Designing the Molecular World: Chemistry at the Frontier

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Some of the most exciting scientific developments in recent years have come not from theoretical physicists, astronomers, or molecular biologists but instead from the chemistry lab. Chemists have created super-conducting ceramics for brain scanners, designed liquid crystal flat screens for televisions and watch displays, and made fabrics that change color while you wear them. They have fashioned metals from plastics, drugs from crude oil, and have pinpointed the chemical pollutants affecting our atmosphere and ...
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Overview

Some of the most exciting scientific developments in recent years have come not from theoretical physicists, astronomers, or molecular biologists but instead from the chemistry lab. Chemists have created super-conducting ceramics for brain scanners, designed liquid crystal flat screens for televisions and watch displays, and made fabrics that change color while you wear them. They have fashioned metals from plastics, drugs from crude oil, and have pinpointed the chemical pollutants affecting our atmosphere and are now searching for remedies for the imperiled planet. Philip Bail, an editor for the prestigious magazine Nature, lets the lay reader into the world of modern chemistry. Here chemists make molecules dance to laser light and they find new uses for the improbable buckminsterfullerene molecules - 60-atom carbon soccerballs, dubbed "buckyballs" - which seem to have applications for everything from lubrication to medicine to electronics. The book is not intended as an introduction to chemistry, but as an accessible survey of recent developments throughout many of the major fields allied with chemistry: from research in traditional areas such as crystallography and spectroscopy to entirely new fields of study such as molecular electronics, artificial enzymes, and "smart" polymer gels. Advances in molecular design and control are allowing chemists to perform engineering at the molecular scale - a burgeoning field known as nanotechnology - as well as to slice selected molecular bonds with lasers, devise molecular magnets and lightweight plastic batteries, and to envision truly "micro" computers whose circuits will be constructed from individual molecules. Ball invites readers to look behind the headlines of scientific breakthroughs for a deeper understanding of the unfolding world of research and experimental chemistry. His grand tour along the leading edge of scientific discovery will appeal to all curious readers, with or without any scientific training, to
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ball, an editor for the journal Nature, showcases the excitement of contemporary chemistry by departing from the standard subdivisions of the science and emphasizing the integration of input from biology, electronics, chaos, climatology, and other disciplines. His book is not a comprehensive treatment but rather a compilation of a variety of topics such as the highly publicized buckyballs and the less well known quasicrystals. Ball discusses these topics in an orderly progression from the changes in traditional research areas through the impact of the increased knowledge of molecular functionalities and concludes with a look at the consequences of the process of chemistry itself. The bibliography is current as of 1993, and its entries have been classified according to the level of the reader. Although this book is intended for the nonspecialist, a basic knowledge of chemistry would enhance appreciation of much of the material. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Jan Williams, Monsanto Co., St. Louis
Bryce Christensen
Astrophysicists capture more headlines, but chemists are discovering new substances that may affect our future lives profoundly. An editor at "Nature", Ball explains how chemists are exploiting new technologies to make enzyme catalysts for industry, to develop new synthetic superconductors, to fabricate high-strength plastics from liquid-crystal polymers, to control the effects of pollution on the environment, and to create revolutionary drugs based on nucleic acids rather than proteins. Breakthroughs that hold promise of practical application receive the most attention, but the author does speculate on chemistry's status among the sciences as he probes into the theoretical significance of ultrafast spectroscopy, chiral discrimination, and chaotic dynamics. Ball writes for the nonspecialist, defining each technical term introduced in the text and clarifying difficult points with diagrams and illustrations. Nonetheless, readers without at least a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry will probably feel overwhelmed.
Physics World
In this very readable and enjoyable book, Ball [offers] a whirlwind guided tour through some of the most exciting topics in modern chemistry, molecular physics, and materials science. . . . Lucidly written . . . with an acute awareness of recent advances and an excellent understanding of their intrinsic scientific content.
Angewandte Chemie
This book is like a clean fresh breeze, and puts the image of chemistry back into proper perspective.... [It] should be used ... to help convey to students ... enthusiasm for modern research.
— Rudolph Fahnenstich
New Scientist
It covers almost every possible recent development in chemistry in just the right amount of detail.... The old disciplines of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry of the stuffy textbooks are ploughed over and a new patchwork of fields created to fill their place.
— David Bradley
Times Literary Supplement
A tour de force of popular science writing.
Angewandte Chemie - Rudolph Fahnenstich
This book is like a clean fresh breeze, and puts the image of chemistry back into proper perspective.... [It] should be used ... to help convey to students ... enthusiasm for modern research.
New Scientist - David Bradley
It covers almost every possible recent development in chemistry in just the right amount of detail.... The old disciplines of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry of the stuffy textbooks are ploughed over and a new patchwork of fields created to fill their place.
The "Times Literary Supplement n Postgate

A tour de force of popular science writing.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 1994 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Chemistry, Association of American Publishers

"In this very readable and enjoyable book, Ball [offers] a whirlwind guided tour through some of the most exciting topics in modern chemistry, molecular physics, and materials science. . . . Lucidly written . . . with an acute awareness of recent advances and an excellent understanding of their intrinsic scientific content."—Physics World

"A tour de force of popular science writing."—John Postgate, The Times Literary Supplement

"This book is like a clean fresh breeze, and puts the image of chemistry back into proper perspective.... [It] should be used ... to help convey to students ... enthusiasm for modern research."—Rudolph Fahnenstich, Angewandte Chemie

"It covers almost every possible recent development in chemistry in just the right amount of detail.... The old disciplines of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry of the stuffy textbooks are ploughed over and a new patchwork of fields created to fill their place."—David Bradley, New Scientist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691000589
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 6/13/1994
  • Series: Princeton Science Library
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introducton: Engineering the Elements 3
Ch. 1 How It All Fits Together: The architecture of molecules 13
Ch. 2 Bringing Down the Barriers: Getting chemical reactions to go 54
Ch. 3 Caught in the Act: Watching atoms dance 83
Ch. 4 Impossible Order: When atoms meet geometry 111
Ch. 5 Perfect Hosts and Welcome Guests: Molecules that recognize each other and build themselves 145
Ch. 6 Metals from Molecules: Electronics goes organic 186
Ch. 7 A Soft and Sticky World: The self-organizing magic of colloid chemistry 216
Ch. 8 Chemical Beginnings: How chemistry came to life 259
Ch. 9 Far from Stable: Fractals, chaos, and complexity in chemistry 290
Ch. 10 Transforming the Globe: The crises of atmospheric chemistry 323
Bibliography 351
Index 365
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