Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chemical compound search

Sometimes you get a reputation for all the wrong things.

Now, people send me their hard search problems, which is great. I love getting them--it's like a great research puzzle, something I really like working on.

My friend Jonas sent me a "what's this chemical compound?" question that he got from HIS Mom (who's a real chemist).  The puzzle was to identify this compound:

How DO you approach a problem like this?  

In this case, there are two ways to tackle this.  

(1)  Use a special search engine.  It's often the case that you need something more specialized than Google to solve particular domain problems.  In this case, I first did a Google search to find something just for chemistry: 

[ search for chemical formula ] 

which takes you to the  NIST Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory search tool.  

(2)  Then, at the CSTL page, enter: [ C16H22ClN3O ]  (which you can read off the diagram below)

Or... once you know how to read the diagram, you could have just done a regular Google query for C16H22ClN3O ] and found some great information about this compound.  


Did you ever think look at the TITLE tag on the image????   That is, if you just hover your mouse over the image, you'll quickly see popup (aka "tooltip") that tells you it's tebuconazole -- which you can then lookup the Wikipedia entry:  tebuconazole   

Go ahead, move your mouse over the image above.  Many times you'll find useful information hidden in the roll-over information or in the image file name!  

Here's the Wikipedia picture of the compound, which is really the same thing, slightly rotated.


And finally, for very subtle sleuthing, you might want to check out the ALT attribute on the image.  Frequently you'll find that webmasters embed additional information about an image with an ALT attribute that's associated with the image.  This information is primarily intended for web page screen readers (e..g, for blind web users) and gives a textual description of the pic.  But YOU can use that information for additional clues.

To see the ALT attribute, you can view the source code (under the View>Page Source in Firefox) or in Chrome you can right-click on the image, then "Inspect Element" to see the ALT attribute data.

1 comment:

  1. interesting stuff, i'm in pharmacy school and this will help when the goofy medchem profs throw some extra credit stuff our way. thanks for the info