What are aromatic compounds, and why are they important?
Aromatic compounds are among the most important in organic chemistry and can be readily found in many different organic molecules, including pharmaceuticals. They are so named for the fragrance of some of their first molecules. Interesting materials made out of repeated aromatic compounds include graphene, carbon nanotubes, and buckminsterfullerene. An aromatic compound is defined by the presence of a cyclic array of continuous p orbitals with a number of pi electrons equal to 4n+2, where n is an integer. The aromatic compound you will most frequently encounter in an organic chemistry course is benzene, C6H6. Interesting reactions such as electrophilic and nucleophilic addition and substitution can occur under the right conditions and with the right reagents.
What is a virus?
As you probably already know, viruses are extraordinarily small. Some are only 30 nanometers in length. Others possess a genetic code up to 400,000 times shorter than ours. That such small entities are capable of replicating nearly autonomously is truly remarkable, and no small feat. According to Professor Lynn Enquist of Princeton University, these tiny biological machines must (1) possess genetic information, either DNA or RNA, that can be replicated (2) have a proteinaceous coat that can introduce that information into a living cell, and (3) encode proteins that allow them to survive and evade host immune defenses. Such a fundamental criteria, applied to what may be the most fundamental of biological entities, forces us to contemplate a profound question. What does it mean to be living? That question is at the heart of the fascinating discipline of molecular biology.
Why are the United States one country, and not many?
Today, we take it for granted that the United States of America is a single nation. Nevertheless, at the outset of the Revolution in 1775, such an outcome was by no means certain. Many advocated for the thirteen colonies to remain autonomous political entities. Perhaps surprisingly, an important catalyst for the union of the colonies came from their interaction with Native Americans. In the territory termed the “middle ground,” the diplomatic challenge that would shape the colonists’ view of their own nation was the need to pacify the natives of the Ohio River valley. In order to achieve this end, as was evident at the Treaty of Pittsburgh in 1775, the colonists could ill afford to project to the natives an image of a divided American confederacy. As one colonist lamented at the negotiations as he attempted to win promises of neutrality from the natives, “the Huron Indians had been led to believe that the People of Virginia were a different and distinct Nation from the other Colonies, and that by going to War with us they need not fear the Interposition of the other Colonies.” Similarly, another colonist at the negotiations expressed concern that the Indians were allying against the Americans as a result of “having been led to beleive that we [the Virginians] are a people Quite different and distinct from the other Colonies.” In these circumstances, the colonists of the middle ground were learning a lesson similar to that which Jay, Madison, and Hamilton would explain eloquently in their Federalist Papers: that a loose confederation would not command the respect of those abroad.