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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 28-10-2016 at 18:41
Book review...of sorts!


I just finished reading a book by 3 chemists, about a limited area of alchemy: Cathy Cobb, Minty L. Fetterwolf, and Harold Goldwhite, "The Chemistry of Alchemy: From Dragons Blood to Donkey Dung: How Chemistry was Forged"; ISBN 978-1-61614-915-4.
Although the flippant writing style is a bit annoying (it reminds me of the "...for Dummies" or "Idiot's Guide to...") style. it is still an interesting read. It concentrates on alchemists who believed in metallic transformations (i.e., Pb to Au).
An additional feature is that each of the 20 chapters concludes with "demonstration" - reenactments of alchemical procedures, allowing you to replicate some of the alchemist's work. Hint: get a cast-iron skillet.
How much more basic can you get, than to replicate some of the experiments of "pre"-chemistry?
This book is an enjoyable read. I would try to get it from your local library
I would be interested in your comments.
Charlie
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Maroboduus
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[*] posted on 29-10-2016 at 07:47


I dabbled in alchemy once.

I made up a some Alkahest, and it ruined ALL my glassware and storage bottles.

Never again!
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careysub
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[*] posted on 29-10-2016 at 10:25


Quote: Originally posted by Maroboduus  
I dabbled in alchemy once.

I made up a some Alkahest, and it ruined ALL my glassware and storage bottles.

Never again!


You should have gotten a Philosopher's Stone crucible for it. Its a good thing you didn't get any on yourself, Azoth to treat it is really hard to come by.

[Edited on 29-10-2016 by careysub]




About that which we cannot speak, we must remain silent.
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Some things can never be spoken
Some things cannot be pronounced
That word does not exist in any language
It will never be uttered by a human mouth
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yobbo II
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[*] posted on 29-10-2016 at 12:02



It must have been fascinating doing chemistry back in those times. Everything and anything was possible! (but not doable unfortunately).
I once read that vessel used for 'doing' things in was a pigs bladder. It was quite resistant to stuff.
Remember that the humble jam jar had not been invented yet.

The spirit lives on

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/nort...

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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 30-10-2016 at 04:37


Quote: Originally posted by yobbo II  

,,,The spirit lives on

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/nort...



Thanks for the link! That story is amusing!:D
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ficolas
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[*] posted on 30-10-2016 at 07:04


Quote: Originally posted by yobbo II  

The spirit lives on

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/nort...

That looks like Phd chemist's work
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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 30-10-2016 at 16:40


As an abd, I have to agree with ficolas!
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[*] posted on 30-10-2016 at 17:01


Quote: Originally posted by CharlieA  
As an abd, I have to agree with ficolas!


abd???

http://www.acronymfinder.com/ABD.html




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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 2-11-2016 at 05:06


Another recent read: Eric Scerri, A Tale of 7 Elements(Oxford University Press, 2013); ISBN 978-0-19-5339131-2.
This book tells the fascinating stories of the discovery of the "last" elements missing from the Periodic Table. This book relates the interesting stories of how these, and other, elements were detected. In addition, there is much information on how the periodic table was developed. In short, chemistry depends on the outer shell electrons of an element. And I read somewhere (?) that if you want to understand chemical reaction mechanisms, "follow the electrons." So in its simplest form is it safe to say that chemistry = electrons? I'll bet J. J. Thompson would agree with me.
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Harristotle
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[*] posted on 2-11-2016 at 05:57


Quote: Originally posted by yobbo II  

It must have been fascinating doing chemistry back in those times.
The spirit lives on

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/nort...



Ha ha.
It reminds me of the limerick (Belfast, Limerick, same same):

There was a young man from Australia
Who painted his arse like a dahlia.
Th colours were fine, the drawing divine,
but the smell was a terrible failure!

So much early chemistry from paints, and gold.....
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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 2-11-2016 at 17:45


Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1  
Quote: Originally posted by CharlieA  
As an abd, I have to agree with ficolas!


abd???

http://www.acronymfinder.com/ABD.html


All But Dissertation...real life interfered with a divorce; my thesis advisor took a job on the east coast (and I had chosen poorly for my advisor and research topic...which was not his fault, just mine)
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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 2-11-2016 at 17:50


j_sum1: What a neat link! Is there anything that can't be found on the internet?:P
Oh wait...maybe I should "google: what can't be found on the internet?"!!!:D
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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 26-3-2017 at 09:01
latest read...


