ChemEd X contributors and staff members are continually coming across items of interest that they feel others may wish to know about. Picks include, but need not be limited to, books, magazines, journals, articles, apps—most anything that has a link to it can qualify.
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The very first of "Hal's Picks", back in 1995, was the announcement of the first experimental observation of a Bose-Einstein condensate. This can be considered as a new phase of matter, in which atoms in a cold cluster lose their separate identities, because their deBroglie wavelengths exceed the dimension of the group in which they find themselves.
The origin of the molecular "handedness" that pervades earth's biology has been an evolutionary puzzle. Given that right and left-handed amino acids have equal energies, why do only the left-handed ones participate in biosynthesis? One hypothesis is that life started from templates that arose from extraterrestrial sources, such as meteors.
Science lost one of its most eloquent and persuasive spokesmen with the death last month of Carl Sagan. While he was best known as an astronomer and planetary scientist, The Demon-Haunted World should remind us that his interests were far broader than that. Here, he addresses at greater length some questions of pseudoscience that he briefly discussed in Sunday Parade magazine articles.
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.
Robert Ehrlich teaches physics at George Mason University. This is the third book by him that I have read recently.
"The Flight from Science and Reason" is the proceedings of a conference by that name that was held in New York on May 31-June 2, 1995. I wish I could have been there!
"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.
I picked up this volume because its title suggested that it would encourage hands-on science activities that are essential to good teaching and effective learning. Unfortunately, I discovered on reading it that the author combines a deep antagonism for the scientific "establishment" with credulity for numerous fringe ideas.