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MARGINALIA

Narrative

Roald Hoffmann

What does the forthcoming political campaign have to do with tetrahedrane, a beautiful yet unstable hydrocarbon with four CH groups at the corners of a tetrahedron? Just look and listen (you'll have a hard time not doing so) to the onslaught of masterfully crafted oversimplifications thrown at you this fall by both parties. And think about why people—no, not you, of course—succumb to it. It has something to do with the reasons why we lust for the elegantly simple molecule in the shape of a Platonic solid or the beautiful (and preferably, soluble) equation. In this Marginalium I want to think about what gives us satisfaction in science when simplicity fails us, as it must, in a real world.




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