Saturday, February 27, 2010

'Let Us Dream, Ladies and Gentlemen!'

‘Let us learn to dream, ladies and gentlemen, and then perhaps we shall learn the truth. But let us beware of making our dreams public before they have been approved by the waking mind’. So said Friedrich August Kekulé, nigh 120 years ago. If people don’t know him, that’s really a shame. He was one of those free born scientific minds, which wander through the jungles of uncovered information, to find the treasure of truth.

And, if you haven’t read your aromatic hydrocarbons chapter yet, he told us how the Benzene molecule must look like.

It is very interesting to know how he got the idea of the molecule. One fine day he was sitting in his study, with the question rambling through his mind, ‘how does the benzene look like’. Of course, he had some leads, the reactions, the percentage masses, the peculiar behaviours, and of course, ah! The smell!

However, like many before him, he did not have any idea, as to how to connect this jumbled piece of information together. So, not getting anywhere, he dozed off. Now, the humorous quotient aside, it happened to him in the dream of that sleep, that he saw the benzene molecules floating across his mind. He writes later, “Again, the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of this kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformations; long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twisting and turning in snake like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled around me mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I woke…”
 
Lo! There was the birth of Benzene! Kekulé then spent the night working out the necessary details and consequences of the structure, and it occurred to him, that it must be right. X-ray studies indicate that the benzene structure is indeed the one he proposed. Coincidence? Indeed, if anything called coincidence exists in this world! The structure, I think, was revealed to Kekulé much the same way as God revealed himself to Moses.

How otherwise can you explain the dream and the correctness? Kekulé had no leads whatsoever going into the problem; it is only by coincidence that he found that structure.

These incidents reinforce my faith in science. It indicates to us that we are indeed headed onto the right track, with the full blessings of the almighty! After all, aren’t we deciphering the tumultuous mysteries that exist in his creations? Aren’t we deciphering him?

Yes. And we are on the right track.

NASA Image of the Day