Big tussle over tiny particles, by Lauren K. Wolf , C&EN

Lauren K. Wolf has written a nice overview of the stripy nanoparticle controversy for Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly magazine published by the American Chemical Society. It starts like this:

AS TRUTH SEEKERS, scientists often challenge one another’s work and debate over the details. At the first-ever international scientific conference, for instance, leading chemists argued vociferously over how to define a molecule’s formula. A lot of very smart people at the meeting, held in Germany in 1860, insisted that water was
OH, while others fought for H 2 O.

That squabble might seem tame compared with a dispute that’s been raging
in the nanoscience community during the past decade. […]

Read it all here… if you have access. If you don’t, email me and I will send you a pdf.




  1. We got referees’ reports back in March — one from an independent referee, the other from Francesco Stellacci himself (as per PLOS ONE’s process for handling papers which are critical of previously published work).

    One review was very supportive. The other review was less so.

    We wrote a 14 page response to the negative review and sent it off.

    Six weeks passed.

    PLOS ONE then informed us that the academic editor associated with the paper had, and I quote, “become unresponsive”.

    A new editor has been secured.

    …and we wait.


  2. Great to see that CEN is covering this still, and the images are presented very clearly in the article.
    Bravo to you guys for keeping it up, I and many others are looking forward to seeing this resolved.

    The Glotzer’s quote about Occam’s razor confusing. The simplest explanation to a multi-molecule phenomenon (over a fairly long time scale) is a complicated computational simulation with numerous dependancies? In the absence of some really incredible insights, wouldn’t things be easier to explain by a commonly observed imaging artifact arising from operator error?

    Good to see Predrag’s story included in the article as well.

    The article does not mention the obvious ad easy thing to do: Stellacci can prepare a particle sample and send it for imaging. If the 2004 images can be reproduced under valid imaging conditions, end of story.


  3. [Third time trying to post, Raphael, please notify if you are intentionally down modding or perhaps posts are getting spuriously eaten]

    Weiss’ quote from the article is notable, the first I heard of stripy was from Chembark’s response to Weiss’ tone deaf editorial in ACS Nano regarding blogging about papers:

    In the article Weiss says:

    “The early data were inconclusive,”

    I can only presume he is referring to the 2004 paper. Why was an inconclusive paper published then? Should it be retracted? Isn’t the fact that Raphael’s blogging activity has pushed this issue to the forefront counter to the ACS Nano editorial he published?


    1. My apologies nanonymous. Your comments had ended in the Spam filter. Glad I saw your comment at PubPeer and could therefore sort it out. Comments are not moderated.


      1. [given that it looks like CEN is filtering anonymous comments, I post here]

        The debate is of course primarily between Francesco and you, and there do seem to be some hurt feelings, but the discussion has taken a magnanimous tone. I hope the air is clear enough now to address the scientific issues (the comments so far have focused on chronological ordering of events and hurt feelings), Francesco can take the opportunity to clearly state his thoughts on:

        1)The validity of the 2004 images and the *categorical* difference when compared to the 2013 images. Francesco says that the images have been “reproduced”, this is plainly not the case. Could he ask Renner and De Feyter to provide a position statement on the validity of the 2004 images? This would be immensely informative to everyone as (at least) Moriarty and Stellacci agree that Renner and De Feyter are outstanding.

        2)When Phillip might get the samples he has been apparently waiting 8 months for (ideally sent to other groups at the same time to *reproduce* the 2004 images with correct imaging technique).

        3)The validity of invoking the “hairy ball theorem” for the “Divalent” paper. This appears to be a fundamental mathematical misconception.



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