Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Book review...of sorts!

CharlieA - 28-10-2016 at 18:41

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

Maroboduus - 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!

careysub - 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]

yobbo II - 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...


CharlieA - 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

ficolas - 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

CharlieA - 30-10-2016 at 16:40

As an abd, I have to agree with ficolas!

j_sum1 - 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

CharlieA - 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.

Harristotle - 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.....

CharlieA - 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)

CharlieA - 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

latest read...

CharlieA - 26-3-2017 at 09:01

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....

CharlieA - 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

Magpie - 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.

CharlieA - 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.:)

Magpie - 31-3-2017 at 20:50

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

Latest book I read

CharlieA - 16-5-2017 at 12:39

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]

CharlieA - 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

Magpie - 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

CharlieA - 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.

AvBaeyer - 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

CharlieA - 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).

Magpie - 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.

CharlieA - 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]

CharlieA - 3-1-2018 at 08:18

My latest read: "A History of Chemistry," by F. J. Moore; 3rd edition (1939).

From the preface to the third edition: "...the work of prominent chemists in the various fields is discussed down to the present day..."

Many "thumbnail sketches" (brief biographies) are given of many chemists, , emphasizing their contributions to chemistry. It generally records for most of these chemists whom they studied under.

It is always good to learn (or re-learn) the evolution of key chemical theories.

My personal problem with books like this is that they remind me of how much chemistry I have forgotten (if I ever even knew it). :(

NEMO-Chemistry - 4-1-2018 at 10:53

Quote: Originally posted by yobbo II  

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...



Is it just me, or does prison seem really extreme for £3k damage?
we had a chimney fire a few weeks back, entirely my fault! I had put a load of christmas tree branches on the fire in the lounge, the chimney soot caught light and up it went.

The liner in the chimney was replaced around 4 years ago, its a kind of plaster/ concrete thing, the fire was hot enough to severely crack the liner like mosaic. Firebrigade had to come out for a few hours.

So how come i didnt get any shit off the police? Seeing as Scotland is way harsher than NI or England, i find it hard to see how he got jailed. Something is missing from that story.


OldNubbins - 4-1-2018 at 15:30

Chimney fires are relatively common. Poop on a heater.... ehhhhh... not so much.

AvBaeyer - 4-1-2018 at 21:22

CharlieA,

You should try to find the 4 volumes of "The Chemical Society Memorial Lectures." These are extensive biographical lectures covering deceased members of the Chemical Society. They give much insight into the workings and personalities of late 19th and early 20th century chemistry. The volumes are hard to find but are occasionally available at ABE books.

Another fascinating book is J.S. Fruton, "Contrasts in Scientific Style." I think you might find it quite enjoyable.

AvB

CharlieA - 5-8-2018 at 15:38

Just finished reading: Clifford Dobell, "Antony van Leeuwenhoek: A Collection of Writings by the Father of Protozoology and Bacteriology," (Dover; 1960; unabridged republication of the work first published in 1932).


-from the author's forward: "...I found not only that he knew no language but Dutch, but also that he knew no 'science'; for he was merely an ordinary shopkeeper...In the world of science he was no better than an ignorant and bungling amateur - self-taught but otherwise uneducated. He did everything by himself, alone and unaided so that when he wished to make a microscopical discovery he had first to make himself a microscope; and when he wished to describe this discovery, it often turned out to be something so novel that he had no words wherewith to describe it."

I've never had a biology course, and just recently acquired a microscope, so I do not consider myself competent to critique the results of L.'s work. But I was most impressed that he always seemed to come up with further experiments, kept copious notes, and seemed to have a great desire to communicate his observations. This mostly unlettered amateur scientist experimented and made scientific observations for 50 years and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of 48.


For someone with a background in biology or microbiology, I think this would be a fascinating read. It seems that the author, Dobell, went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the accuracy of this work.

CharlieA - 10-8-2020 at 05:53

Interesting read: Moseley and the Numbering of the Elements by Bernard Jaffe (Doubleday, 1971). Moseley's work on the x-rays emitted by atoms established that the atomic number has a physical basis; it is not just the "address" of an element in the Periodic Table.
Not a long book, but like almost all technical subjects, as the book goes deeper and deeper into its subject matter, it gets more and more complicated...such is life!

CharlieA - 28-8-2020 at 16:18

I just finished reading "Power Unseen: how microbes rule the world", by Bernard Dixon (1996; ISBN 0-7167-4550-X).

An enlightening introduction to the world of microbes in approximately 70 short sketches of 2-3 pages each. Each sketch covers one genus/species of microbe (bacterium or virus), and how it affects the world, for good or bad. Many examples describe various examples of biotechnology.

