Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who started the 'matchmaker' palladium meme?

Sharon of Icanhasscience (check it out!) notes in the comments that the AP's other report on the palladium Nobel prize used the analogy of a singles bar for palladium-catalyzed cross-couplings. That article is one of the few in the media that didn't seem to use the "matchmaker" meme to describe the reaction.

I'm terribly curious -- who was the first reporter or news outlet to use this analogy? I've never heard metal cross-couplings described this way; I have to admit it's a fairly accurate picture to describe the reaction mechanism. With the help of Google, I see that on October 6, USA Today, Scientific American, New Scientist, Agence France-Presse, NIKKEI.com, Christian Science MonitorScience Now and MSNBC.com all used the "matchmaker" meme. Is it the quoted Jeremy Berg? Inquiring minds wish to know.

P.S. Has any other chemist heard Pd reactions described this way? Am I the only crazy one who hasn't?


  1. I've never heard that before either, but I really hope they pick up on that on chemistry.com.

  2. For the 2005 nobel prize, they used the somewhat less catchy "change-your-partners dance" to describe catalysis.

  3. I'm kind of surprised that a Lego analogy never got used. As in, "these chemists discovered that palladium catalysts allowed them to snap molecules together like bricks of Lego". Or something like that.

  4. I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for - it's not specific to Pd or cross-couplings - but it seems that Popular Science called chemistry catalysts "matchmakers" way back in 1937, in an article entitled "Chemical Matchmakers... Home Experiments Show Strange Behavior of Catalysts".

    More recently (2007) Dr. Geoff Coates of Cornell was quoted in a New York Times article:

    “Catalysts are like a matchmaker who make a marriage and then can go off and make other marriages, Dr. Coates said. “They accelerate a reaction without being consumed by that reaction.”

  5. @Barney: Speaking of dancing catalysts, check out this Lithiuanian performance: