A false economy


I was skimming through the October 7th issue of The Economist this morning, and after my jaunt through the letters page and the leaders, I skipped to the science and technology section as I usually do. There’s an article in there about the recent Nobel Prizes and I’d like to share this quote with you:

The chemistry prize is for a piece of X-ray crystallography, a favourite subject of the academy’s prize committees over the decades, and a way of awarding an extra physiology prize (since x-ray crystallography is used mainly to examine large biological molecules) without confessing that much of the intellectual oomph has gone out of chemistry in the century since Alfred Nobel, himself a chemist, drew up his will.

The piece doesn’t have a name to it, but it was obviously written by someone who has little or no background in chemistry. If you ask me, the parenthetical statement about what x-ray crystallography is mainly used for is utter nonsense. Not only that, but later in the article we are told that the chemical difference between DNA and RNA is that one of the bases is different… now, remind me, why does one have a ‘D’ at the front and the other an ‘R’ – hmm, I wonder?

If someone is going to tell me that chemistry is losing its intellectual oomph, they should know a little bit about it first…


Stuart Cantrill (Associate Editor, Nature Nanotechnology)

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