The Villain’s New Stripes

Philip Moriarty

This is a guest post by  Philip Moriarty, Loquacious Professor of groovy heavy-metal Physics at the University of Nottingham

Since the publication of the ACS Nano and Langmuir papers to which the circumspect, and world-renowned in Liverpool, prof. Mathias Brust refers in the previous post, I have tried not to get drawn into trolling on the extent to which the shabby data reported in those papers ‘vindicates’ previous work on fake nanoparticle stripes by FS. (I did, however, let my virulence go at ChemBar, which I note was subsequently uploaded, along with comments from my loyal underling Julian Stirling, at Peerleaks PubPeer).  This is because we are fiddling around with a series of experimental measurements (of the real kind, blokes!) and toying with the lack of evidence for the absence of stripes to date (including the results published in the ACS Nano and Langmuir papers) and would very much like to submit this groovy work to a Small journal before FS spreads more of his toxic deeds (arghh, f**k, he struck again!).

Mathias’ post, however, makes me itch for action. I can’t help it but throw my words onto the candid blog of good ol’ vigilante Rapha.

It is quite ludicrous that the ACS Nano and Langmuir papers are seen by some wallies to provide a vindication of previous stripy work by FS. I increasingly feel as if we’re participating in some ‘re-dressing’ of The Villain’s New Clothes! Mathias incontrovertibly and irrefutably points out that the ACS Nano and Langmuir papers published earlier this year provide no justification for the earlier work on stripes. Let’s compare and critisize an image from the nonsensical 2004 Nature Materials paper with the least clear image I could find (Fig. S7) from the paper published in ACS Nano earlier this year…


Note that the image on the right is described to be a high resolution imaging of stripes acquired in another friendly lab at ultrahigh vacuum conditions and at a temperature of 77K. UHV and 77 K operation should give rise to insanely good instrumental stability and provide superextraordinarily clear images of stripes. Now, the authors mention that this image was recorded at a tip velocity 10 times lower, but so what? Any seasoned STMist, myself included, knows that tip speed shouldn’t matter. They also mention that the types of ligands are not the same. Beggars! You know the onus is on you anus! And yet, nothing even slightly vaguely resembling the types of stripes seen in the image on the left is observed in the STM data. Those aligned spots in between the dark lines I drew on top of the image are just random noise that happens to be aligned. Then, the authors hid the image in the supplementary information and put in the main paper lots of images that undoubtedly arise from STM feedback-loop artefacts. For example, these are in Fig. 3:


Any resemblance to the Nature Materials 2004 image above is not coincidental. In fact, as the 2004 data resulted from artefacts and these new images look similar and fairly bright, they can only be artefacts!

Most remarkable is that the control sample discussed in the ACS Nano paper (NP3; Fig. 5) shows features which to my lynx eyes are, if anything, much more like stripes than the so-called stripy particles. I’ve included a comparison below of Fig. 5(c) from the ACS Nano paper with a contrast-enhanced version I told Julian to make up:


The authors dare to mention that the distribution of the bright spots in these control images with only one type of ligand is different, that here the spots are more isotropically packed, while for the mixed-ligand particles in the images above the spots are packed in one direction but looser in the other. Bollocks!

I’ll leave it to the followers of Rapha to make up their own mind.

Finally, the authors fail to consider the convolution between the tip structure and the sample structure. Scanning probe microscopy is called scanning probe microscopy for a reason (same as with people calling me Professor Moriarty; there’s also a reason).

I could spend my life uttering other deficiencies in the analyses in the Langmuir and ACS Nano papers, but I better go for some stripped heavy metal.


13 thoughts on “The Villain’s New Stripes

  1. Ah, no, I’m disappointed Fakerapha. This really is not up to your previous ‘standard’. The satirical aspects suffer because you’re so desperate to justify Stellacci et al’s work (by adding specious arguments that weren’t in the original post). Strange that…

    And “uttering other deficiencies”?! Come on – that’s just piss poor. I told you I’d give you a hand with the writing – all you had to do was give me a call.

    Nonetheless, and as I said before, you clearly invest a huge amount of time in writing these (particularly as your first language clearly isn’t English) so it’s an A for effort at least. But don’t give up the day job!

    I look forward to your spoof of our paper when it’s published.

