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Sci.chem FAQ - Part 1 of 7
Section - 5. Sci.chem

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Top Document: Sci.chem FAQ - Part 1 of 7
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5.1  What topics does sci.chem cover?.

Sci.chem is an unmoderated discussion group, and it covers the discussion 
of all scientific aspects of chemistry. It is not intended to be an 
educational resource that replaces your local library - which should still
be your first port of call when seeking information. Because sci.chem was 
created in the 1980s, there is no Charter that would define topics for 
discussion in the group, however common sense suggests that posts should be 
focused on aspects of chemistry not discussed elsewhere on Usenet. Newer 
groups in the hierarchy do have Charters.

There are no eligibility requirements, anybody can post to sci.chem, but 
remember that far more people read the groups than actually post. There are 
very many knowledgeable lurkers who prefer to email their assistance, rather 
than publicly post to the group. When posting, it is a good idea to always 
assume that there will be readers who know more about the topic than you, 
but that should not inhibit you from presenting your perception. 

There is no talk.chemistry group, consequently discussion often drifts away 
from the narrow focus of the science of chemistry. There are several groups 
that also cover specialist areas ( refer Section 5.12 ), and prospective 
sci.chem posters should check to ensure their post would not be more 
appropriate in one of those groups. Please do not crosspost to all chemistry
groups, and please do not post to groups that you are not currently reading,
asking for email replies. When responding to posts in widely-crossposted 
threads, examine the "Newsgroups" line, delete irrelevant groups, and set
the "Followup-To" header. Posts to cross-posted threads that have no ongoing 
" chemistry " requirement should have the "Followup-To" header diverted back 
to the original group.  

Because sci.chem is an unmoderated discussion group inhabited by a diverse 
range of humanity, posted "facts" are not always correct, and may not always 
be corrected, so don't blame us if your teacher marks your answer wrong :-).  

5.2  What guidelines are available about posting to sci.chem?.

Sci.chem is a discussion group, not an alternative to your nearest library.
We expect posters to have explored some of the chemical resources usually
available in libraries ( refer Section 9.5 ) and on the Internet ( refer 
Sections 7.2 and 7.4 ) prior to posting questions to the group. Posting basic
questions, without performing any preliminary work, is likely to invoke posts
suggesting ( with varying degrees of politeness ) that you visit a library or
perform a WWW search.    
Sci.chem is also not part of a global facility for teachers to point their
students towards as an alternative to a library. Teachers should not ask
students to post unsupervised questions to the group as part of assignments.
Teachers should recognise the positioning of the group as a resource to be
utilised only if more appropriate resources, such as libraries and Internet
WWW searches, have failed to identify suitable sources of information. The
teacher should also use DejaNews to ensure questions have not been answered
previously on Usenet. Teachers should ensure that students asking a question 
in sci.chem also post, along with the question, a summary of what they have 
discovered so far, and where they have already searched. 

Teachers should also realise that sci.chem also reflects the diverse range of
humanity that can post to it, consequently some posts may not match the image
of chemistry that they wish to present to their students.

Most of the general guidelines about posting to Usenet that appear in 
news.announce.newusers are also appropriate for sci.chem. It is important 
that the grammar and spelling of posts to sci.chem are of sufficient quality 
to ensure that readers can easily, and unambiguously, understand your 
request or contribution. If a poorly-written post appears, some readers are 
more likely to flame, ridicule, or ignore you, rather than carefully consider
your request or contribution. Minor typos and spelling errors only require
cancelling, or a follow-up post correcting the error, if the error is 
likely to create confusion. 

If you are posting, or viewing, drawings of chemical structures in ascii, 
please use a fixed-pitch font, otherwise the structure will appear different 
than intended, resulting in confusion. If you are posting via WWW access, or 
posting WWW information, please ensure all HTML markers are removed from your
posts to the group. Do not post binaries to the group, even if they are
relevant to a thread. Post them to a binaries group, or make them available 
on the WWW, and post a message to the group pointing to the location.

