Reactions: The Private Life of Atoms

Peter Atkins. Oxford Univ., $24.95 (256p) ISBN 9780199695126
"When chemists shake, stir, and boil their various fluids, they are actually coaxing atoms to form new links, links that result in forms of matter that perhaps have never existed before in the universe." Chemist and Oxford University fellow Atkins (The Periodic Kingdom) provides detailed descriptions of the reactions that occur in everyday life, using language that, while elevated, will be accessible for the armchair scientist. Each chapter focuses on a particular type of reaction, including: precipitation, neutralization, combustion, reduction, oxidation separately and in combination, catalysis, and more. Atkins then discusses reactions of organic chemistry, which resembles "the careful crafting of a cathedral, stone by stone, and decorating it with exactly the right ornaments." He reviews light-initiated reactions, from photochromism to photosynthesis, including a discussion of vision, enlivening the fairly dry subject with frequent historical and scientific examples, as well as humorous comments. For example, he compares a negatively-charged ion sniffing out a positively-charged nucleus to a heat-seeking missile. Concise and enlightening, the book suits science educators, students, and hobbyists. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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