MU - Chemistry 210
Conformations of
Alkanes & Cycloalkanes

In 1969, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to SIR DEREK H. R. BARTON and ODD HASSEL for their contributions to the development of the concept of conformation and its application in chemistry. Derek Barton died in 1998 and an orbituary is available online.

Yes, that is 1969. Only 30 years ago. Conformational theory is quite new! Use models to explore structure and conformation! The following passage is taken from "Sparks of Genius" by the Bernsteins:
In science, modeling is inextricably bound to the generation of new ideas, the development of theories, and their experimental verification or falsification. Linus Pauling, one of the greatest scientific modelers of recent times, described modeling as a unique way of thinking. "The greatest value of models is their contribution to the process of originating new ideas." he wrote. "I would say that models constitute a language." Pauling spent decades studying protein molecules and using models to explore their possible structures, eventually earning the Nobel Prize for his efforts. Precise models represent precise thinking.

Take a look at Parill and Gerway's Quicktime Movies of conformational changes. Build models of the molecules and examine the motions shown in the quicktime movies with your own models. I think you will realize quickly that the actual models provide a far better learning experience. (Think about why that might be so? Any ideas? Let me know!)