Please do not use sci.chem for test posts, or to discuss problems with your 
Internet Services Provider, or any other totally irrelevant topics, as there 
are bound to be more appropriate Usenet groups. There are plenty of *.test 
groups which are monitored by programmes providing automated responses to 
confirm that your test post has successfully propagated throughout the 

If you believe the "noise" content of sci.chem is too high, learn to use 
the filtering features of your newsreading software. Most software has the 
ability to create killfiles or only display posts that match certain criteria
- such as the number of groups in the Newsgroups line. Such features can make
posts from individuals, and much of the widely cross-posted junk, disappear. 
If your software does not support those features, there may be alternative 
software available from your provider. 

Please do not post messages complaining about what you perceive as noise in 
the group, as such posts usually just generate additional noise. If you wish,
you can email posters asking them to desist from posting the material that 
offends you, but don't be surprised if you are also offended by their 
Some news-reading software can not display, or post, long articles ( like 
this FAQ ), and you may have to ask your system administrator or ISP for 
alternative software. A consistent inability to display large posts is 
usually a problem with your reading software, not a mistake by the posters.

5.3  Should I post my homework question?.
In general, definitely not. Your homework question is designed to challenge
you to understand an aspect of chemistry, and your teacher will have 
ensured that there are appropriate resources available to you at your
institution. The library is always an excellent place to start, and the 
librarians are skilled at finding information - if you ask for assistance.

Before posting to the group, consider if a similar question could have
arisen in the past, and check DejaNews using relevant keywords. However, 
if you find that the library and other available resources can not fully 
satisfy your curiosity, then carefully outline your problem, list the
information resources you have investigated, and post only to the most 
appropriate group. If it is the wrong group, somebody will point you to the 
correct one. Do not expect to receive the actual answer, most readers will 
carefully consider your request, and usually frame a response to ensure that 
you need to perform some work before you can answer your own question. The 
most obvious technique is to respond with a similar worked example which is 
sufficiently different to ensure that you can not simply plug in numbers and 
arrive at your correct answer. Often posters will point to specific library 
resources for you to locate and read.  

Also, remember that posters are not obliged to provide only correct answers, 
they can deliberately introduce errors to ensure direct copying without 
comprehension results in the wrong answer - it is not their homework :-).
Teachers can identify dramatic changes in students' writing styles, and a 
quick search using Alta Vista or DejaNews can readily confirm their 
suspicions. Do not expect sensible or accurate responses if you post from 
anonymous servers. 

5.4  Should I answer an obvious homework question?.

In general, definitely not. Teachers will set homework assignments that
do not require sci.chem responses. The poster was too lazy to consult the 
resources that their teacher would have ensured were available locally, and 
also too lazy to disguise their homework question. Continual answering of 
obvious homework problems will merely attract more homework questions to the
group from other lazy students. 

If the question does have some interesting aspects that you wish to comment 
on, then the best course of action is to respond by answering a similar 
question. If you change the question sufficiently, the poster will have to 
understand the concepts you are offering, and then apply them to the 
original question. This approach does require a little more effort and 
imagination on your part, but it also encourages any interested students, 
whilst also discouraging any lazy students. 

In some homework questions, a small hint may be useful to point the student 
towards a reference, or the correct answer, especially if their post 
indicates that they are completely off-course. Hints are also a very useful 
technique when you can not decide if posts are slightly modified homework 

Some questions about chemicals in the home and workplace may arise from 
curious adults who don't have a formal chemical education, and such questions
are certainly appropriate for sci.chem - so please ensure that the question 
is actually a homework question before igniting your flamethrower.

