Reactions: The Private Life of Atoms

( 2 )


Illustrated with remarkable new full-color images--indeed, one or more on every page--and written by one of the world's leading authorities on the subject, Reactions offers a compact, pain-free tour of the inner workings of chemistry.

Reactions begins with the chemical formula almost everyone knows--the formula for water, H2O--a molecule with an "almost laughably simple chemical composition." But Atkins shows that water is also rather miraculous--it is the only substance whose ...

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Reactions: The private life of atoms

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Illustrated with remarkable new full-color images--indeed, one or more on every page--and written by one of the world's leading authorities on the subject, Reactions offers a compact, pain-free tour of the inner workings of chemistry.

Reactions begins with the chemical formula almost everyone knows--the formula for water, H2O--a molecule with an "almost laughably simple chemical composition." But Atkins shows that water is also rather miraculous--it is the only substance whose solid form is less dense than its liquid (hence ice floats in water)--and incredibly central to many chemical reactions, as it is an excellent solvent, being able to dissolve gases and many solids. Moreover, Atkins tells us that water is actually chemically aggressive, and can react with and destroy the compounds dissolved in it, and he shows us what happens at the molecular level when water turns to ice--and when it melts.

Moving beyond water, Atkins slowly builds up a toolkit of basic chemical processes, including precipitation (perhaps the simplest of all chemical reactions), combustion, reduction, corrosion, electrolysis, and catalysis. He then shows how these fundamental tools can be brought together in more complex processes such as photosynthesis, radical polymerization, vision, enzyme control, and synthesis.

Peter Atkins is the world-renowned author of numerous best-selling chemistry textbooks for students. In this crystal-clear, attractively illustrated, and insightful volume, he provides a fantastic introductory tour--in just a few hundred colorful and lively pages - for anyone with a passing or serious interest in chemistry.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"When chemists shake, stir, and boil their various fluids, they are actually coaxing atoms to form new links, links that result in forms of matter that perhaps have never existed before in the universe." Chemist and Oxford University fellow Atkins (The Periodic Kingdom) provides detailed descriptions of the reactions that occur in everyday life, using language that, while elevated, will be accessible for the armchair scientist. Each chapter focuses on a particular type of reaction, including: precipitation, neutralization, combustion, reduction, oxidation separately and in combination, catalysis, and more. Atkins then discusses reactions of organic chemistry, which resembles "the careful crafting of a cathedral, stone by stone, and decorating it with exactly the right ornaments." He reviews light-initiated reactions, from photochromism to photosynthesis, including a discussion of vision, enlivening the fairly dry subject with frequent historical and scientific examples, as well as humorous comments. For example, he compares a negatively-charged ion sniffing out a positively-charged nucleus to a heat-seeking missile. Concise and enlightening, the book suits science educators, students, and hobbyists.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Author of almost 60 books, Atkins (fellow, Lincoln Coll., Univ. of Oxford; coauthor, Physical Chemistry) here offers chemistry at its most rudimentary. In fewer than 300 pages, he maps out the very basics of the structure of matter and how chemists operate, combine, and create new compounds. Atkins begins the dialog with water—a substance with which everyone is familiar in all of its states. Then, he progresses at a deliberate pace to more complex compounds but always keeps to recognizable experiences. With a straightforward approach, he avoids technical terminology and addresses readers directly, creating the illusion that he and his readers are having a private conversation. The text is heavily supported by illustrations. VERDICT Readers with little or no knowledge of chemistry will benefit the most from this work, but those with some science familiarity will appreciate its lessons.—Margaret F. Dominy, Drexel Univ. Lib., Philadelphia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199695126
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.72 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Atkins is Fellow of Lincoln College, University of Oxford. He is the author of almost 60 books, which include the world-renowned textbook Physical Chemistry, now in its ninth edition. He has also written a number of books for a general readership, including Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, The Periodic Kingdom, Molecules, and The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction. He has been a visiting professor in France, Israel, New Zealand, and China, and continues to lecture widely throughout the world.

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Table of Contents

A preliminary comment: water
The basic tools
1. Matter falling out (Precipitation)
2. Protons in transit (Neutralization)
3. Burning in Air (Combustion)
4. Back to basics (Reduction)
5. Electrons in transit (Redox)
6. Forcing change electrically (Electrolysis)
7. Electricity from chemistry (Electrochemistry)
8. The death of metal (Corrosion)
9. Civil partnerships (Lewis acid-base reactions)
10. Changing partners (Complex substitution)
11. Marriage broking (Catalysis)
12. Divorce and reconciliation (Radical recombination)
Assembling the workshop
13. Stringing along (Radical polymerization)
14. Snapping together (Condensation polymerization)
15. Sniffing out nuclei (Nucleophilic substitution)
16. Sniffing out electrons (Electrophilic substitution)
17. Proton accelerators (Acid catalysis)
18. Basic instincts (Base catalysis)
19. Adding up (Addition)
20. Taking away (Elimination)
21. Carbon Footprints (The Wittig reaction)
22. Networking opportunities (The Friedel-Crafts reaction)
23. Dark matter (photochromism)
24. Irritating atmospheres (photochemical smog)
25. Seeing the light (vision)
26. Green chemistry
Building by design
27. Food for thought (Enzyme control)
28. Grand designs (Synthesis)
A retrospective: bringing it all together

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2013

    Where are the equations!?

    Reactions has a fine premise of shrinking the reader to molecule size to observe chemical reactions. However being so close to the reactions makes it difficult to understand the actual outcome. Like discerning the forest from the trees. The book would have been better if the equations for each reaction were included. That would have provided a road map to see the ultimate destination. Sometimes the math is better to be included.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    I wanna cry

    Great just great the only way to learn about science i guess

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