Bill McLaughlin talks about molecules like a pastor delivering a sermon. People don’t have to be a chemist, but they should know enough to recognize molecules’ majesty in everyday life.

McLaughlin, 72, calls atoms nature’s indestructible legos. Understanding how they can fit together offers a view of this molecular world.

“This goes back to the thrill I got as a kid learning why things are the way they are; food spoiling or ripening, how ants find their way home, why leaves change color,” he said. “These are questions chemistry explains. If you have chemistry vision, you see it.”

Since that thrill isn’t common, McLaughlin chose to be chemistry’s storyteller, which he has done as a teacher for 50 years. Tall, gray-haired with an easy smile, it looks like a role McLaughlin was cast in.

He won’t begin to define sulphuric acid by its makeup or caustic nature. Instead, he’ll start like this: “You can measure a society’s level of industrialization if you measure how much sulphuric acid that society uses.”

The Montana State University chemist found his latest podium as the creator and host of “Monday’s Molecule,” a recurring show on Bozeman’s community radio station KGVM.

There, he uses seven minutes to share his vision through a familiar molecule.

He avoids what’s esoteric. It’s hard enough to get an audience for chemistry “and some molecules no one will care about.” He skips what takes longer than a show to explain, so don’t expect a lesson on DNA.

Instead, he’s outlined fatty acids and sugars. He’s told of caffeine taking a journey it wasn’t supposed to take, like a person parking in a spot reserved for someone else. The outcome? Caffeine jitters.

When people learn how to see molecules, they get a fuller picture of the world.

“Everything’s made of molecules,” McLaughlin said.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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