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Molecules: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Philip Ball
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The processes in a single living cell are akin to that of a city teeming with molecular inhabitants that move, communicate, cooperate, and compete. In this Very Short Introduction, Philip Ball explores the role of the molecule in and around us - how, for example, a single fertilized egg can grow into a multi-celled Mozart, what makes spider's silk insoluble in the morning dew, and how this molecular dynamism is being captured in the laboratory, promising to reinvent chemistry as the
central creative science of the century.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Review from previous edition If the intimate workings of molecules seem invisible, through Philip Ball's lively pros we see them—coming to life, helping us live. A special delight of this excellent book is the tie that emerges between the wondrous molecules of nature and those chemists make in the laboratory. (Ronald Hoffmann, Chemistry Nobel Laureate 1981)

Almost no aspect of the exciting advances in molecular research studies at the beginning of the 21st Century has been left untouched and in so doing, Ball has presented an imaginative, personal overview, which is as instructive as it is enjoyable to read. (Harry Kroto, Chemistry Nobel Laureate 1996)

At no point does Stories of the Invisible sacrifice sound science for sound bites - we are in the hands of a scholar and true believer. (John Emsley Nature 20/08/2001)

This is a very readable and non-technical survey . . . All of the ingredients of a good work of ficiton are here. It really is a good bedtime read for all. (THES 04/01/2002)

Stories of the Invisible is a lucid account of the way that chemists see the molecular world . . . the text is enriched with many historical and literature references, and is accessible to the reader untrained in chemistry (THES, 04/01/2002)

About the Author

Philip Ball is a science writer and a consultant editor for Nature, where he was formerly an editor for physical science for over 10 years. He writes about all areas of science for the international press, and has broadcast on TV and radio. His previous books include Designing the Molecular World, The Self-Made Tapestry, H20:A Biography of Water and The Ingredients: A Guided Tour of the Elements . He holds a degree in chemistry from Oxford University and a doctorate in physics from Bristol University. He lives in London, where his Homunculus Theatre Company occasionally performs on a shoestring budget.

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More About the Author

Philip Ball is a freelance science writer. He worked at Nature for over 20 years, first as an editor for physical sciences (for which his brief extended from biochemistry to quantum physics and materials science) and then as a Consultant Editor. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An introductory guide to biochemistry 26 Jan. 2010
By Steve
Molecules: A Very Short Introduction - previously sold as Stories of the Invisible: A Guided Tour of Molecules - is not so much an introduction to molecules as an introduction to biochemistry, the molecules of life. This is something Ball states from the outset, and with the boundary between chemistry and biology becoming ever more blurred, it's an understandable approach to take. We are, after all, now using natural molecules in technology as well as synthetic molecules to preserve what we deem 'natural'.

The book starts with the very basics - how atoms are joined together and why we can't 'see' them in the traditional sense, before quickly advancing to biochemistry and the complex molecules so vital to the body. As the author himself says, molecular biology is not difficult in the way that theoretical physics is difficult - the concepts are not unfamiliar, abstract or mathematically hard. The difficulty arises because there is so much going on all at once, and so many levels to the hierarchy.

So while Ball's writing is, for the most part, clear and full of personality, some of the processes he describes are unavoidably complicated and a lot to take in. As a non-specialist, I came away remembering the gist, if not all the detail. One of the reviews (Chemistry in Britain) described Ball's science as 'encyclopaedic'. That's definitely a word that springs to mind.

The choice of topics is good, and if, like me, you're new to the subject, you'll find it mind-boggling to learn just how finely-tuned our bodies are - all the checkpoints, safety mechanisms, back-up plans and careful record-keeping that occurs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief introduction to modern chemistry 7 April 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
My training is in Physics, and I have not had a chance to read-up on Chemistry in a long while. I decided to read this book in order to get a better bird's eye view of what the modern Chemistry is up to these days. As such, this book was a great introduction, and brought me up to speed with some of the more recent developments. Thanks to this book and some other info I got, I was able to piece things together and figure out what some of the more advanced research in the conventional explosives is all about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Admirably clear 24 Mar. 2013
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is an excellent introduction to its subject, and one that covers far more ground than the modest title suggests. I'm not a scientist, but I found Philip Ball's writing admirably clear throughout, his text liberally supplemented by illuminating diagrams and photos. Pondering to begin with the nature of matter, the author leads you through basic atomic structure, via the fascinating history of synthetic molecule-making during the development of the chemical dyestuffs industry, to an absorbing account of the functioning of the molecules inside us - in DNA, proteins and so on. This leads naturally on to an explanation of how molecules are key to the structures of living organisms, even down to the `scaffolding' that helps DNA divide within cells along the intricate threads of the mitotic spindle. The energy cycles of the cell, how molecules work to produce motion in some very fine-grade structures like cilia in the human windpipe, and their role in communicating nerve messages - all are covered in just enough detail to explain without confusing. Ball's last chapter - on molecular computing - have been somewhat overtaken by events in a rapidly-moving field (it's now possible to store data on DNA, for example), but don't let that put you off. This is, and will I suspect remain, a first-class introduction to this fascinating subject for some time to come.
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