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Molecules: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Philip Ball
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Nov 2003 Very Short Introductions
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.

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Molecules: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + The Elements: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (27 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854308
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 17.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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The shortest of short introductions to molecules has already been written, and is far more witty than mine. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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 A great rundown of molecular uses 8 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

Starting with a brief rundown of what exactly molecules are, this introduction spans subjects as widely varied as the origins of life, the usage in the human body for messengers and regulation. Their role in materials and the way in which they behave. The role that molecules play in energy and it's storage and the ability to use them as motors and computers.

Simply put, this book is one of the most informative and interesting biochemistry/chemistry books I have read. It is well written, referenced and supported with diagrams. I can't recommend this 150-page A6 book enough, for initiates to chemistry, biochemistry, biology and even just the layman with an interest in the subject (me!).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Admirably clear 24 Mar 2013
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 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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By Xavier
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book gives you a detailed information about what is going on regarding new developments a research about molecules and macromolecules. It describes and explains the latest advances in molecular chemistry and you get a good view and knowledge of new molecules research .
It would be interesting that the book also points not only to biological molecules and its function to a cellular level but to other types as well .
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