I just finished the following tome by Darden H. Dickson: Memorizing the periodic table of elements. Basically this book, all 14 pages of it, contains a blank periodic table, and a list of the elements in atomic number order. The blank table will be useful because I like to enter trends in various physical or chemical properties onto a table using arrows.
It seems that the way to memorize the table is to memorize the list of elements and to memorize the atomic number order on the periodic table He also gives some little formulas for calculating mass numbers; I think these formulas (formulae?) are useless. I don't know why anyone would be interested, but the book is ISBN: 978-0-9799186-0-5.
Now, am I ready to start memorizing....
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CharlieA
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thumbup.gif posted on 30-3-2017 at 15:20


I just read "Periodic Tales," by Hugh Aldersey-Williams. This book is sub-titled "a cultural history of the elements, from arsenic to zinc. There is little to no quantitative coverage of physical and chemical properties. But origin of element names, their discovery and place in history and culture are fascinating (I learned that Argentina is the only country named for an element.)
The author lives in Norfolk, England and was trained as a chemist. Unfortunately, he has gone over to the dark side now as an author. This book is a light, but not unsubstantial read. I found it enjoyable and I think others will too.
ISBN 978-0-06-182472-2
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Magpie
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[*] posted on 31-3-2017 at 12:22


Here's a list of the chemistry related books that I have aquired, mostly from Abebooks, the internet used-book seller:

1. The Lore of Still Building by Howard & Gibat
2. Thomas Edison, Chemist by Vanderbilt
3. The Shocking History of Phosphorus by Emsley
4. The Poisoner's Handbook by Blum
5. Mauve by Garfield
6. The Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Darkness by Carl Sagan
7. Jac. Berzelius, His Life and Work by Jorpes

I liked all these books. The last includes anecdotal stories about Wohler and Scheele, and an island off Sweden containing many rare earth metals, and bedbugs.

Edison said chemistry was his primary love. The above book tells of all his amazing work and discoveries.




The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 31-3-2017 at 16:28


Quote: Originally posted by Magpie  
Here's a list of the chemistry related books that I have aquired, mostly from Abebooks, the internet used-book seller:

1. The Lore of Still Building by Howard & Gibat
2. Thomas Edison, Chemist by Vanderbilt
3. The Shocking History of Phosphorus by Emsley
4. The Poisoner's Handbook by Blum
5. Mauve by Garfield
6. The Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Darkness by Carl Sagan
7. Jac. Berzelius, His Life and Work by Jorpes

...


These all sound interesting. I'm going to try and find them at my local library, and add them to my reading list. Thanks for posting these.:)
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Magpie
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[*] posted on 31-3-2017 at 20:50


Thanks. Here's another I can add:
"Crucibles - The Story of Chemistry" by Jaffe




The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
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CharlieA
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thumbup.gif posted on 16-5-2017 at 12:39
Latest book I read


My latest book I read: "Lab Girl" by Hope Jahren; ISBN:9781101874936. (Knopf; 2016). Jahren is obviously a gifted writer. I very much enjoyed this read. It pretty much covers her life from high school through undergraduate school (both briefly), followed by her obtaining a PhD in botany, starting up labs at 3 different Universities, getting tenure; essentially it covers about 20 years after her schooling. She is a tenured professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in Honolulu. She can be found online at hopejahrensurecanwrite.com and jahrenlabcom. She has quite a professional resume. I'll give one quote from the back page of the jacket. "A smart, enthralling, and winning debut. Lab Girl made me look at trees differently. It compelled me to ponder the astonishing grace and gumption of a seed. Perhaps most importantly, it introduced me to an inspiring woman - a scientist so passionate about her work I felt myself vividly with her on every page." ---Cheryl Strayed.

My no means would I consider this a "chick book."

I know I'm getting wordy, but this next passage was very meaningful to me. Perhaps it helps me understand why I never finished my own PhD program some 50 years ago.

She writes: "Establishing yourself as a scientist takes an awfully long time The riskiest part is learning what a true scientist is and then taking the first shaky steps down that path, which will become a road, which will become a highway, which will maybe someday lead you home. A true scientist doesn't perform prescribed experiments; she develops her own and thus generates wholly new knowledge. This transition between doing what you're told and telling yourself what to do generally occurs midway through a dissertation. In many ways, it is the most difficult and terrifying thing that a student can do, and being unable or unwilling to do it is much of what weeds people out of PhD programs." On reading this, I had a feeling of "deja vu all over again!"

And this last passage I will give, I think really explains what keeps a scientist going.
"When a lab experiment just won't work, moving heaven and earth often won't make it work---and similarly, there are some experiments that o just can't screw up even if you try. The readout from the x-ray displayed one clear, unequivocal peak at exactly the same angle of diffraction each time I replicated the measurement.

The long, low, broad swoop of ink was totally unlike the stiff, jerky spikes that my advisor and I thought we might see, and it clearly indicated that my mineral was an opal. I stood and stared at the readout, knowing that there was no way I had---or anybody could have---possible misinterpreted the result. It was opal and this was something that I knew, something I could draw a circle around an testify to as being true. While looking at the graph, I thought about how I now knew something or certain that only an hour ago had been an absolute unknown and I slowly began to appreciate how my like just changed."

There's more but I've given enough. I probably average reading a book or so a week, in various areas. This was my far my most enjoyable read in a long time.

I am still working on Magpie's recommended list and hope to comment on some of his suggested books soon.

