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The Beautiful Rings of Saturn via felizecat, astronomicalwonders
The Saturn system reveals tantalizing vistas. NASA’s robotic spacecraft named Cassini carries with it 12 instruments designed to take precise measurements of Saturn and its surroundings, including Titan, other icy moons, and the rings, as well as the magnetic environment.
For many of us, however, the images are what put us there, at Saturn, almost a billion miles away from home. Some of those images unveil overwhelming beauty. Others show tricks of light and seemingly magical oddities. Some reveal events from the distant past that have been preserved for eons, while other views depict processes that are changing now, like live news.
Credit: NASA/Cassini

The Beautiful Rings of Saturn via felizecat, astronomicalwonders

The Saturn system reveals tantalizing vistas. NASA’s robotic spacecraft named Cassini carries with it 12 instruments designed to take precise measurements of Saturn and its surroundings, including Titan, other icy moons, and the rings, as well as the magnetic environment.
For many of us, however, the images are what put us there, at Saturn, almost a billion miles away from home. Some of those images unveil overwhelming beauty. Others show tricks of light and seemingly magical oddities. Some reveal events from the distant past that have been preserved for eons, while other views depict processes that are changing now, like live news.

Credit: NASA/Cassini

The robo-chemist
In faded photographs from the 1960s, organic-chemistry laboratories look like an alchemist’s paradise. Bottles of reagents line the shelves; glassware blooms from racks of wooden pegs; and scientists stoop over the bench as they busily build molecules.
Fast-forward 50 years, and the scene has changed substantially. A lab in 2014 boasts a battery of fume cupboards and analytical instruments — and no one is smoking a pipe. But the essence of what researchers are doing is the same. Organic chemists typically plan their work on paper, sketching hexagons and carbon chains on page after page as they think through the sequence of reactions they will need to make a given molecule. Then they try to follow that sequence by hand — painstakingly mixing, filtering and distilling, stitching together molecules as if they were embroidering quilts.
But a growing band of chemists is now trying to free the field from its artisanal roots by creating a device with the ability to fabricate any organic molecule automatically. “I would consider it entirely feasible to build a synthesis machine which could make any one of a billion defined small molecules on demand,” declares Richard Whitby, a chemist at the University of Southampton, UK.
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Illustration by Ryan Snook

The robo-chemist

In faded photographs from the 1960s, organic-chemistry laboratories look like an alchemist’s paradise. Bottles of reagents line the shelves; glassware blooms from racks of wooden pegs; and scientists stoop over the bench as they busily build molecules.
Fast-forward 50 years, and the scene has changed substantially. A lab in 2014 boasts a battery of fume cupboards and analytical instruments — and no one is smoking a pipe. But the essence of what researchers are doing is the same. Organic chemists typically plan their work on paper, sketching hexagons and carbon chains on page after page as they think through the sequence of reactions they will need to make a given molecule. Then they try to follow that sequence by hand — painstakingly mixing, filtering and distilling, stitching together molecules as if they were embroidering quilts.
But a growing band of chemists is now trying to free the field from its artisanal roots by creating a device with the ability to fabricate any organic molecule automatically. “I would consider it entirely feasible to build a synthesis machine which could make any one of a billion defined small molecules on demand,” declares Richard Whitby, a chemist at the University of Southampton, UK.

(continue)

Illustration by Ryan Snook