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 rematch between world chess champion Garry Kasparov and IBM's "Deep Blue" (and a team of programmers) provides the focus for a discussion of the meaning of intelligence, humanity, and consciousness.
Bernd Heinrich is one of my favorite writers about nature, and especially insects. I discovered his "Bumblebee Economics" (Harvard University Press paperback) a number of years ago, and used it in a course for non-science majors that I taught in our Honors College.
The "river" to which Dawkins refers in the title of this little (172 page) book is the river of digital genetic information that connects us to our human ancestors and to the rest of life on our planet. I find this metaphor to be an extremely provocative one, and I suspect that it would appeal to many of our computer-addicted students.
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 Bulletin for the History of Chemistry is the official publication of the American Chemical Society's Division for the History of Chemistry. The most recent issue is dedicated to the contributions of C. K. Ingold, one of the founders of physical organic chemistry. It records the proceedings of a symposium at the ACS meeting in Chicago in 1993.
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.