I know this is a long post, and if you didn't get all the way through it, I understand. If you did get through it, thank you for reading it. Charlie

edited for spelling

[Edited on 5-16-2017 by CharlieA]

[Edited on 5-16-2017 by CharlieA]

I just discovered that as of September 2016, Dr. Jahren is a Wilson professor at the University of Oslo. I don't know if this is a short-term appointment or permanent post.

[Edited on 5-16-2017 by CharlieA]
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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 5-6-2017 at 06:12


I just finished reading one of Magpie's recommendations (so far I can only find 5 of them at our library).
Byron M. Vanderbilt, "Thomas Edison, Chemist," (American Chemical Society, 1971). The author is a PhD chemist from Purdue (1937). He covers Edison's work in several of his chemistry-oriented studies, including development of an alkaline storage battery, isolating rubber from goldenrod, preparation of organic chemicals during WW1, and concentration of iron ore. This was a delightful read.
Thanks to Magpie for his list of recommendations.
Charlie
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Magpie
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[*] posted on 5-6-2017 at 12:46


CharlieA I'm glad you enjoyed Vanderbilt's book.

When in Florida during my honeymoon we visited Edison's winter home and laboratory in Ft. Meyers. I picked that book up at the gift shop. Only a chemist would do that on his honeymoon. :D




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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 22-7-2017 at 08:53


This has been a good week for reading, with temperatures in the high 90's and low 100's (Fahrenheit).

The first book I finished this week was "MAUVE How One Man Invented a Color hat Changed the World", by Simon Garfield (ISBN: 0-393-02005*3). This was an interesting read, but I would have liked a little more chemistry, maybe with chemical equations, but these can be found in other places. I most enjoyed reading about the development and growth of industrial chemistry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 2nd book I finished was "Einstein" by Peter D. Saith (ISBN: 1-904341-15-2; paperback edition). This biography was very enjoyable without all of the mathematics of physics but a nice explanation of his theories. I most enjoyed learning about the man personal life.
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[*] posted on 25-8-2017 at 18:01


CharlieA,

"I most enjoyed reading about the development and growth of industrial chemistry in the 19th and early 20th centuries."

If you can find them, there are two books which really explore this topic and are well written:

"The Rainbow Makers" by A. S. Travis. This has been a very difficult book to find and is often quite expensive but can usually be obtained by inter-library loan. It has much detail but is an excellent historical account of the dye industry and its "fathering" of modern organic chemistry.

"The Emergence of the German Dye Industry" by J. J. Beer. Another rare book but always seems to turn up as a bibliographic reference. (I just recently obtained a near mint copy for my collection.) A bit easier to get through than the Travis book. Starts with mauve and ends with the formation of IG Farben after WWI. Really well written.

Of additional historical interest in the development of modern organic chemistry:

"From My Life" by R. Willstatter provides a more academic view of the development of organic chemistry in the early 20th century. Provides good insight to some of the personalities involved.

"The Kaiser's Chemists" by J A Johnson. This book is a detailed account of the politics of chemistry in Germany in the years before WWI and in the years immediately following.

"Hell's Cartel" by D. Jeffereys picks up with IG Farben where Beer's book more or less ends. Excellent account of where chemistry went wrong in Germany between the wars.

"Contrasts in Scientific Style" by J S Fruton. The title is somewhat misleading as this an excellent book about the operations of various chemistry and biochemistry groups in the late 19th and early 20th centuries focused on prominent German research groups. A really interesting read for the history with some surprising details.

Lastly, more general treatments of chemistry history that I have found enjoyable are (among many others):

"A Short History of Chemistry" by J R Partington is a paperback. There is also by the same author the entire 4 volume history of chemistry set.

"A History of Chemistry" by F J Moore (revised by W T Hall) published in 1939. It is fairly comprehensive but short.

Enjoy,

AvB
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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 28-8-2017 at 14:43


@AvBaeyer: Thanks for the list; I couldn't find any at my library so I may try interlibrary loan.

Just finished reading Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World - Science as a Candle in the Darkness. I enjoyed the book but I think it could have been 50% shorter. It struck me as Carl's rant against pseudo-science (e.g., alien abduction, UFOs, channeling, etc.) and the general public's lack of scientific understanding. Overall, the writing struck me as his "stream of conscious" thinking. I think the book could have been shorter and more clearly written (but maybe that is just my own lack of understanding).
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Magpie
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[*] posted on 28-8-2017 at 19:10


I agree with your comments on Sagan's book. I found his arguments compelling but too long-winded in many cases.

The title of the book is what attracted me for I believe very strongly that if it weren't for the discoveries of science we would still be burning witches.




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CharlieA
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[*] posted on 27-12-2017 at 16:51


📚 Just finished reading Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring." This book was instrumental in kick-starting the movement against the use of the pesticides DDT and its' relatives. It is very interesting to see the many examples of bad uses of pesticides that she compiled to make her arguments against them.

[Edited on 12-28-2017 by CharlieA]
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