Miscellany

So easy a child could do it

A certain portion of the research community has tended to regard crystal structure analysis as entirely too easy and the value of crystallographic results has been challenged as being irrelevant beyond the solid state, despite countless examples of correlations between structural features observed in the solid state and the chemical, physical and biological properties of the same molecules in vitro and in vivo, as measured by a wide range of techniques. The rapidity with which new structures are determined and the rate at which crystallographic databases are expanding fuels the argument that crystallography is easy and crystallographic instrument manufactures reinforce this opinion by claiming that with today’s instrument and software anyone can determine a crystal structure. Even Judith Howard, past BCA President was quoted out of context as saying 'instruments have been so advanced that you sometimes feel you can train a monkey to use it (ref)'. Unfortunately, a monkey so trained would know about as much about the underlying phenomena of diffraction, the proper use and analysis diffraction data and the structural information it provides as many other current users who lack formal crystallographic training.