Highly respected organic chemist publishes a Perspective in JACS, chaos ensues.
Ronald Breslow — past president of the ACS and Priestley medallist in 1999 — is a “well-respected research lion”, in the words of SeeArOh at Just Like Cooking. Few would dispute his place in the chemistry firmament. With many achievements behind him, surely he has earned the right to close a Perspective article in JACS on the possible origin of homochirality in biological molecules with a chuckle — suggesting that humans would be better off not meeting the advanced dinosaurs, with amino acids of the opposite chirality, who may populate distant corners of the universe!
Apparently not. At least, not according to some of the dinosaur-focused bloggers/newshounds out there — such as Dinosaur Tracking or Discovery. In their defence, however, they were reacting to the press briefing that the ACS somewhat mystifyingly released. It was mystifying because it ignored the six pages of discussion about the origin of chirality of amino acids to focus on the last two ‘space dino’ sentences.
The combination of Breslow and space dinos proved tempting for some chemistry bloggers, with SeeArrOh covering the paper and its final words in the good-humoured tone in which they were surely intended. Paul Bracher, who blogs at ChemBark, has worked in the origin-of-life field, and actually discussed the scientific content of the paper — how refreshing! But Bracher certainly doesn’t mince his words giving his opinion of the ACS press office.
The final twist in the dinosaur’s tale came in the comments on Just Like Cooking and ChemBark: hasn’t Breslow written something quite similar in Tetrahedron Letters and the Israel Journal of Chemistry? The similarity is such that, at the time of writing, JACS has removed the paper from its website, citing copyright concerns.