Malcolm Gladwell has done it again. This article is very much in the spirit of the books by Henry Petroski, who has written about the engineering hidden in ordinary objects such as paperclips and pencils.
Professor James Collman of Stanford University has provided an excellent resource for all of us who try to help our students and the general public to discriminate between valid science and the bogus "scientific" claims that pervade television, the Internet, the grocery store, and especially the "health food" store.
As a physical chemist, I was amazed when it was discovered that the diatomic free radical, nitric oxide (NO) was intimately involved in the transmission of neurological information in mammals. Now a group led by Barry Trimmer at Tufts University has demonstrated that it is the key that turns on bioluminescence in fireflies.
What do you think of when someone mentions DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane)? Chances are that your mind immediately goes to the damage the use of this chemical has done to bird populations, Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring", and the effort to ban or control its use.
If you have students looking for an interesting science project, the May Scientific American has a nice one. A sun photometer can be used to determine the amount of haze in the atmosphere, and this article describes one that can be built in a couple of hours for less than $20 (although you also need to have a voltmeter).
The problem of acid rain has become almost a cliche in the teaching of environmental chemistry topics.
The dustcover for this book promises it to be an anti-chemistry diatribe, but I found the book itself, with the exception of a chapter near the end ("The Seat of the Plague") to be relatively even-handed in its treatment of the subject. It is full of interesting anecdotes about the history of polymers and their overwhelming impact on mankind.
"Born to Rebel" provides quantitative data in support of a novel interpretation of the importance of birth order to personality development, evolution, and history. Many are comparing its insights to those of the author's hero, Charles Darwin.
The state of the environment is widely assessed to be very poor and worsening, despite the contribution of chemists and other scientists to the understanding and the amelioration of mankind's influences.
In the novel "The Children of Men" by P. D. James, set in the year 2021, mankind is faced with extinction due to the worldwide sterility of human males. Is there a basis for fear that this is actually happening? Or is the reported decline in sperm counts, over the past half-century, even a fact?