Some really good chemistry

A couple of weeks ago, Professor Carolyn Bertozzi (she is now at Stanford: asked me to comment on a paper published by Professor Frances Arnold and colleagues at Caltech ( Of course I agreed. It was difficult to say no to such a fine piece of work, which just appeared in ACS Central Science.

Take a look at Frances’s paper:

You can read what I had to say about this neat manuscript:

My long-standing claim has been that nature does not know how to make C-N bonds by oxidation, which culminates in the inability of biosynthesis to produce aziridines (and other amines) by oxidative C-N bond formation. I do not want to dwell on the salient features of the Arnold approach because I already said enough in my commentary on this new way to coax p450’s to make aziridine rings.

But what’s up with all these new journals? Carolyn is the Editor-in-Chief of ACS Central Science. I am happy for her and wish her the best of luck establishing the centrality (as the name implies) of this new publication. I have always thought that the whole point of JACS were to be fairly central, which is why we have an interesting identity challenge in the case of ACS Central Science. This reminds me of the discussions I had with my good friend MG Finn many years ago. We were talking about starting a journal to end all journals, so to say. The name? Here it is: The Journal of Good Chemistry. You might think this is ridiculous, but think again. The job of an editor of this hypothetical publication would be as easy as pie. Imagine the following decision letter:

Dear Professor X, I regret to inform you that your paper is not good enough. Sincerely, the Editor”.

Really – just think about it – there will be no way to argue with something like this. And the editor does not need to be overly wordy. Or imagine the following response to a pre-submission inquiry sent to an overly ambitious author who is scoping where to send his/her breakthrough:

Dear Professor X, we have carefully considered your proposal. Unfortunately, we cannot be supportive of your submission because our journal publishes only good papers. We suspect that yours won’t be one of them. Sincerely, the Editor”.

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