    All the very best,

    Philip Moriarty

  2. Mate, you are at your best when criticizing your own candid writing! You’re so desperate to create contention that you pretend to disapprove of your own views on the doubts about the arguments in the controversy. That’s ace!

    And then you give yourself an A for the post. So modest. 😉

    Oh man, if your paper gets published, that’ll be the ultimate sting!

      • Thank you again for being candid, mate! This is the right spirit on this blog!
        But why do you claim that I attempted to impersonate myself over at ChemBark? I am not that impressionable.

        I have asked Francesco, but you know, he doesn’t want to speak to me. He thinks I am weak and despicable for airing his fake data. But I do it for science! We have to save science from villains! That’s what we are doing,right? Je sers la Science!

        Hey, I’ll be a co-author of that paper you are writing to trash F.S’s latest analyses, right? I can make up a few PSD’s for you, or make stripes with feedback-loop artefacts, after all there is no other way to have stripy nanoparticles.

        So now that Julian’s been able to have an exchange with Francesco you’ve changed your mind about him? You now see that he can speak for himself? Man, I told you he was a fighter! You’ve trained him well, huh?? Does he also talk through his ass as you do?
        Just kidding, mate! You should update your latest post then.

  3. Phillip,
    This is a great post, and very convincing. I’m still struck as to why the STM experts on the Stellacci papers can’t provide a simple response that either confirmed that the 2004 paper images are crap or at least hint at why the simple side by side comparison here is not correct. Someone will be very wrong at the end of all this.

    Just some things that you imply, but I thought would be useful to confirm to your readers:

    -The 2004 Nat. Mat and 2013 ACS Nano papers are at comparable scales (I presume nanoparticles can vary in size by at least an order of magnitude).

    -The interpretation of the these images is straightforward, that the absence of stripes in the 2013 ACS Nano image is not a result of being an STM muggle.

    Looking forward to your paper.

    • Note that Fakerapha has impersonated nanonymous in the preceding comment.

      The real Nanonymous had this to say at Raphael Levy’s blog :

      “I certainly did not post that at Fakerapha, in very bad taste for the author to attribute words on the fakerapha to my my anonymous handle….

      I might not care if was written in a funny tone…but it’s just sort of whiny…

      It is cues like the fakerapha blog that suggest that there is really something odd going on with the whole stripy affair…”

  4. Hey nanonymous,

    F.S. and co-author friends do not respond on my blogs because they think we have enough time on our hands to come up with dirty ways to undermine their efforts to show stripes. You see, these people can be really obnoxious.
    We will never ever be convinced of the existence of stripes because, well, they can’t exist! So yeah, we have plenty of justification to safely ignore whatever evidence they show for stripes (it can only be fake), focus the attention on a few selected points and images, and bias arguments as needed to get our points across so that the inexperienced readers of these blogs can get the truth. Oh, man, you can’t imagine how difficult it is to be a honest whistleblower!

    By the way, the 2005 and 2013 papers show nanoparticles at comparable scales, indeed. And sure, the interpretation of the images is straightforward. What is not so easy is our job to ignore the aligned dots or anything resembling stripes, or to identify them as fake features. Don’t be mistaken, no matter what the PSD say, they are all carefully set feedback-loop STM artefacts!

    • As I’ve said before on a number of occasions, Fakerapha, there are many types of SPM artefact – feedback loop ringing is just one of them. You’re obviously very familiar with the Stellacci group’s work – as I said above, have a word with Francesco and he’ll send you the detailed e-mail correspondence about PSDs and the joys of multi-parameter non-linear least squares fitting.

      I also really hope that the comment posted on Nov. 24 at 5:52 pm is indeed from nanonymous and that you aren’t, once again, impersonating someone. Because if you *were* impersonating nanonymous, here’s a more appropriate comment to steal:

      “What a shame. Professor Stellacci should understand that many prestigious academics (outside of chemistry/materials science) use informal electronic mediums (like blogs) for the dissemination of information, it is a very efficient way of doing things. There is a very simple, clear question here (the validity of the 2004 images) being put forth by credible scientists. There are many more reading silently. I am guessing that Pep is looking at this blog at least occasionally, surely he must agree that we can leave all the detailed arguments behind as long as the 2004 images can be reproduced? Reproducing images would be far faster than writing entire papers as a response.

      Why Professor Stellacci and other members of the response papers wouldn’t be eager to quickly sort this out leaves me puzzled and disappointed..”

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