khemistry klassics

December 5, 2008 at 3:49 pm | | great finds, history, open thread, science community

I want to start collecting the great (humorous) chemistry papers. Below are some that I can think of. Please comment with more!

  • One of the best quotes in a chemistry paper is the following: “This work will be continued and I wish to reserve the field for myself.” (Gomberg, M. An Instance of Trivalent Carbon: TriphenylmethylJ. Am. Chem. Soc. 190022(11), 757–771.)
  • A good April-fool’s article is Dick Zare’s (Wayne Knox’s) zero-fs pulse. (Knox, Knox, Hoose, Zare. Observation of the 0-fs pulse. Optics and Photonics News, April 1990.) This one also has a great quote at the end: “We are investigating possible violations of thermodynamics. Somebody’s pulses must be getting longer.”
  • The Alpher, Bethe, Gamow paper has it’s own Wikipedia entry! (Alpher, Bethe, Gammow. The Origin of Chemical ElementsPhysical Review, 1948, 73(7), 803-804.) Gammow, a jokester, added Bethe without his knowledge in order to have the names sound like the first three Greek letters. I guess Alpher—the grad student on the paper—was very reluctant to add Bethe, and has always worried that it took away some of his credit. Bethe did see the paper before it was published.
  • This is a new “classic,” but the TOC art really got a lot of internet press. (Toma, et al. Inorg. Chem. 200443, 3521-3527.) Was it intentional? Also funny: the TOC image is missing from ACS right now!

  • I really want to find that paper with the man fishing in the glassware. Anyone remember the citation?

Anyway, please let me know if you think any other papers should be included in this humorous group.


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  1. The image is in the cover page:

    Comment by Mitch — December 5, 2008 #

  2. Who could forget this doozy of a paper written in iambic pentameter?

    The editor’s note is priceless:
    “While we are open to new styles and formats for scientific publication, we must admit to surprise upon receiving this paper. However, we find the paper to be novel in its chemistry, and readable in its verse. Because of the somewhat increased space requirements and and possible difficulty to some of our nonpoetically inclined readers, manuscripts in this format face an uncertain future in this office.”

    I’m gonna publish a Tet Lett in blank verse.

    Comment by excimer — December 5, 2008 #

  3. Don’t forget about those copper nanotubes…

    Comment by Stu — December 6, 2008 #

  4. and a few more:

    Not really chemistry, but Geim co-authors a paper with a rodent:

    Comment by Stu — December 6, 2008 #

  5. A small correction:

    The paper you refer to as Dick Zare’s article was actually written by Wayne Knox, not by Zare. Wayne persuaded Zare and Hoose to be co-authors so that the author list would be amusing. In fact, Wayne didn’t actually know Hoose before this; he had to hunt through various directories in order to find somebody in the field of optics whose name sounded vaguely like “whose”. The other Knox, by the way, is his dad, who was a biophysics professor for many years.

    Comment by Dan M — December 6, 2008 #

  6. Thank you so much for this info! Who are you?

    Comment by sam — December 6, 2008 #

  7. […] Dan M writes: The paper you refer to as Dick Zare’s article was actually written by Wayne Knox, not by […]

    Pingback by Everyday Scientist » Observation of the 0-fs pulse — December 6, 2008 #

  8. Thanks, I forgot about the CuNTs!

    Comment by sam — December 6, 2008 #

  9. Who am I? LOL, I guess I can remove the mask…

    I’m a professor at the same university as Doug Natelson who has a link on his blog page to yours, which is how I wandered over here. In the early 1990’s, I was a post-doc for Martin Nuss, in the Advanced Photonics Research Department (department head: Wayne Knox) at Bell Labs.

    Comment by Dan M — December 7, 2008 #

  10. Oh, speaking of “I wish to reserve the field to myself,” the original Diels-Alder paper (Ann. 460, 1928, 92), ends with a similar statement:

    “We reserve for ourselves expressly applications of the reactions found by us for the solution of such problems.”

    Noone heeded that, fortunately.

    Comment by excimer — December 7, 2008 #

  11. Here’s the DOI for you Deutsch-reading folk”>

    Comment by excimer — December 7, 2008 #

  12. oh, and of course there is “Evans boldly…”

    Comment by sam — January 13, 2011 #

  13. I know of a much earlier, serious paper written in iambic pentameter, unfortunately I can not remember the author’s name, although I believe his first name was Arnie. He was a graduate student at Purdue University in 1960. He worked for a Dr. Davis and was doing research on organo sulfur compounds. When he presented his paper to his major professor he was told that he should rewrite it in standard scientific format. He even rhymed the complex chemical names. It was never published although some researchers heard about it and asked for copies.

    Comment by Leon Glicenstein — October 4, 2013 #

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