Respecting the bounds of science

Respecting the bounds of science

In scientific discipline news, a 10-year old has issued a formal apology for accidentally creating a new molecule.

Ten-year old Clara Lazen claimed responsibility for discovering tetranitratoxycarbon, a molecule constructed, obviously, of tetra, nitra, toxy, and carbon. “I didn’t mean to put the atoms together in a particularly complex way,” she said through a spokesman.

The fifth grader’s actions were captured on film by teacher and science paparazzo Kenneth Boehr, who sold the pictures to the Humboldt State University Enquirer, which published them under the caption, “Do We Really Need Another Molecule?”  Boehr said he did it because he feared the discovery would incite a new interest in chemistry and science at his school.

Clara, who was denied anonymity after she pronounced it “amininity”, said she was simply trying to use up all the balls and sticks the teacher gave her, so she could go out and play.  Clara’s father explained that his daughter was just acting out. “This isn’t the first time she’s done something like this.  Last summer, she spent two whole days discovering a type of oncilla that was just like the existing types of oncilla.  And just last week I caught her putting two Triceratops bones next to each other and discovering it was a new species called a Clarasaurus.”

A National Science Foundation (NSF) sting operation also netted chemist Robert Zoellner, who claimed the molecule was a “wholly new but also wholly viable chemical”.  He later confessed that the chemical had the same formula as one other in HSU’s database of Molecules Not to Be Discovered.

One fifth-grader, speaking from an undisclosed location somewhere in Timeout, told reporters, “I used to think Clara was pretty cool, but now we have to learn how to spell “tetranitratoxycarbon” for next week’s spelling quiz.  Thanks a lot, Clara!”  The boy was given anonymity at his request, but was disappointed to discover that anonymity wasn’t some kind of present.

Clara’s mother was surprised and upset by the classmate’s reaction, telling one neighbor that she had encouraged her daughter because she had read somewhere that science was popular.

Reaction from the scientific community was mixed. Bored physicist and Nobel Laureate Stephen Hawking told a crowd at his fantasy-physics draft, “Chemistry would be far more interesting if it had not been found.” Hawking reportedly had just drafted “Girl does not discover tetranitratoxycarbon” for his team, the Ennuiologists (2-3). Other scientists believe that since the new molecule is not found on Earth, then Maybe that proves that Mars is covered in the stuff.

Sir Cadmium of York, the spokesman for the British Knights of the Periodic Table, assured the public that the new molecule (pictured above with the guy who didn’t discover it) posed no immediate threat to the general populace. “First, a single molecule of tetra-oxy-something is about 4 feet across, so a pound of the stuff would be approximately the size of the Andromeda Galaxy, and thus extremely difficult to hide, even from U.N. inspectors.”

“Second, it would be very difficult for a rogue nation to even pronounce the name of this tera-nitro-expialadocious stuff, let alone manufacture it.”  He later conceded that radical elements in the Kyrgzystan Front for Spelling and Pronouncing Kyrgzystan Correctly might have the necessary linguistic skills to place an order.

Clara and Robert have been ordered to write a 500-word essay on “Why I Shouldn’t Discover New Molecules” for the journal Computationally and Theoretically Forbidden Chemistry.  A spokesman for the NSF announced that Clara had been sent to her room to think about what she had done.

(Click on the picture of the forbidden molecule to read the original story.)

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