5.5  I'm offering or seeking employment. Can I post here?. 

Sci.chem is the most popular chemistry-related group, and thus would provide
the largest target audience. However, the appropriate group for advertising
vacancies and seeking employment is Please post
CVs, Resumes, and Job Descriptions there, and frequently review the group. will have a very small readership, so it may be 
worthwhile for those offering employment to also select a few relevant groups
and post a brief pointer to the post listing essential information. If you 
have posted your resume or CV to m.j.f.c, then you just have to wait and hope
those with vacancies are reviewing the group. Do not post pointers to your CV 
or Resume to other groups. Posting your CV/Resume to sci.chem may annoy some 
readers who could be prospective employers in the future, so you have to 
assume that those currently offering employment will review m.j.f.c. Also, 
remember that all posts ( including CVs and Resumes posted to m.j.f.c ) may 
be archived at sites such as DejaNews, and thus available for scrutiny by 
future employers, unless you use the X-No-Archive header.  

5.6  Can I post here if my newsfeed doesn't include the correct group?.
No. The onus is on you to obtain access to the correct group. As hard disk
storage prices are plummeting, you should be able to encourage your access
provider to carry more groups :-). If your employer restricts you to sci.*
comp.* and other boring groups, you may have to seek out a commercial 
access provider. Be assured that you are not the first to encounter this
problem, and there are various ways you can access newsgroups using other
Internet facilities besides direct Usenet access. Check out the news.*
groups for information on alternative methods of Usenet access. 

5.7  Can I post here if my library doesn't have the specified reference?. 

No. Once again the onus is on you to obtain the texts. We have tried to
ensure that there are several choices to help minimise the problem. The 
advantage of expending effort to obtain the reference is that it is likely 
to provide a more comprehensive answer, and will enhance your understanding 
of the subject. If the reference is obscure, then a carefully-constructed
post requesting the specific information you require is acceptable, but
you should also state that you have tried to obtain the information, and
perhaps suggest email replies if you believe other readers will not be
interested. Chemistry teachers and other chemistry professionals may also 
have their personal copies of some of the reference texts, and may permit
you to use their copy, if asked politely.

5.8  Can I post articles I found in Usenet or on the Internet?.

No. Most countries have signed the Berne Convention, and adjusted their
national laws to reflect the concept that copyright ownership is the
property of the author of any piece of work. Thus any redistribution or
reproduction of that work has to have the author's express permission. 

The act of posting to Usenet does carry an implicit acknowledgment that 
followup articles will requote parts of the original for clarity, and 
perhaps will be subsequently crossposted to additional groups and archived 
at DejaNews or other archive sites. If an author of a post or article does 
not want their post archived, your software may permit you to select the 
"X-No-Archive" header and, if the software  does not support that header, 
you can also add it manually as the first line of a post, but some archive 
sites may still ignore that header and archive the post. 

The copyright of the article is still owned by the original author, and 
consent is required before distribution extends outside of Usenet - including 
placing it on the WWW. Most posters will readily give permission if asked. 
Commercial WWW sites also have specific copyright notices just to remind 
readers that the material can not be redistributed. "Fair Use" is a very 
specific and limited concept, and does not permit significant copying of 
copyrighted material - it expects the user to selectively edit and repost 
only the minimum necessary material. Two FAQs ("Copyright Myths" and the
more detailed "Copyright" ) are posted to news.newusers.questions,
news.admin.misc, and some other groups that discuss intellectual property.

5.9  Should I post the email address of an expert I found?.

Not without their consent. Email the expert and ask if you can identify them
in sci.chem. In general, people who email information to you will want
complete control over their exposure on Usenet. Often they do not want a
lot of email requesting assistance, and in some countries ( such as New
Zealand ) people have to pay for both incoming and outgoing email. If the
email address is posted publicly - as in this FAQ, email the person and ask 
if you can repost their address in a different forum. 

When sending unsolicited email, remember that you are accosting a stranger, 
and he/she is not required to respond, although most will respond to polite 

5.10  Should I post corporate advertising material?.

No. Sci.chem is a discussion group. However, if your corporate material will
help resolve an issue being discussed, post a brief note pointing to where
the information can be obtained. If you believe that knowledge of your 
corporation would help Internet users, you should arrange a World Wide Web
home page or email address, and then ensure the address is included in
compilations of chemistry-related material available on the Internet. 
Continual repeat posting of inappropriate commercial material is likely to 
annoy sci.chem readers. One method of raising the profile of your site is to 
add a pointer to your signature file, and make useful contributions to 
relevant discussions. Some readers may then visit the site out of curiosity. 

