Allotropy is the ability of an element to exist in different structural forms while in the same state of matter. For example, elemental carbon can exist in many well-known forms such as diamond, graphite, fullerenes and more recently, carbon nanotubes. Such different things yet the same element. I find the phenomenon very fascinating, especially because a pure and unadulterated form of a single element can exhibit so many different properties just by changes in its core structural form.
But why the fascination especially with (elemental) allotropes alone? Chemistry is all about chemical transformations, replace the hydrogen in hydrogen sulfide with iron and you get Fool’s gold but replace the hydrogen with cadmium and you can make photocells. Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 and in a few decades we have been able to make many analogues of it. Isn’t it fascinating enough to be able to build complex molecules from smaller simpler pieces? To be able to play around at the molecular level? Yes, that fascinates me equally but what is special about allotropy is that it never requires any external ingredients to be added to achieve the transformation. Though I must admit that I like the phenomenon more for its philosophical meaning.
What if we are able to apply the concept of allotropy in real life?
Keeping our core values the same we face different roles of our lives with a different mindset. When in the lab, focus only on research: keep a cool head, concentrate on what is important, ignore the noise. When with friends, enjoy the company: lower your concentration, let your mind relax, feel the atmosphere, let the noise in. When writing, be creative: let your imagination flow, filter the noise, don’t be too judgmental.
All of us have already have our allotropic forms because we do have different mind for different problems but rarely are we able to achieve complete separation of these forms. There is a very distinct pleasure when one is able to achieve that and I believe all of us have experienced that sometime in our lives. Think of that time when you were simply focused on an exam paper, and after which you celebrated the end of exams; or think of that time when after a very good work out you were able to achieve the time you had set for your 5 km run. The achievement has much more value than just the material gain (marks or speed), it helps us believe in our abilities. What if we are able to do this kind of thing it all the time? How much better would our life be! We will be able to derive that pleasure and live so much more efficiently.
I want to be able to achieve such allotropy in my life. I begin my adventure with the separation of my first allotrope. I am moving my science writing activities to a new home and it will very aptly will be called: The Allotrope, subscribe here. Of course, this blog will still remain as the main place for everything else and yes I’ll still keep doing my weekly science media updates here.