“I’m pretty sure someone labeled the heavy water as regular water,” remarked one slightly heavier lab student.
Photo by Millie You
After two afternoons of deliberations, the Chemistry Department at UC San Diego announced that they will no longer use official molecule naming schemes, and all future molecules will instead be named by “making shit up.” This marks the university’s departure from the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC)’s guidelines, which are generally accepted as the definitive nomenclature for molecules.
The decision was shared on Twitter by the head of the department, Adam Mollicoole, who said: “I’m proud to announce that the Chem Dept at UCSD will no longer deal with IUPAC. A guy on the board pissed me off by refusing to accept that my molecule was called coolguysauce, saying it was actually just benzene and I was being childish. So, from now on, call your molecules whatever you want.”
IUPAC later shared a response to Mollicoole’s post. “Adam, we have set rules for how we name molecules to make communication between scientists easier and more direct. We rejected the name ‘coolguysauce’ for being utterly devoid of meaning. Perhaps consider shortening it into a vanity plate for your next car?”
The response to the change has been overwhelmingly positive among students and professors alike, amassing a 97% “favorable” rating on a poll conducted on Mollicoole’s Twitter. One professor provided a statement on RealProfessorsOfUCSD, an anonymous discussion board for UCSD faculty. “Honestly, I’m welcoming the change,” the professor said. “I’m going to start providing extra credit for anyone who can make me laugh with their molecule names — but if any of them make me sad, I’m failing the whole class.” Another professor replied to the post, saying: “Some of my students were asking why we even had to draw chemically viable molecules. Why not start making up our own elements, too?”
Fourth-year student Annie Matter expressed her opinion on the change, saying, “I’m upset the change came so late, but I’m glad I got to take advantage of it on my last midterm. My professor can’t expect me to draw the structure of methyl ethanoate if the name just doesn’t speak to me, you know?” When asked what she drew instead, Matter answered, “Well, obviously, I drew a stick figure with a six-bonded carbon in its hand, just to piss my TA off.”
Despite the positive reception among students, researchers have criticized the move. “It makes everything way more confusing for us,” said researcher Celulare Mekanism. “I tried to tell my undergraduates that we were working with dichloromethane, which can be seriously dangerous, and they all looked at me like I was speaking Greek! After drawing it on the whiteboard, one of them nodded at me and told me that it was actually called octadecabromoethane, because ‘the vibes were off’ and it just ‘doesn’t feel’ like it should be called dichloromethane anymore.” Mekanism continued, “If I hear one more person tell me they’re working with ‘forbidden chicken noodle soup,’ I’m going to cry. It’s a safety hazard!”
The UCSD Biology department later announced that they were also considering forgoing typical nomenclature, instead allowing students to rename bacterial species and human organs as they desire. “Because if we can’t beat them,” said professor Stephanococcus Auroraborealis, “we might as well let them say they have a Sad Little Dying Victorian Boy infection instead of tuberculosis.”