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San Francisco Chronicle

Philip Ball

Stories of the invisible

Chemistry can be perceived as something of a dull subject, as is seen by the drop in applications to study the subject at university. At the start of 'Stories of the invisible' Ball seems to be trying to improve the image of the subject. If this is his aim then I don't think that he succeeds. There is much of interest in the book, but I would classify it as biochemisty. Ball gives an easy to understand account of the some of the processes of life at the molecular level - how we extract energy from food, how this is used to move our muscles and the like. If you're interested in finding out about this then the book has much to recommend it.

I had envisaged the book as choosing a number of molecules and having a chapter on each of them, enabling each to be looked at in some depth. Instead, when I started reading, I found that Ball tended to devote only a small amount of space to each topic before moving on to the next one. This might be OK for a beginner wanting an overview, but I felt there was little for those who already had some knowledge of the subject. However, the book did improve as it progressed, since as well as examining the processes of life, Ball looks at how scientists are trying to mimic them, and reports on some of the recent work which is being done at the nano-scale.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 224 pages  
ISBN: 0192803174
Salesrank: 1678138
Weight:0.79 lbs
Published: 2002 Oxford University Press
Marketplace:New from $4.99:Used from $2.49
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 224 pages  
ISBN: 0192803174
Salesrank: 1605926
Weight:0.79 lbs
Published: 2002 Oxford Paperbacks
Marketplace:New from £23.97:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 224 pages  
ISBN: 0192803174
Salesrank: 2475189
Weight:0.79 lbs
Published: 2002 Oxford Paperbacks
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 77.07:Used from CDN$ 0.01
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Product Description
If atoms are letters, writes Philip Ball, then molecules are words. And through these words, scientists have uncovered many fascinating stories of the physical world. In Stories of the Invisible, Ball has compiled a cornucopia of tales spun by these intriguing, invisible words.
The book takes us on a tour of a world few of us knew existed. The author describes the remarkable molecular structure of spider's silk--a material that is pound for pound much stronger than steel--and shows how the Kevlar fibers in bulletproof vests were invented by imitating the alignment of molecules found in the spider's amazing thread. We also learn about the protein molecules that create movement, without which bacteria would be immobile, cells could not divide, there would be no reproduction and therefore no life.
Today we can invent molecules that can cure viral infections, store information, or help hold bridges together. But more importantly, Ball provides a fresh perspective on the future of molecular science, revealing how researchers are promising to reinvent chemistry as the central creative science of the 21st century.