on midway atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. the nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted pacific ocean.
"for me, kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. …like the albatross, we [the consumers and polluters of this world] find ourselves lacking the ability to discern anymore what is nourishing from what is toxic to our lives and souls." - chris jordan
First-Ever Image Of A Hydrogen Bond
Using a mouthful of a technique called high-resolution atomic force microscopy, Chinese researchers have imaged a hydrogen bond for the first time. These molecules (a tetrad of 8-hydroxyquinoline) are held in arrangement by the (white) hydrogen atoms’ atomic attraction to the partial negative charge in the nitrogen and oxygen atoms. Those N’s and O’s are little electron hogs, pulling that negative cloud away from their atomic neighbor and around their nucleus instead. They don’t become full ions, like sodium or chloride, but they do become just a tiny bit negative.
It’s similar to what happens in water, where the “electron hog” oxygen becomes slightly negative, making the hydrogen slightly positive:
This results in something called “dipole interaction” and it is one of the key ingredients of living chemistry. In fact, if those 8-hydroxyquinoline molecules were in a cell instead of on a copper microscope surface, there would be little water molecules bridging those gaps, tiny hydrogen bonding intermediaries holding the whole aqueous world together.
This kind of microscopy is the same technique that recently let Berkeley scientists see a covalent bond breaking and forming in real time, and is certainly up there on the “coolest thing I’ve seen this year” list. Next stop ionic bonds?