5.11 Should I state why I require the requested information?.

Generally, yes. Knowing why somebody is requesting information often helps
those considering responding to the request. It also helps to ensure that
responses will help solve the problem, rather than lead off on a tangent,
interesting though it may become. You should also indicate your level of
expertise, and where you have looked, as that prevents well-intentioned 
people wasting time suggesting sources you have already tried. 

If you require the information for a commercial or historical enterprise, 
you should alway state that. The ability to download and edit information 
is even more convenient than photocopying, and original copyright can easily 
be inadvertently omitted. If you note that there may be a possible commercial
outcome, responders will try to ensure that the original source is fully 
credited. A polite request to the copyright owner will usually result in 
approval for your enterprise.
5.12 What other chemistry-focused newsgroups exist?.

Sci.chem is the most popular group covering diverse chemistry topics.
Other chemistry-focused groups include;- 
 alt.drugs.chemistry  - discusses the chemistry of all drugs. - chemistry employment opportunities.  
 rec.drugs.chemistry  - discusses the chemistry of recreational drugs.
 sci.chem.analytical - discusses analytical chemistry.
 sci.chem.coatings - discusses all aspects of surface coatings.
 sci.chem.electrochem - discusses electrochemistry topics
 sci.chem.electrochem.battery - discusses electrochemical cells.  
 sci.chem.labware - discusses laboratory equipment.
 sci.chem.organomet - discusses organometallic chemistry. - discusses organic synthesis - moderated.
 sci.engr.chem - discusses chemical engineering and industrial chemistry. 
 sci.techniques.mag-resonance - discusses magnetic resonance.
 sci.techniques.mass-spec - discusses mass spectrometry.
 sci.techniques.xtallography - discusses crystallography
Other groups cover specific topics that also have significant chemistry 
components, including:- 
 alt.drugs.* - discusses all drugs.
 rec.drugs.* - discusses recreational drugs. 
 rec.pyrotechnics - discusses pyrotechnics. 
 alt.cesium - cesium is discussed, along with much else. - the history of science, including chemistry.  

There are also chemistry groups in many national hierarchies. Some of these 
groups are distributed fairly widely, and may be available from your ISP, 
even though they may be in a language other than English.    

There are also several other chemistry-related FAQs available, including 
the sci.chem.electrochem FAQ maintained by Zoltan Nagy, and the Mass 
Spectrometry Internet Resources FAQ maintained by Kermit Murray.

5.13 What questions are best answered elsewhere in Usenet?.

a. Anything concerning Usenet and Internet abuse, guidelines or behaviour.
   - Start in the news.* hierarchy, such as

b. Anything concerning the provision of Internet services by your provider.
   - Start in the specific, in-house, discussion groups - this includes
     any apparent, sudden lack of posts in sci.chem.     

c. Anything concerning illicit drugs. 
   - Start in the alt.drugs.* hierarchy and the rec.drugs.chemistry group, 
     as the various FAQs point to diverse chemical information sources. 
   - Refer to sections 13.1 - 13.6 of this FAQ for some available choices.

d. Anything concerning Ludwig/Archimedes Plutonium.
   - Start at sci.physics, as they directed him to sci.chem :-). If you don't
     like his posts, killfile him. Please don't start a campaign to remove 
     him, as all that happens is the group usually get flooded with junk. 
     For those interested in his theories, try the following WWW site.

e. Anything concerning bubbles in newly-opened drinks.
   - Start with sci.physics, the solubility behaviour of dissolved gases when 
     the pressure is reduced is predominantly a physical effect, although
     section 19.4 briefly touches on the subject. 

f. Anything scientific concerning the Ozone Hole and Climate Change.
   - Start with sci.environment, in particular with Robert Parson's superb
     FAQ on ozone, and Jan Scloerer's Climate Change - The Basics, both 
     available at the FTP site for Usenet FAQs. Non-scientific 
     discussions should always be moved to talk.environment.

g. Anything concerning explosives.
   - Refer to sections 13.7 - 13.10 of this FAQ for the available choices.

