This week I discovered one of the most faintly hilarious things I have for some time. It’s a fairly common mistake in chemistry to mis-draw a structure so that a carbon atom appears to have five bonds. It’s a fairly solid rule that carbon can only ever form four bonds★. Apparently, when such a carbonaceous oddity is mistakenly scrawled, it’s given the nickname of “Texas carbon”.
This image gives a good example of such a malformed chemical structure…
This (which I found here) was apparently on BBC2, courtesy of James May – who, some may argue, qualifies as someone who should know better.
Precisely why it’s called a Texas carbon is actually a rather good question. Some sources offer the explanation of the Texas flag having a five-pointed star on it. That seems a little flimsy, if you ask me. Personally, I think it’s just because everything’s bigger in Texas. Cars… Roads… Steaks… Waistlines… Erm… Yes, quite.
Actually, it’s made even more hilarious by the fact that there’s actually a town in Texas called Carbon. Seriously.
★ Incidentally, most people may be unaware, but even the rule that carbon only forms four bonds has certain circumstances under which it doesn’t necessarily apply. This is science – they’re more guidelines than actual rules.