Field of Science

The difference between popular chemistry and popular physics

This is from Half Price Books in Redmond, WA which I visited over the weekend. In this world popular physics books are popular physics books. Meanwhile, popular chemistry books are just textbooks.

Of course, as I have noted earlier, the problem is not with Half Price Books or with any other bookstore where this will be a familiar scenario. It's really with the lack of popular chemistry literature compared to popular physics fare, much of which also happens to be repetitive and marginally different from the rest. The great challenge of chemistry is to make the essential but (often deceptively) mundane exciting and memorable.

In a nutshell, the belief is that physics and biology seem to deal with the biggest of big ideas - quantum reality, the origin of the universe, black holes, human evolution - that are largely divorced from everyday experience while chemistry deals with small ideas that are all around us. But the smallness or bigness of ideas has nothing to do with their inherent excitement; witness the glory and importance of the Krebs cycle for instance. In addition, the origin of life is chemistry's signature "big idea". Plus, a conglomeration of small ideas in chemistry - like the evolution of methods for the refinement of various metals or the revolution engineered by polymers - underlies the foundation of civilization itself.

All I can do is point to my list of top 10 favorite chemistry books. Fortunately the occasional chemical splash continues to provide rays of light.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS