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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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June 9, 2008

An Impressive Nanolist of Nanocitations

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Posted by Derek

Time for just a brief piece this morning, about a topic I've mentioned before which is getting more noticeable all the time. If you follow the papers coming out in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (known as "Jay-ay-cee-ess" or just plain "Jacks" to the working chemist), you've been seeing an awful lot of nano-scale work. Nanorods, nanoprisms, nanoarrays of nanocrystals. The percentage of these things has, to my eye, just been rising steadily. Try the ASAP section and see what you think.

And what's interesting about these papers, completely apart from their subject matter, is that they're surely headed for obscurity in almost every case. That's not because nanoscience is going nowhere (quite the contrary, I think). It's because things are in such an early stage still. There are so many small steps to be made, many of which will turn out to have been in the wrong direction. Even the work that leads to something will be cited for its historical interest (". . .the first report of nanoscale battleaxes, now a crucial part of the world economy, came as early as 2008. . .").

This is the era when this work can be published. Much earlier and we wouldn't have been able to characterize these structures, and much later it'll seem trivial. (I know, some of it seems trivial on arrival - there are still a lot of chemists who roll their eyes and groan when they see this stuff). And boy, are people taking advantage of this window of opportunity. It has to be a good thing, in general, that there's so much work going on in so many different directions. I'm just glad that I don't have to figure out which of these seeds are going to bloom. . .

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Chemical News


1. A-non-y-mous on June 9, 2008 9:52 AM writes...

Pretty useless stuff for the most part, if you ask me. But on the bright side, it gives academics material for writing grants. If you follow the fads, you could fund your lab for your career.

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2. Jose on June 9, 2008 10:00 AM writes...

Remember the flurry of "host-guest" papers? Nobel worthy, but what applications have there ever been? Has it really helped unravel enzyme active sites? Nano-cars? Nano-trinkets? Bah!

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3. excimer on June 9, 2008 10:01 AM writes...

It's okay, the nanochemists say the same thing about the JACS total synthesis/methodology papers. What I'm sure prompted this post was Mirkin's ASAP on mechanistic study on how silver nanoprisms are made, which I think is a pretty good question to ask.

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4. Retread on June 9, 2008 1:07 PM writes...

The faddishness of this stuff reminds me of the advice an older and wiser doc gave me about some new treatment for which miraculous results had been claimed when I was just starting out in the 70s (this was before anything resembling the controlled clinical trial was common) -- "Use it while it still works".

In retrospect it is remarkable that it took so long for the controlled clinical trial to take hold -- the Salk trial of the polio vaccine was a masterpiece and it was done in the 50s.

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5. axicon on June 9, 2008 3:32 PM writes...

Derek, I would wholeheartedly agree if you had posted this in 2002. The fact is the bar for nanoscience is much much higher now that the tools for fabrication and characterization are widely available. A good paper should describe new science. So your idea of nanoscale battleaxes or the sort is not scientific unless there is something to be discovered by making battleaxes so small.

In my opinion, if you focus on the science and try to be honest about the applications, then there is no chance of going in the "wrong direction." Sure, they may not be curing cancer or ridding the world of disease, but not everyone up for that important task.

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6. kieth on June 9, 2008 8:18 PM writes...

I don't want anyone to miss Retread's comment; I think the double-blind clinical test is one of the major contributions to science and western civilization.

And I don't even know who or where it began. Maybe anonymous, huh?

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7. Nigel on June 10, 2008 12:09 AM writes...

Actually you should comment on the following showing a drop in FDA warning letters spurred by the Bush administration. Or are you on their payroll too? You come across as some froth at the mouth conservative libertarian. I think the last 8 years has shown what that brings us. Although your purely scientific commentaries are good.

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8. processchemist on June 10, 2008 4:42 AM writes...

This "window of opportunity" is great also to raise funds... I've seen at least two startups based on dubious scientific background filled with private and public money....

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9. burt on June 10, 2008 7:23 AM writes...

"Actually you should comment on the following showing a drop in FDA warning letters spurred by the Bush administration."

Actually, the problem with the FDA is that they have been too risk-averse lately. Is "Plan B" OTC yet?

"I've seen at least two startups based on dubious scientific background filled with private and public money...."

Where, where!!!??? Can I get some of that moolah?

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