|Source: Wellcome trust|
Of course, my science spider-sense needs to clarify two very minor points. First: at neutral pH, solitary amino acids usually like to exist as zwitterions, which would mean that the nitrogen (blue) picks up a proton, and the carboxylic acid (red) loses one (COO-). Two: since we're discussing neurology here, I can't help but feel that they might have meant to show neurotransmitter D-serine, the enantiomer (mirror image). Turns out, the body generates D-serine from L-serine in the brain using a specific enzyme, serine racemase.
|Found: hanging on the Shell station door|
Digging briefly through the patent lit, I came across US7,901,470B2 (2011), titled simply "Gasoline Additives," and co-written by six Shell Oil engineers. A sampling:
"a hydrocarbyl amine...in the range 155 to 255 as an additive in unleaded gasoline...for reducing injector nozzle fouling..."Looks like we're on the right track. Read a few more 'grafs down, and they mention...dodecylamine. In fact, they say "...found to be particularly effective," which in patent-speak means they should probably add a few more carbons and an amine group onto that sign! On a more serious note, there's a debate brewing over whether such detergents help engines while harming the atmosphere, by producing extra NOx emissions.
|Credit: ST:TNG | Paramount Pictures|
And what structure do we have here? Judging by the color-code, normally, red = O, black = C, white = H, I'd guess a type of dual hyperoxygen**, an oxygen with four connected bonds (oxygen usually likes two bonds, or 3, tops). I've heard of Olah's hypercarbon, so maybe it's a take on that? Perhaps a form of matter we just haven't found yet? More likely, following the example from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, set designers simply aren't versed in synthesis.
Dear Hollywood - If you need to vet a structure or formula, do feel free to ask me. Operators with chalkboards and books are standing by!
*Editor's Note: Is that a registered trademark (R) symbol next to the word "nitrogen?" I wasn't aware that element names could be trademarked! Of course, I'll be immediately contacting the Just Like Cooking legal department to file for Argon(TM), Strontium(TM), Niobium(TM), and Roentgenium(TM). Y'all can fight over the rest.
**Bonus Round: Try putting "hyperoxygen" into Google. Mostly homeopathic cures, hyperbaric chambers, and folks who don't know what hydrogen peroxide really is.