5.14 Why is the sci.chem.* hierarchy not rational?.

As the sci.chem group has up to 80 posts/day, some specialists believe they
would be better served having their own group. They draft a charter, submit
it to the news.advice group, who ensure it is consistent with the overall
structure of Usenet and, after discussion, the group is voted on. If the 
group passes it is created. Groups appear only if some motivated people 
arrange to form them. That is why the structure is not rational. 

There is currently no formal structural plan for the hierarchy and, given 
the diverse nature of current contributions, it is proving difficult to 
develop such a plan - as no one wishes to compromise the diversity of 
sci.chem. If you learn to use the features of your newsreader correctly, 
the current size of sci.chem is easily handled, and most threads of interest 
can be captured as they pass.

5.15 How do I create a sub-group for my pet topic?.

First of all, discuss your idea extensively in sci.chem and other relevant
groups and mailing lists, ensure you have sufficient support for your 
proposal, and take note of all comments, whether positive or negative. 
The next stages are well documented in a FAQ available in news.groups.
Basically, you email, who will help you prepare 
the charter and Request For Discussion, and may even provide a mentor to
guide you through the process. 

If the proposal has an additional vote that could affect another group by 
renaming or changing the hierarchy, return to that group and consult the 
participants to ensure there is support for any proposed changes prior 
to issuing the RFD. Group advice is not mandatory, so if the added vote 
is contentious, drop it. Post the RFD twice, and remind people to ensure 
they cross post to news.groups, even if they do not read that group, as 
that is where all post-RFD discussion is supposed to occur. Take note of 
the discussion in news.groups and other groups where you posted the RFD, 
and modify the RFD, if appropriate, and post it again. Then follow the 
guidelines for the actual vote, others will administer the vote and create 
the groups, if they pass.    

5.16 Where are the sci.chem archives?.

Given the nature, number, and diversity of sci.chem posts, no formal 
archives exist, however the Usenet archives at DejaNews on the WWW will 
contain most of the articles for the last couple of years,
There are also several other WWW sites that offer access to, and
keyword searching of, recent Usenet posts. One site is Alta Vista.

The total number of articles that you will see in sci.chem will depend
on how your system administrators have set the News system. If they set
a short Expire time, and set the software to ignore the Expiry date line,
you may actually miss some articles that have long propagation times. 

The best solution is to politely ask the administrators to increase the
Expire time - usually they are more sympathetic to requests to increase 
Sci.* expire times than they are to requests for longer Alt.* expire times. 
Sometimes they just can't oblige, so you may have to read the group more
frequently, but please check DejaNews before posting requests for old

It should also be remembered that Usenet archive sites like DejaNews 
will retain all of your posts - unless you set the "X-No-Archive" header
appropriately. Some posting software does not have the facility to set  
such headers, but it can be added manually to the first line of a post. 
It has been reported that some employers now review such archive sites for 
posts when evaluating job applications. Although DejaNews honours the 
"X-No-Archive" header, that does not mean that all archiving sites will, 
so your posts may still be hiding somewhere on the Internet.  

5.17 Who was Larry Lippman?.

When sci.chem was formed (1988?), there were only a few posts per week, and
a considerable number were requests for information. Larry Lippman soon 
established his superb practical and theoretical chemical credentials, and 
set about responding to those plaintive pleas for information. His posts 
were excellent examples of informative, educational responses delivered in
a friendly, helpful style. His posts demonstrated how knowledgeable sci.chem 
posters could respond to requests in such a way that all readers would 
understand, regardless of formal chemical training. He died in late 1991 
in his early 40s. Unfortunately, only a few of his posts to sci.chem have 
survived. If you have any of his posts I would appreciate a copy, as I am 
collecting them to be made available as a single "Lippman posts" file.

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