The time for New Year’s Resolutions was a month ago, yet as a master procrastinator, I’m just getting around to them. Why? Well for one thing, I didn’t finish off a major goal of 2010 — getting through Clayden — at least the first 1350 pages — until this month. Definitely worth the effort, with all sorts of great chemistry I had no idea about (having left the field 48+ years ago). The new edition is scheduled for next year. I wrote Clayden to thank him for doing the book in the first place and got this back. “Thanks for all your comments. We are well on with the second edition now,and will certainly be taking into account some of your suggestions.” So you should hold off buying the old Clayden (unless you’re just starting grad school in Organic, in which case it’s a must read).

So what’s up for this year? Physical Chemistry, particularly physical organic chemistry — I hope to get through Anslyn and Dougherty. I’d also like to do some hardcore pure PChem, particular concerning ion mobilities and velocities, as I think that the concept of concentration has been abused beyond all recognition in neurophysiology. The concept of a nanodomain and concentrations in the micromolar range in such a domain is insane (IMHO) yet that’s what people (even Nobel prize winning people like Neher) talk about. Didn’t they ever take chemistry? There should be posts on this subject. Interestingly, looking up Anslyn on Amazon (to get the spelling right) I find that he has an organic chemistry textbook coming out next month (sans Dougherty but with some others). Has anyone seen it and if so are there any opinions out there about it?

Another goal for the year is reading one of Wavefunction’s recommendations — Molecular Driving Forces by Dill et. al. and through that getting into statistical mechanics. I did have the good fortune of auditing a course by E. Bright Wilson (of Pauling and Wilson) on stat. mech. back in grad school. He was an incredible lecturer, also deriving everything from first principles, and starting exactly where he left off. Although I saved a lot of stuff from back then, I can’t find any notes on what he said. Probably I just listened.

After getting through the above, I should be able to tackle protein folding, a subject of great interest to just about anyone interested in the mechanisms underlying our existence. Wavefunction sent me a reference to something by Dill on the subject, but I don’t think I’m ready for it. For those who are, it’s Annual Reviews of Biophysics vol. 37 pp. 289 – 316 ’08.

Yet another goal (surely I’ve bitten off more than I can chew) is to understand relativity. I’ve not posted much about math but I’ve been auditing courses, and studying it on my own for the past few years, so I think I’m close to having enough background to tackle it. Again, the indefatigable Wavefunction has a recommendation for that too — “The Mathematics of Relativity for the Rest of Us” by Jagerman, an ophthalmologist of all things. I’m going to demur and go for the full Monty.

Here’s the plan of attack. I’d already worked through the excellent “Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Differential Forms” by the Hubbard’s, but their treatment of manifolds (which you need in spades for relativity) is confined to graphs of functions (graphs are a type of manifold). All graphs are essentially geometric objects embedded in a higher dimensional space (the way the surface of an orange is embedded in 3 space). As Lee states in “Introduction to Smooth Manifolds” p. 2 “For example, in general relativity, spacetime is thought of as a 4-dimensional smooth manifold that carries a certain geometric structure, called a Lorentz metric, whose curvature results in gravitational phenomena. In such a model there is no physical meaning that can be assigned to any higher dimensional ambient space in which the manifold lives, and including such a space in the model would complicate it needlessly.” So there you go.

I’m going to try to get through Lee’s two books — “Introduction to Topological Manifolds” and “Introduction to Smooth Manifolds” this year. He writes extremely clearly and well, and hopefully is accurate (I have no way of knowing), and then go for the gold. I’d studied topology on my own as a Neurology resident. It was a way of keeping my mind off the awful things that I saw then. If you think neurological therapy is bad now, it is paradise compared to what we had in the late 60s and early 70s.

I might have to drop back 5 and punt and study Differential Geometry (which is a way of looking at the intrinsic geometry of surfaces and higher dimensional analogues of them) if it isn’t already in Lee.

That’s a ton of stuff, but there will still be posts about the usual things. The next two should involve Fast Mapping, an entirely new (and undiscovered) form of learning and a possible insight about the mechanism of the triplet diseases (nearly all of which affect the brain for some reason).

Stay tuned.

Happy 11/12ths of a New Year