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Designing the Molecular World:
Chemistry at the Frontier
Philip Ball

Winner of the 1994 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Chemistry, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 1996 | $38.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691029009
384 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 18 color plates 224 figs
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Some of the most exciting scientific developments in recent years have come not from theoretical physicists, astronomers, or molecular biologists but instead from the chemistry lab. Chemists have created superconducting ceramics for brain scanners, designed liquid crystal flat screens for televisions and watch displays, and made fabrics that change color while you wear them. They have fashioned metals from plastics, drugs from crude oil, and have pinpointed the chemical pollutants affecting our atmosphere and are now searching for remedies for the imperiled planet. Philip Ball, an editor for the prestigious magazine Nature, lets the lay reader into the world of modern chemistry. Here, for example, chemists find new uses for the improbable buckminsterfullerene molecules--60-atom carbon soccerballs, dubbed "buckyballs"--which seem to have applications for everything from lubrication to medicine to electronics.

The book is not intended as an introduction to chemistry, but as an accessible survey of recent developments throughout many of the major fields allied with chemistry: from research in traditional areas such as crystallography and spectroscopy to entirely new fields of study such as molecular electronics, artificial enzymes, and "smart" polymer gels. Ball's grand tour along the leading edge of scientific discovery will appeal to all curious readers, with or without any scientific training, to chemistry students looking for future careers, and to practicing chemical researchers looking for information on other specialties within their discipline.


"In this very readable and enjoyable book, Ball [offers] a whirlwind guided tour through some of the most exciting topics in modern chemistry, molecular physics, and materials science. . . . Lucidly written . . . with an acute awareness of recent advances and an excellent understanding of their intrinsic scientific content."--Physics World

"A tour de force of popular science writing."--John Postgate, The Times Literary Supplement

"This book is like a clean fresh breeze, and puts the image of chemistry back into proper perspective.... [It] should be used ... to help convey to students ... enthusiasm for modern research."--Rudolph Fahnenstich, Angewandte Chemie

"It covers almost every possible recent development in chemistry in just the right amount of detail.... The old disciplines of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry of the stuffy textbooks are ploughed over and a new patchwork of fields created to fill their place."--David Bradley, New Scientist

Table of Contents:

Introducton: Engineering the Elements 3
Ch. 1 How It All Fits Together: The architecture of molecules 13
Ch. 2 Bringing Down the Barriers: Getting chemical reactions to go 54
Ch. 3 Caught in the Act: Watching atoms dance 83
Ch. 4 Impossible Order: When atoms meet geometry 111
Ch. 5 Perfect Hosts and Welcome Guests: Molecules that recognize each other and build themselves 145
Ch. 6 Metals from Molecules: Electronics goes organic 186
Ch. 7 A Soft and Sticky World: The self-organizing magic of colloid chemistry 216
Ch. 8 Chemical Beginnings: How chemistry came to life 259
Ch. 9 Far from Stable: Fractals, chaos, and complexity in chemistry 290
Ch. 10 Transforming the Globe: The crises of atmospheric chemistry 323
Bibliography 351
Index 365

This book has been translated into:

  • Chinese (Simple)

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Philip Ball:


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Hardcover published in 1994

A selection of the Library of Science Book Club
A selection of the American Chemical Society Book Club
A selection of the Library of Science Book Club

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 Paperback : $38.95 ISBN: 9780691029009

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File created: 7/11/2017

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