How do you draw your benzene rings?
No, not how do they look when you’re finished, but what are the motions you go through when you put pen to paper? And I do mean pen to paper, obviously drawing benzene rings with your favourite chemistry-drawing software is done with a simple click of a button.
I started thinking about this when I saw this comment on one of @Chemjobber‘s posts — one in which Carmen Drahl gets a shout out for including hand-drawn chemical structures in some of her posts over at CENtral Science. This, in turn, led to a call by Carmen for readers to send in pictures of structures drawn by their own fair hands — the gallery can be found here.
So, benzene. When you first put pen to a blank piece of paper, you have a number of choices to make. Do you draw the hexagon so that its top and bottom are parallel to the top of the piece of paper, or so that the left and right sides are parallel to the left-hand side of the piece of paper? Or put more simply, is your hexagon sitting on a single point, or is it resting comfortably on one of its sides? Of course, if the benzene ring is part of a larger structure, you might be forced to choose one orientation over another. But if you’re just drawing a single solitary benzene ring, or if you’re not constrained in any way by the bigger picture, do you always start by drawing your benzene ring the same way up?
Orientation aside, once you’ve made that decision, which way do you move the pen? Do you always follow the same sequence of strokes? Do you lift the pen from the paper before completing the hexagon and going on to the double bonds? After giving it some thought, I’m pretty sure I always draw my benzene rings the same way — and if you’d asked me to describe how I did it without actually going through the motion, I’m not sure I would have got the answer right. I guess it’s because it’s second nature; I’ve done it so many times it just happens, and the way I do it is tucked away in my subconscious somewhere. So, for me, I always sit my benzene rings on a point (if I have a choice) and I lift my pen off the paper twice before even completing the hexagon. And I’m pretty sure I always draw the double bonds in the same order and direction as well. Full gory details shown in the picture.
Just as Chemjobber suggests that a chemist’s hand-drawn structures are a signature of sorts and Carmen agrees that they carry an echo of personality — I think the way in which we actually draw the structures probably varies quite a bit from person to person as well (what it says about an individual, however, heaven only knows!). There are hundreds of ways you could actually draw the nine different lines that make up a benzene ring (probably only a handful of sensible ones though) — but just imagine the permutations for something like Taxol! And yes, benzene has nine lines, anyone out there drawing a hexagon with a circle in the middle just needs to stop.
I realise this is all a bit silly, but it did get me thinking about drawing structures. So, how do you draw yours?!