We don’t spend much time discussing chemistry around here, but for reasons which will become apparent, we call your attention to some news that appeared two weeks ago at the PhysOrg website: Salty surprise: Ordinary table salt turns into ‘forbidden’ forms. They say, with our bold font:
High-pressure experiments with ordinary table salt have produced new chemical compounds that should not exist according to the textbook rules of chemistry. The study at DESY’s X-ray source PETRA III and at other research centres could pave the way to a more universal understanding of chemistry and to novel applications, as the international research team, led by Prof. Artem Oganov of Stony Brook University (State University of New York) and Prof. Alexander Goncharov of Carnegie Institution, report in the scientific journal Science.
Here’s a link to the published paper: Unexpected Stable Stoichiometries of Sodium Chlorides. No subscription? No problem, we’ll continue with PhysOrg:
Table salt, also known as sodium chloride or NaCl, is one of the best-known and most studied chemical compounds. It crystalises in a cubic unit cell and is very stable. Its chemical composition is simple – one sodium atom (Na) and one chlorine atom (Cl). Or at least that’s true under ambient conditions. Other compounds of the two elements are forbidden by the classical rules of chemistry. For instance, according to the octet rule all chemical elements strive to fill their outermost shell with eight electrons, which is the most stable configuration, found in noble gases. Sodium has one extra electron and chlorine is missing one, so sodium donates one electron to chlorine, leaving both atoms with an outer shell containing eight electrons and forming a strong ionic bond.
Yes, that’s how we’ve always understood it. However, we’ll have to revise our thinking. Get this:
But when the scientists put table salt under high pressure of 200,000 atmospheres and more at PETRA III and added an extra dash of either sodium or chlorine, “forbidden” compounds like Na3Cl and NaCl3 turned up. … “We found other stable compounds of Na and Cl which came as a surprise.” This is not supposed to happen, as these compounds require a completely different form of chemical bonding with higher energy, and nature always favours the lowest state of energy.
“These compounds are thermodynamically stable and once made, remain so indefinitely,” says Zhang. “Classical chemistry forbids their very existence. Classical chemistry also says atoms try to fulfil the octet rule – elements gain or lose electrons to attain an electron configuration of the nearest noble gas, with complete outer electron shells that make them very stable. Well, here that rule is not satisfied.”
Fascinating stuff! One more excerpt, and then we’ll get to the fun part:
The experiments help to explore a broader view of chemistry. “I think this work is the beginning of a revolution in chemistry,” Oganov says. “We found, at low pressures achievable in the lab, perfectly stable compounds that contradict the classical rules of chemistry. If you apply rather modest pressure, 200,000 atmospheres – for comparison purposes, the pressure at the centre of the Earth is 3.6 million atmospheres – much of what we know from chemistry textbooks falls apart.”
By now you’re wondering: Okay, Curmudgeon, that’s very interesting, but what does it have to do with The Controversy between evolution and creationism? Well, nothing, really, but that doesn’t stop the Discoveroids from seizing this as an opportunity to complain that, like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect. It’s an old and amusing theme of theirs, which we first described here: Discovery Institute: They Get No Respect!, and then here: They Still Get No Respect.
This just popped up that their creationist blog: If Chemistry Can Be Wrong, How Much More Evolutionary Theory?.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! If real scientists make a genuinely new discovery that might shake up our understanding of an established science, then how about some respect for Oogity Boogity! As crazy as that sounds, that’s the approach the Discoveroids are taking. A few excerpts should suffice to show how they’re spinning this. Here it comes, with a bit of bold font added by us:
Along with astronomy, chemistry is one of the ancient sciences. Progressing from alchemy to rational chemistry, physical chemistry and quantum mechanics of our day, its status as “hard science” seems secure. Its theories have been refined for centuries. Moreover, its experiments (unlike macroevolution) [Aaaargh!!] are observable and repeatable. How, then, could researchers at Stony Brook University (academic home, by the way, of ENV contributor Dr. Michael Egnor, Vice-Chairman, Department of Neurological Surgery) say that a discovery has challenged the foundation of chemistry?
How could such a thing happen? the Discoveroids wonder. What they seem incapable of grasping is that science is always open to new evidence. If creationists ever have any to offer, they’ll find that the door will be open. It has always been open.
Then they describe the new discoveries we mentioned at the start of this post, published in a high-profile, peer-reviewed journal (which makes the Discoveroids boil with envy), and they say, with an incomplete sentence:
If an unexpected foundation-shaking paradigm shift can occur in a “hard” science like chemistry, where findings can be checked by observation and experiment, how confident can evolutionists be that their theories about the unobservable past?
Ah yes, the “unobservable past.” That sounds like ol’ Hambo’s “Were you there?” attack on our understanding of the past. Well, how confident can we be? Very confident, as long as no evidence is produced that challenges our understanding.
There’s only one paragraph left, but it’s a winner. We’ll break it down into a few parts so you can appreciate it fully. Here it comes:
In recent years, major problems have surfaced in evolutionary theory: the overthrow of “junk DNA,” the discovery of codes within codes, the intransigence of the Cambrian enigma to name a few.
Major problems! BWAHAHAHAHAHA! They continue:
Yet its advocates continue to bully anyone who doesn’t toe the line. Darwinism acts like a religion, not science.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Here’s the rest of it:
If Darwinists were proper scientists, they would embrace the new discoveries that break their rules. They would gladly follow the mounting evidence that points in a new direction for the biology of the 21st century — intelligent design.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The part that really hurts the Discoveroids is that the chemistry team, led by Oganov and Goncharov, somehow avoided all the agony that the Discoveroids are going through — no bullying, no martyrdom, no revival meetings at churches, no grass roots organizing, no “academic freedom” legislation to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of chemistry, etc. The Discoveroids are amazed. How was that possible?
Here’s the secret: They behaved like scientists. They did the work and produced the results. And then — Bada Bing! — they got published in Science.
That’s how it’s done, Discoveroids. It’s not about your incredulity, or your spiritual dissatisfaction with “materialism.” It’s all about the data. Provide some, and people will pay attention. Keep going the way you’re going, and your “theory” will have no more success than The Time Cube.
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