Thursday, August 9, 2012

Coloring Book Chemistry, Part 4

Roulland, 2012
While casually strolling through the JOC ASAPs, I came across another one of those structures, sitting astride an otherwise fine synthesis of (-)-Exiguolide.

At first, I just thought it was another KCN macrolide, but then, I realized the truth: none of these authors have ever worked with him. They've colored the structure in on their own!

The 'coloring-book compound' disease appears to be spreading...

Now, I ask you, dear readers: how does this pigmentation contribute to knowledge about the molecule? After all, Fuwa, Lee, and Scheidt have all managed to construct exiguolide without reaching for the crayons or paint set; don't ask about Rao, his might be worse.

Rao, 2012
I can understand use of color to highlight a transformation, sure, or maybe to map synthons onto a structure. But does this much really help?

Do colored structures entice you to read on, or do they get under your skin, even just a little bit? Share your opinions in the comments.


  1. Definitely gets under my skin even for complicated transformations. The best part of running across an obsure transformation or interesting natural product is trying to figure where the disconnections are and where starting materials end up in the final product. There is nothing more awseome than an a beautifully drawn natural product in plain black! Echinopine B is an awesome looking structure as a more recent example.

  2. Chemistry is surely about the positions and transformations of atoms and their bonds, not the spaces between them. The Roulland structure does not give clear information about transformations, while Rao structure gives an indication to the disconnections, which is far more useful. So I would say the Rao structure is a good use of colour, while slightly kaleidoscopic.

    If (as commented above) you want to challenge yourself and do the disconnections yourself you can run it through a filter or print it in b&w pretty quickly, but having the cheat sheet available aids the common or skimming reader.

  3. the first commentator appears to be of the opinion that deliberately obscuring information from your readers is a good strategy for writing scientific papers... whilst this conviction seems widely held I think it is unhelpful. useful (i.e. meaningful) colouring is great. Not sure colouring rings in falls into that category.

  4. Others have caught on, damn it. The one thing that was mine.

    1. Are you...really?

    2. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say,

  5. I read your post and it is really good , keep writing more
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