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The Joy of Chemistry: The Amazing Science of Familiar Things Hardcover – February 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1591022312 ISBN-10: 1591022312 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (February 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591022312
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591022312
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Think of this as a chemistry education condensed into a single book: a lightning tour of the field for the uninitiated. What the work lacks in depth is made up for in breadth, covering all the material of a general chemistry course along with organic, inorganic and analytical chemistry and biochemistry; there's even a chapter on forensic chemistry. Cobb and Fetterolf, professors of chemistry at the University of South Carolina, avoid math and focus on real-world examples. They explain everything from flatulence (the chemical composition of intestinal gas) to pizza cheese (why mozzarella rather than, say, parmesan?). This may sound a lot like the dozens of introductory chemistry books on the market. But unlike most others, this book comes with a lab component (supplies not included). Every chapter is preceded by an experiment (some quite complicated) using household goods, though someone inexperienced in laboratory techniques may find the directions difficult to follow. The explanations of principles fly past, and Cobb and Fetterolf avoid oversimplifying the chemistry, which may leave some readers confused. Whether or not readers fully understand the principles of chemistry by the end of the book, they will at least have a better understanding of the world around them and enough everyday trivia to hold their own at a cocktail party. B&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Cathy Cobb (Aiken, SC) is the author of Magick, Mayhem, and Mavericks: The Spirited History of Physical Chemistry and, with H. Goldwhite, Creations of Fire: Chemistry’s Lively History from Alchemy to the Atomic Age. She is currently an instructor of calculus and physics at Aiken Preparatory School and an adjunct professor of chemistry at the University of South Carolina at Aiken.

Monty L. Fetterolf (Aiken, SC) is professor of chemistry at the University of South Carolina at Aiken.

More About the Author

Greetings! My name is Cathy Cobb and I am the author of five books on chemistry and the history of chemistry for the lay reader:
Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth;
Joy of Chemistry (also in Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic);
Magick, Mayhem, and Mavericks;
Creations of Fire; and now, I am proud to say, my latest effort
*********************** The Chemistry of Alchemy ***********************
perhaps my favorite so far.

The Chemistry of Alchemy is a book of reenactments of alchemical practices including growing gold and silver trees; producing the philosophers' stone, complete with peacock's tail; and, of course, transmutation. My coauthors and I decided to do the book because we found our intellectual ancestors, the alchemists, to be passionate, freewheeling visionaries, willing to risk the gallows, prostitute their intellect, and impoverish themselves and their families for the sake of a dream--and we wanted to know why. Why did they think they could make gold, and what kept them at their fires failure after failure? We knew answers would not come from words or old engravings, but had to be experienced first-hand, which led to the development of the demonstrations of alchemical procedures--and also led to substantial problems.

We found recipes, recopied by medieval scribes, with errors or omissions. We found several different ingredients had the same name and several names for the same ingredient. We found frustrating poetic descriptions rather than step-wise procedures and ironically, as a result, we succeeded in our quest to experience what the alchemists experienced: we spent hours over boiling beakers, tried many methods that didn't work, reasoned, guessed, and then finally threw everything in the pot out of desperation--took deep breaths and regrouped, returned to the books, searched for hints and explanations--and finally, after many fruitless hours--experienced moments of glorious success.

We witnessed magnificent reactions with amazing colors, astounding evolutions, and fascinating promise. By seeing some of what they saw, feeling some of what they felt, and suspending for just a moment our critical, informed, perspective and embracing the wonder of the unexplained, we beheld magic--and gained our answer to what kept them at the fire: the love of the smell, the smoke, the heat, the fumes, the foam, the fizz, the colors, and the gleam--in short, for the love of chemistry, which we love too.

So in this book we invite you: be the alchemist! And you'll love it, too.

But I haven't always been a chemist (or alchemist for that matter) and by my estimate, I've had a very interesting life. Seventeen in '67, the Summer of Love, I've been a waitress, a secretary, cook, clerk, hippie, hitchhiker, bartender, dancer, teacher, truck farmer, and mom. And through it all, I've been a writer because I love telling stories.

