Monthly Archives: January 2012
Contents: Foreword and acknowledgements
1. The age of the Earth – an age-old question; Who thought what and when, and why
2. Atoms old and new; From Democritus toRutherford
3.The banker who lost his head; Lavoisier, gunpowder, revolution, and the birth of modern chemistry
4. From particles to molecules, with a note on homoeopathy; Dalton, Avogadro, Cannizzaro; why did it take so long for the penny to drop?
5. The discovery of the noble gases – what’s so new about neon? A tiny difference in density leads to a whole new group of elements
6. Science, war, and morality; the tragedy of Fritz Haber; Ammonia, explosives, fertilizer, gas warfare, and the most unintended of consequences
7. The ozone hole story – a mystery with three suspects; Volcano, refrigerator, or jet plane?
8. Rain gauge, thermometer, calendar, warning; What a stalagmite tells us about climate past; what history tells us about climate future
9. Making metal; Iron from the sky. From gold to bronze to iron. Philistines and Phoenicians. Domestic uses of arsenic. Smelting and electrolysis. Eros in Piccadilly. The jet age
10. In praise of uncertainty; Philosophically, statistically, quantum mechanically, and computationally unavoidable, which is just as well
11. Everything is fuzzy; And the smaller, the fuzzier. Waves are particles. Particles are waves. The crisis in the atom. More uncertainty.
12. Why things have shapes; How atoms connect. Lewis’s magic cubes. Stealing or sharing. Double counting. The shapes of molecules.
13. Why grass is green or why our blood is red; An old question answered. From sunlight to sugar. A brief history of colour vision. Jumping electrons. Blood and iron.
14. Why water is weird; The hydrogen bond. Floating ice and foreign policy. Molecular recognition and the molecules of life
15. The Sun, the Earth, the greenhouse; Yellow-hot sun, infrared-warm Earth. How the greenhouse really works. When it comes to carbon dioxide, more is more. Disinformation and denialism
16. In the beginning; From Big Bang to small planet. The birth and death of stars. Supernovas and red giants. The making of the elements. Vital dust
Notes, Glossary, Index