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Analytical Chemistry

Synchrotrons in Hollywood

September 5, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 35

For the cover story “Revealing Materials’ Secrets with Synchrotron Light” (C&EN, Aug. 8, page 28), Senior Correspondent Mitch Jacoby missed an opportunity to show how the use of synchrotron radiation has not only permeated the livelihoods of scientists but also entered the public domain of television entertainment.

At the very beginning of the fifth episode (titled “Gray Matter”) of the first season of “Breaking Bad,” the following dialogue takes place when a character named Farley introduces guests at a party to his colleague Walter White, the main character of “Breaking Bad.”

Farley: “This is Walter White. Back at Caltech, he was … [addressing White] you were just the master of crystallography. I remember this one time we were stuck on this protein problem for weeks. You just breezed right in and … you had one word for us. ...”

White: “Synchrotrons. … It was synchrotrons, yeah. They generate purer and more complete patterns than X-ray beams. Data collection takes a fraction of the time.”

It is rare when such a powerful and contemporary research tool finds such street appeal. The writers of that particular episode and Jacoby are to be commended for showing us the light.

Mark R. Antonio
Naperville, Ill.


July 18, page 7: The news story about a mutant enzyme that produces novel triterpenes showed the wrong structure for the pentacyclic triterpene. Here is the correct structure.

Aug. 1, page 2: The chemical safety letter about peroxide formation should have referred to “2-propanol,” not “isopropanol,” which incorrectly combines two different alcohol naming conventions.

Aug. 15/22, page 49: The Talented 12 profile about University of California, Berkeley, chemist Ke Xu incorrectly stated that a technique he developed could distinguish between components in a cell that are less than 10 nm apart. It can distinguish between components that are 10 nm apart or more. The profile also incorrectly stated that, in the past, researchers had to use different cell samples in order to use superresolution fluorescence imaging and electron microscopy. Researchers have used both techniques on the same sample, but the sample had to go through a difficult, error-prone dehydration process.



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