of interest is the manner in which the watchers behave when watched. For example, we have stories about the police criminalising photographers2 and stopping MPs3 under the guise of supposed anti-terror powers.4

The situation brings to mind The Stanford Prison Experiment.

1 Sousveillance

2 Photographers criminalised as police 'abuse' anti-terror laws

3 MP stopped and search under anti-terror laws for taking pictures

4 s44 Terrorism Act 2000

Extinguishing a debt

The following case is quite interesting: Treasure & Son Ltd v Dawes [2008] EWHC 2181.

Mr Justice Coulson, "... It seems to me that the relevant principles are these:

(a) A payment made by a person without compulsion, intending to discharge another's debt, will not discharge that debt unless he acted with that other's authority or if that other subsequently ratifies the payment: see Crantrave Limited v Lloyds Bank plc [2002] All ER (Comm) 89 at 94, Pill LJ.

(b) A voluntary payment by a stranger, A, which purports to pay the debts of B to B's creditor, C, will only be effective to discharge B if the payment is made as B's agent, for and on account of B, and with B's prior authority or subsequent ratification: see Simpson v Eggington (1855) 10 Exch 845 at 847 and Smith v Cox [1942] 2 KB 558.

Consider, for example, when "Can't pay, wont pay" pensioners threaten to go to jail rather than pay, eg, council tax and some benefactor comes out of the shadows to save them from prison by an anonymous donation, think of this case.

Are the pensioners being hypocritical and accepting payment of the debt on their behalf; or, has the council waived the demand?

03 January 2009

Age Discrimination and Exam Results

Every year, in the UK, A-level examination results are published, and for the past twenty years or so, record pass results have been announced for each year.

This means that a person who sat an A-level exam last year, would have had a greater chance of getting a higher grade than if he had sat the A-level exam twenty years ago.

At this point these sorts of notes usually begin discussing whether or not A-level exams are easier/harder etc, now than they were in the past.

I don't want to go down that line.

Instead I want to consider what the implications of this is with respect to, The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

Section 3 of these regulations provides,

"3. — (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a person ( “A”) discriminates against another person ( “B”) if—
(a) ..., or
(b) A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice which he applies or would apply equally to persons not of the same age group as B, but—
(i) which puts or would put persons of the same age group as B at a particular disadvantage when compared with other persons, and
(ii) which puts B at that disadvantage,
and A cannot show the treatment or, as the case may be, provision, criterion or practice to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

If you differentiate potential employees solely on the basis of examination grades, you may be breaking the law.

Hidden Laws

Chambers, R. v [2008] EWCA Crim 2467


"64 This case also provides an example of a wider problem. It is a maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but it is profoundly unsatisfactory if the law itself is not practically accessible. To a worryingly large extent, statutory law is not practically accessible today, even to the courts whose constitutional duty it is to interpret and enforce it. There are four principal reasons.

65 First, the majority of legislation is secondary legislation.

66 Secondly, the volume of legislation has increased very greatly over the last 40 years. The Law Commission's Report on Post-Legislative Scrutiny, (2006) Law Com 302, gave some figures in Appendix C. In 2005 there were 2868 pages of new Public General Acts and approximately 13,000 pages of new Statutory Instruments, making a total well in excess of 15,000 pages (which is equivalent to over 300 pages a week) excluding European Directives and European Regulations, which were responsible for over 5,000 additional pages of legislation.

67 Thirdly, on many subjects the legislation cannot be found in a single place, but in a patchwork of primary and secondary legislation.

68 Fourthly, there is no comprehensive statute law database with hyperlinks which would enable an intelligent person, by using a search engine, to find out all the legislation on a particular topic. This means that the courts are in many cases unable to discover what the law is, or was at the date with which the court is concerned, and are entirely dependent on the parties for being able to inform them what were the relevant statutory provisions which the court has to apply."

Update 12thFeb 2009 Geek Lawyer has just blogged about the case.

Plundering from Geek lawyer's comments section, this is very useful - "First geek point, the search facilities on both OPSI and the SLD are hopeless, and the easiest way I know of to check for amendments to an SI is to use a Google search on site:www.opsi.gov.uk for the name of the regulations as a phrase, together with ‘amend*’ as a separate word." Courtesy of Jonathan Mitchell