This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Babelfish for Chemists

As an undergraduate, I fulfilled my foreign language requirements by taking German. I found it moderately useful for translating a few chemistry papers needed for my research, but the process was admittedly painful. Scientific German is a lot different (read: harder) than conversational German. By the time I entered the job market, my translating ability had atrophied to the point where it was nothing more than a bullet on my resume. And unless you are very good at it, it’s more economical for the company to pay someone else to perform translations for you.

A report has been released in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling describing Lexichem, computer software designed to translate over 250,000 English chemical names into seven other languages and back again. Hmmmm…… I suspect I might have found this useful back in the day, not only for me, but for some professional translators as well. I recall reading through a compilation of abstracts on ceramic materials translated from Japanese articles several years ago. I kept running into the term “basic soil elements” which had me totally bewildered until I finally realized the translator was trying to say “alkaline earth elements”.

Original source: New Scientist


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