Sunday, April 15, 2012

Virtual Molecular Modeling Kit

I recently came across a very interesting resource called the Virtual Molecular Modeling Kit.  It looks like it can do an awful lots of things and I have only scratched the surface myself.

Very commendably, the authors Otis Rothenberger and Thomas Newton, have created a set of instructional videos.  The video below highlights the fact Jmol 12.2 and later versions now have a molecular editor, which I somehow had completely missed.

These, and related sites such as this one and this one, are examples of what I call chemical calculators.  In analogy with conventional calculators, they allow effortless computations for certain quantities that, before, we would have to laboriously compute by hand, or approximate, or memorize.

Students are no longer required to manually compute square roots or take logarithms.  We now have these calculators that can compute dipole moments, electrostatic potentials and orbitals, with roughly the same effort it takes to use a calculator.  Perhaps we should stop requiring students to memorize nomenclature and perform trivial computations and start teaching them how to solve more interesting chemical problems using these tools. 
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