Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I apologize for the gaps in posting. Anyway, I wanted to do something holiday themed, but wasn't sure what to choose. I considered putting up a LEGO Frankenstein scene, since Dr. Frankenstein is kind of the ultimate mad scientist, but wanted to do something a little more 'real science'. So I thought: what do kids get tons of at Halloween? Sugar! So I found this. MIT sponsor the Mind and Hand Alliance to get kids excited about science. In one exercise, they use LEGO to build models of molecule, and here and here they have instructions to build glucose, one of the key sugars in biochemical processes. Technically table sugar is actually sucrose, which is a combination of glucose and fructose, but there you go. There model making is interesting - they use black, white and red LEGO bricks to represent carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which are kind of the standard colors used in molecular models (atoms don't actually have colors, of course), and they represent carbon and oxygen as being the same size and hydrogen as smaller. They also have some sense in their model of stereochemistry, with some groups pointing up and others down, as is also true of real molecules. The ultimate result is not very satisfying to me, though, since the rectangular shapes imposed by the LEGO bricks don't lead a shape that closely fits the real molecule. But if it gets kids thinking about molecules, though, I'm all for it. I've noted here before that in part I am a chemist today because of building with LEGO as a kid.

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