WuToWu #25: Life and Music

Hi Jessica,

As soon as I logged onto Facebook, I saw the pictures. I felt a bit helpless sitting in my dorm room. I still have ties to high school, and it’s been less than a year since I left, so I was hit harder than if I had been out of school for a long time.

Without encroaching too much on some people’s privacy, I want to talk about the contrast between the two deaths which have impacted us recently. Let’s start with the word “death.” For a while, I didn’t understand why our mom would avoid using the word “death” when talking about our Uncle’s passing. But the more I thought about it, it makes a lot of sense given a Christian perspective of the world. First, there is a big difference between spiritual death and biological death. Second, First Corinthians 15:55 is “O death, where is your victory?/O death, where is your sting?” (ESV), so it doesn’t make sense to talk about Uncle dying. It really does make more sense to talk about his passing, which occurred with his family by his side and his life secure in Christ. Death is still a terrible thing, but Uncle and his family encountered it with Christ by their side.

On the other hand. The student’s death was a brutal reminder of how broken the world is. People aren’t meant to die when they’re still children. It’s also a reminder of the work we have to do. We’re all very selfish, but we need to care about others. I hope that we can honor this student’s life by committing to that.

In more light hearted news, I had the opportunity to rehearse with two great conductors in the past two weeks, Vance George and Sir John Gardiner. Vance George is the director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and Sir John Gardiner is the director of the Monteverdi choir, arguably the best Baroque choir in the world. He is also a knight. Both brought an enormous amount of energy and passion to the rehearsal, and it was fun to see Vance George in a Harvard Glee Club hoodie by the end of rehearsal. (A well-dressed Brit, I don’t think Gardiner would have allowed himself to be caught dead in one.)

One of the Brahms pieces ends with this touching sentiment: “Auch ein Klaglied zu sein im Mund der Geliebten ist herrlich.” Which roughly translates as “Even a dirge to be on the lips of a loved one is glorious.” I thought this was an appropriate quote.

Finally, chemistry! Today: MO diagrams. This is an MO diagram:

Source: By CCoil via Wikimedia Commons

Source: By CCoil via Wikimedia Commons

MO stands for molecular orbital, and these diagrams are helpful in determining how exactly molecules will react. The MO diagram to the left is an extremely simple one, dealing with two hydrogen atoms.

Both atoms have a valence electron that exists in the 1s orbital. Atoms will create bonds when their electrons are in phase. (Remember that electrons are actually waves, and not particles!) In the diagram, this is represented by the two white circles touching each other in the middle of the diagram.The electrons form a sigma bond in the bonding orbital, which is represented by σg.

So far, so good. But what about that σu? That represents the anti-bonding orbital. When the electrons are out of phase (as represented by the dark and white circle), there will be no bonding.

The anti-bonding orbital is at a much higher energy level than either the valence electrons or the bonding orbital, as indicated by the upward arrow marked by an E. Since systems tend towards lowest energy states, the bonding orbital is where the electrons will go. (If more electrons were to be introduced into the system, they would go into the anti-bonding orbital.)

These diagrams can get complicated, especially when you introduce pi bonds and atoms of different electronegativities, as you can see in the one below involving carbon and oxygen:



But ultimately, they are useful for determining how reactions will proceed, since electrons will (almost) always go to the lowest available orbital.




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