Stories of the Invisible: A Guided Tour of Molecules

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9780192803177: Stories of the Invisible: A Guided Tour of Molecules
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What are things made of? 'Everything is composed of small mollycules of itself, and they are flying around in concentric circles and arcs and segments,' explains Sergeant Fottrell in Flann O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive. Philip Ball shows that the world of the molecule is indeed a dynamic place. Using the chemistry of life as a springboard, he provides a new perspective on modern chemical science as a whole. Living cells are full of molecules in motion, communication, cooperation, and competition. Molecular scientists are now starting to capture the same dynamism in synthetic molecular systems, promising to reinvent chemistry as the central creative science of the new century.

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Review:

"Molecules", Philip Ball writes in Stories of the Invisible, "are the smallest units of meaning in chemistry", the words, if you will, made up of atomic letters. In this lively essay, full of such useful metaphors, Ball shares his longstanding fascination with the unseen world once again, explaining some of the issues that guide modern biochemistry.

Consider a sheep, Ball offers, a congeries of "millions of little bits of sheepness". That animal is a blend of molecules, tens of thousands of varieties of them, many of them found in the grass, sky and water that make up the sheep's environment, many of them shared with other animals and humans. It has been the task of modern chemistry to dissect matter, to tease out underlying structures and commonalities--and, Ball adds, to learn how to make of its constituent elements things that do things, "such as cure viral infections or store information or hold bridges together". How chemistry has done so, making body armour of spider silk and modelling computer networks on "molecular logic", drives Ball's discursive, entertaining, and eminently practical survey.

A trustworthy explainer of scientific matters to lay readers, Ball writes with clarity and grace--and the more difficult the concept, it seems, the better. --Gregory McNamee

Review:

"In a society of chemical agnostics, it is a brave missionary who tries to reveal its mysteries, but that is what the author of Stories of the Invisible has attempted to do--and done remarkably well...Ball is the right person to write this gospel...At no point does Stories of the Invisible sacrifice sound science for sound bites--we are in the hands of a scholar and true believer."--John Emsley, Nature Science News. "Ball's inspiring tour this small world illustrates how molecules assemble and fuction and how that action influences myriad aspects of the macro world."--Science News "Ball uses the same refreshing style evident in his previous books...to bring the world of chemistry to the lay reader."--Library Journal "An intriguing, quick-reading introduction to chemistry's state of play."--Booklist "Pop-science enthusiasts will eat it up."--Publishers Weekly "In a society of chemical agnostics, it is a brave missionary who tries to reveal its mysteries, but that is what the author of Stories of the Invisible has attempted to do--and done remarkably well...Ball is the right person to write this gospel...At no point does Stories of the Invisible sacrifice sound science for sound bites--we are in the hands of a scholar and true believer."--John Emsley, Nature Science News. "Ball's inspiring tour this small world illustrates how molecules assemble and fuction and how that action influences myriad aspects of the macro world."--Science News "Ball uses the same refreshing style evident in his previous books...to bring the world of chemistry to the lay reader."--Library Journal "An intriguing, quick-reading introduction to chemistry's state of play."--Booklist "Pop-science enthusiasts will eat it up."--Publishers Weekly "In a society of chemical agnostics, it is a brave missionary who tries to reveal its mysteries, but that is what the author of Stories of the Invisible has attempted to do--and done remarkably well...Ball is the right person to write this gospel...At no point does Stories of the Invisible sacrifice sound science for sound bites--we are in the hands of a scholar and true believer."--John Emsley, Nature Science News. "Ball's inspiring tour this small world illustrates how molecules assemble and fuction and how that action influences myriad aspects of the macro world."--Science News "Ball uses the same refreshing style evident in his previous books...to bring the world of chemistry to the lay reader."--Library Journal "An intriguing, quick-reading introduction to chemistry's state of play."--Booklist "Pop-science enthusiasts will eat it up."--Publishers Weekly "In a society of chemical agnostics, it is a brave missionary who tries to reveal its mysteries, but that is what the author of Stories of the Invisible has attempted to do--and done remarkably well...Ball is the right person to write this gospel...At no point does Stories of the Invisible sacrifice sound science for sound bites--we are in the hands of a scholar and true believer."--John Emsley, Nature Science News. "Ball's inspiring tour this small world illustrates how molecules assemble and fuction and how that action influences myriad aspects of the macro world."--Science News "Ball uses the same refreshing style evident in his previous books...to bring the world of chemistry to the lay reader."--Library Journal "An intriguing, quick-reading introduction to chemistry's state of play."--Booklist "Pop-science enthusiasts will eat it up."--Publishers Weekly

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