Much of the contents may have been superseded since the publication of this book. As someone not formally educated in any of the life sciences, I found this book very informative. It helped me to better understand the strategies/techniques used for handling the threats of a dangerous virus (e.g. COVID, not known when this book was written).
Enjoy!

karlos³ - 28-8-2020 at 16:47

Its funny how its title became to be "the mushroom who made John F. Kennedy president" in the German edition :o
You probably know the story behind this, as you've read the book, but I am just straight up confused by this.

I would be happy if you'd like to share that story, because searching for whatever that could mean brings nothing up for me.
But I would also understand if you don't want to spoil the book.

CharlieA - 29-8-2020 at 16:52

karlos:
That story is new to me! The explanation would be very interesting. I'll give a look tomorrow. I don't recall seeing it in my book.

karlos³ - 29-8-2020 at 18:14

I found the answer in the meantime, very far fetched to call it the cause for his presidency:
So they said that due to the potato blight in 1845, the family Kennedy emigrated from ireland to america.
And they connect that with his presidency when he won in 1960, because of all the other irish people in the states, with many of them whose ancestors immigrated in the year 1845 of the potato blight too, and most were voting for him then, since they saw him as one of them.
Interesting, but really far fetched in my opinion, to draw such a connection.
Although it is certainly not a wrong statement either.

CharlieA - 30-8-2020 at 16:44

It certainly is a loose connection, but JFK had to be born here to be eligible to become president (no birther theoried from or about anyone please). It reminds me of the idea that anyone person in the world is connected to anyone else by six connections or less. I became somewhat of a believer when I realized that this inconsequential Catholic is connected to Pope John Paul by connections: my in-laws met the Pope when he was here in town. And I guess that considering all of the different people in the world that have met that Pope, I guess I am then connected to them!!! ...small world...

Dr.Bob - 30-8-2020 at 17:18

Charlie,

You should read the Max Gergal books in the scimads library if you haven't yet. They describe how organic chemistry preparation in large scale was done back in the 1950-1970 era. I saw some similar work back in 1980's with my friend Ed, his fume hoods were plywood boxes in front of a window with a box fan in it. At least most of the flurocarbons he made were not flammable. Most of the real chemistry was done in metal manifolds and reactors, not much real chemistry was done in glass, mostly just the distillations and simple preps.

I'll have to send you a box of books sometime, I have a lot of chemistry related books like your list. I would just ask you to pass them on when you are done to another science geek.

I can relate to your graduate experiences, mine were a nightmare as well, lots of bait and switch in graduate schools with advisors (one advisor telling 5 people he will take them when he only had space for 2, listing faculty that were retiring or had already retired in graduate student info, finances being a disaster, etc. I have recently seen two books on how to survive graduate school, I will try to find them and mention them here.

CharlieA - 31-8-2020 at 16:40

Dr. Bob,
I have read the Gergel books. They were interesting reads. My first job after my undergraduate degree was quite an adjustment going from "school-sized" glassware to doing syntheses in 2- and 5- gallon wide-mouth jars (complete with bails). We were making biologically active compounds in a former foundry which still looked like a former foundry. And I remember getting high on the fumes from alcohol and ether washes using a 60cm Buechner funnel in a small "room" made of plywood as a clean room in the foundry...those were the days.

I would certainly pass your books along after I read them.
In fact, if anyone is interested in the Power Unseen book, I will send (USA only please) it to the first one who contacts me by U2U.

arkoma - 31-8-2020 at 17:37

OP's book.Enjoy.

book

*edit* Max Gergel's books are sure worth reading.


[Edited on 9-1-2020 by arkoma]

ShotBored - 1-9-2020 at 13:26

A book I read that I always enjoyed for the interesting topics, although it doesn't really get very technical, is "The Genie in the Bottle: 67 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life" by Dr. Joe Schwartz.

The book is definitely geared more towards non-experts, but it is a fun and interesting read nonetheless. I gave it to my professor in university and he quite enjoyed it as well. I recommend!

https://www.amazon.com/Genie-Bottle-Commentaries-Fascinating...


CharlieA - 1-9-2020 at 15:27

ShotBored: Thanks for the reference. I added it to my list to get from the public library; my list is about 75 books long. So many books, so little time!

Fyndium - 1-9-2020 at 23:17

So, when did they start making retorts, flasks etc from glass?

AngelEyes - 2-9-2020 at 01:44

This is well worth a read:

http://lateralscience.blogspot.com/2012/07/ernest-glitch.htm...

There are some free chapters available online there, you have to scroll down a little, but it's very funny and highly scientific (in places). And almost believable too. The mental images some of those stories conjure up...

CharlieA - 2-9-2020 at 16:44

"A book I read that I always enjoyed for the interesting topics, although it doesn't really get very technical, is "The Genie in the Bottle: 67 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life" by Dr. Joe Schwartz."

Well, our library doesn't have this title, but it does have two others, which I added to my "For Later" shelf. :)