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Molecules at an Exhibition: Portraits of…

Molecules at an Exhibition: Portraits of Intriguing Materials in Everyday… (1998)

by John Emsley

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John Emsley writes about chemistry for the lay person, but manages to bring to light facts and anecdotes that will delight chemists and chemical educators. What is "the worst smell in the world"? - and how is it used to protect us? What radioactive element is used in smoke detectors? What's the secret of Coca Cola? What chemical turns men on? Teachers of chemistry will find the names on many of the bottles in their storerooms in the fine Index in "Molecules at an Exhibition". This is a fun book to read! ( )
  hcubic | Jan 27, 2013 |
Have you ever wondered about the chemistry behind everyday materials like salt, fuels, caffeine or medicine? This book takes a bunch of molecules familiar to most people, either from their everyday life or from news headlines and explores them from a chemist's point of view.

The result is an intriguing book, written in an enthusiastic and friendly style. It doesn't take much understanding of chemistry to follow Emsley and he offers interesting perspectives to everyday materials. Molecules at an Exhibition is a good and entertaining way to increase one's knowledge on chemistry. (Review based on the Finnish translation.)

(Original review at my review site) ( )
  msaari | Dec 17, 2007 |
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Unzählige Legenden ranken sich um das, was wir essen: Schokolade macht (fast) süchtig, Coca-Cola ist ein Cocktail aus Chemikalien, Knoblauch wirkt gegen Herzkrankheiten und Krebs, und das tägliche Aspirin verhilft zu eiserner Gesundheit.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0192862065, Paperback)

Reading Molecules at an Exhibition is like listening to a charmingly eccentric British chemistry professor lecture over lunch. In fact, that's just what John Emsley is, and he's expanded his "Molecule of the Month" column series in the Independent into this gallery of molecular portraits, organized into loose themes such as "Testing Your Metal" and "Elements from Hell." He informs us about his favorite molecules through droll anecdotes and basic chemistry. Throughout the book, Emsley exhibits a reverence for industrially useful chemicals that comes across as a grumpy rejoinder to chemo-phobes: "Quit griping.... A little plastic wrap won't hurt you!" Not that he ignores the dangers of some molecules; in fact, he gleefully reports the tiny doses of things such as the nerve gas sarin sufficient to kill you. Other compounds are the subject of Emsley's genuine admiration:
For those who still have to live in shacks of corrugated iron and plywood, a temporary answer is to spray the building with polyurethane, which makes them livable in [sic] by keeping out insects and the heat of the Sun, and making them soundproof.... Nor will the investment be wasted when people are rehoused: they can cut the polyurethane into panels with a knife and use it as insulation in their new new [sic] home.
While Molecules sometimes reads like a paean to the green revolution (which we now know has been responsible for bioaccumulation of carcinogenic pesticides in food webs and the appearance of chemical-resistant insect pests), Emsley does make a strong point for efficient recycling and reuse of the plastics and chemicals we produce in such staggering quantities. And one can forgive him his enthusiasm for technological developments in chemistry. After all, chemicals really are amazing, and it's rewardingly fun to find out how they fit into our diets, our biochemistry, and our daily lives, especially when the education is hidden in fact-filled essays suitable for party entertaining. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:32 -0400)

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Discusses interesting chemicals, such as the smelliest, most lethal, and most versatile, in a non-technical style that covers each chemical's importance without using formulas, equations, or diagrams.

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