Any idea what this is? Sherlock Holmes needs your help, O-chem students!

Look, I’m in O-chem, and I recently watched an episode of the show ‘Elementary’ in which Sherlock(!) Holmes(!) gets stumped on a chemical structure which may have implications in a case. Thing is, I’m a second-year chem student, and I recognize most of the structures involved. photo after bump.


Now, Sherlock Holmes should know what this structure is. I’m pretty sure I can name every structure in it, even if naming the whole damn thing would be … hair-pullingly annoying … for a second year chem student.

He actually talks about figuring out what the atoms are in the compound.

“Obviously, this is a rendering of the molecule, but the elements aren’t labeled, so I can’t tell which molecule, and until I do, I can’t say for certain.”  -Sherlock Holmes

“Dude. That’s a straightforward chemical structure; it’s a line drawing.” – Science advisor

“Meh. Look, I’ve got a hooker waiting, nerd. It stays.” – CBS scriptwriter putting words into Sherlock Holmes’s mouth.

It’s equivalent to talking about slipping through the cracks in the event horizon of a black hole. Just sayin’.

Line structures like these are only used when drawing compounds that contain nothing but carbon and hydrogen. nitrogen and oxygen and any other atom besides carbon and hydrogen is written out (as O or N, or Si, or whatever element abbreviation) at the point where it joins the structure. In other words, SHERLOCK HOLMES didn’t know that the ONLY things in the structure were carbon and hydrogen. *twitches*

The thing is, while I recognize the benzyl rings (the six-sided circles with lines alternating on the inside) and the methyl groups (branches coming off the straight lines and the circles), those double bonds (shown with double lines) on the alkane chain (continuous lines with branches coming from them) between the benzyls  are a little funky, and I’m not entirely sure that they are for sure JUST double bonds to another carbon (methylene groups). Given that it’s an organic compound, and that they’re double bonds without a specific atom they’re bonding to, it’s a safe bet, but I want to KNOW.

Lastly, I”m having trouble coming up with a structure name – for obvious reasons. Should I start from the main benzyl ring? Sure. And I can immediately see that the branch alkane/benzyl structures are identical. but how to name the branch compounds? and what do you call a benzyl that’s attached to another benzyl directly (sharing two carbons)?

So find the truth for me, internet. You hold my smug sense of superiority over Hollywood science advisors/scriptwriters in your hands. ^^ Oh, if you want to watch the episode, it’s number seventeen, first season.


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