A 10-year-old girl was experimenting with a molecule-building set in her Montessori school when she created an unusual-looking specimen.
Clara Lazen randomly arranged a unique combination of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon atoms, with the result being a molecule her teacher had never seen before. Intrigued, he photographed it and sent it to a chemistry professor at Humboldt State University in California.
Robert Zoellner discovered that not only was Lazen’s molecule unique, it had the potential to store energy.
“It contains the same combination of atoms as nitroglycerin, a powerful explosive. If a synthetic chemist succeeded at creating the molecule—dubbed tetranitratoxycarbon for short—it could store energy, create a large explosion, or do something in between, Zoellner says: ‘Who knows?'”
He cranked out a scientific paper for an esteemed chemistry journal, and listed Clara and Boehr as co-authors.
Regardless of what happens, the experience has already strengthened the young girl’s interest in science. It’s refreshing, Zoellner says, because so many women shy away from science careers as they get older.
“Women are often better prepared for high school and college than men but they decide not to pursue science careers for whatever reason,” Zoellner says. “If I’ve been able to keep her and some of her classmates interested in science, I’ve succeeded.”
(WATCH the video below from FOX, or read the story from Humboldt State U.)