Texas Carbon?

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… People… 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.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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7 Responses to Texas Carbon?

  1. Interesting, never heard the rationale that it was because of the 5 point star, just that everything’s bigger in Texas. Also have heard them called Alaska carbons.

  2. It’s not surprising that James May would get it wrong. According to his bio on Wikipedia he studied music at university — and thanks to the narrow focus of England’s education system, he probably wouldn’t have studied chemistry after the age of 16. Of course the BBC should have spotted it!

  3. James says:

    To make matters even more interesting, Carbon, Texas has a five-way intersection in the center of town.

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