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on 26 January 2010
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. Also the illustrations here are genuinely interesting and not just irrelevant ways to break up the text, as has been the case with certain other entries in this series. (Speaking of other entries, I can recommend the author's follow-up, The Elements: A Very Short Introduction.)

All in all, this is an impressive attempt by Ball to lead the non-specialist reader through a labyrinthine but vital area of science. You may not keep it all in your head, but you'll come away with a better sense of the kind of finely-tuned processes required to keep the big things functioning normally.
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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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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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on 4 February 2016
This is no chemistry book, but a general overview of what molecules are and do, with the author focusing on the molecules of life (biochemistry). There is very little chemistry (no formula, no systematic description of the way atoms combine into molecules or how molecules interact and get modified) even if some processes are explained with references to chemical or physical concepts.

Each chapter covers a function of natural molecules( mostly biological) before showing how scientists try to use those natural characteristics or processes either to try to make artificial molecules or to interact with nature, see modify the natural processes. The book is accessible to the lay reader even if they might find some explanations more difficult, while readers with a more solid scientific education could find those descriptions a bit superficial (well, this is a "very short introduction", isn't?).

Chapter 1 is introductory (what are molecules, what they are made of, their shape and sizes, etc)
Chapter 2: The molecules of life [the cell, DNA, RNA, enzymes, proteins (role, what they are made of, how they are produced from DNA, energy that fuels the process …]
Chapter 3 : materials from molecules [structural molecules in the human body (skin, bone, muscle, hair, nails) and the proteins and enzymes that make them, with a focus on collagen. Spider silk and its hierarchical molecular arrangement that scientists have copied for artificial polymers. The animal/human cell's skeleton with its tubular structure inspiring scientists for carbon pipes)
Chapter 4 : molecules and energy (ATP and ADP molecules that provide energy for biochemical processes, mitochondria, digestion and breathing in animals/humans, photosynthesis in plants. Use of energy-rich molecules for gun powder and dynamite),
Chapter 5: molecular motors (motor proteins that create motion, allow muscle power and cell division, for instance. Optical molecular tweezers created by scientists for molecular manipulation. How motor molecules have inspired research in nanotechnology.
Chapter 6: molecular communication (which molecule in the human body communicates with which, and what they communicate about. Hormones, neurons/axons/synapses and neurotransmitters)
Chapter 7 : molecular information (DNA— different aspects than in chapter 2—molecules that check for errors in DNA replication, or edit off useless elements before replication with scientists finding inspiration in natural editing tools for genetic modifications. Researches in molecular electronic to compensate for the limits of miniaturization of computer hardware).
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on 18 September 2012
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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on 4 March 2016
Bought new.
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on 23 October 2015
My partner loves these books
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on 13 January 2015
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