As a kid, I told stories to teachers, neighbors, strangers--anybody who would listen. I started sending stories to magazines--and collecting rejection slips--when I was twelve, and finally, in my thirties, I sold my first story to Easyriders.

I worked with an excellent editor at Easyriders by the name of Savage. He schooled me in grammar (in no gentle terms) and told me to write for my audience, but never sell out. Because of his grudging guidance, I have the following credits at Easyriders and other biker magazines.

Easyriders, April 1993, p. 137.
Easyriders, April 1991, p. 109.
Easyriders, August 1989, p. 77.
Easyriders, February 1989, p. 37.
Easyriders, July 1988, p. 37.
Easyriders, November 1988, p. 55.
Outlaw Biker, April 1991, p. 33.
Biker, April 1990, p. 29.
Biker, December 1990, p. 28.
Biker, August 1990, p. 29.
American Iron, March 1991, p. 24.
American Iron, January 1991, p. 50.
American Iron, December 1990, p. 50.
American Iron, August 1990, p. 24.
American Iron, July 1990, p. 28.
American Iron, April 1991, p. 50.
American Iron, June 1990, p. 4.
American Iron, February 1990, p. 52.
American Iron, July 1990, p. 28
Harley Women, February 1991, p. 26.

In 1993, I sold my last story to Easyriders because I signed the contract for my first full-length book. Surprise! It wasn't about bikers; it was a history of chemistry. You see, between the ages of 30 and 38 I decided I needed a day job, so I went back to school and ended up with a PhD in chemistry. Hey, you never know . . .

My editor at Plenum and then Prometheus, Linda Regan, was another taskmaster. Apparently writers need people of steel to tell them how to write, and Linda performed this function for me. With Linda's prodding, I produced four full-length works: two on the history of chemistry (Creations of Fire and Magick, Mayhem, Mavericks) and two elucidations of chemistry (Joy of Chemistry and Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth). My friends and coauthors have been Harold Goldwhite (Creations of Fire, The Chemistry of Alchemy); Monty Fetterolf, who also fulfilled the function of husband; (Joy of Chemistry, Crime Scene Chemistry, The Chemistry of Alchemy); and Jack Goldsmith (Crime Scene Chemistry). Linda Muse was our excellent illustrator, and my other partners in crime are my sons--Mathew, Benjamin, and Daniel--who managed to put up with their eccentric mom.

So, in my sixties, I'm ready to return to my roots. I have restarted writing short stories, but my biker days are done. Now, a bit closer to the grave, I'm writing suspense and horror and having a ghoulishly good time doing it. Linda Muse, who is responsible for the creepy cover art for these shorts, gave me the idea to incorporate the history of chemistry because, believe it or not, there are some pretty lively--and deadly--characters in chemistry.

So there you have it, my life, and it's time for me to get back to writing stories so I can share them with you. I hope you buy them, enjoy them, and pass on my name. I hope they amuse you and encourage you and you have a long and interesting and eccentric life, too.

Customer Reviews

I recommend it for chemistry students.
The book was clearly well written and actually easy to follow, which is not always the case for chemistry books and text books.
Elliot Boschwitz
I started reading it to refresh my memory, and kept losing track of the book as my son kept stealing it!
Kerstin K. Katko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By K. L Sadler VINE VOICE on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've been teaching hearing students at a local community college chemistry for the last two years, and enjoying it immensely. What I have not enjoyed was trying to find a decent textbook to use. The one we are currently using by Karen Timberlake is pretty good, especially given the horrendous book I started out with. However, I've been looking for some more chem books that can bring chemistry not down to the level of the students, but rather illustrate how chemistry is involved in our daily world.

The first book I got was a great book on the individual elements. that still wasn't what I was looking for. This book by Cobb and Fetterolf was exactly what I was looking for. Not only did it have experiments that I can use as demonstrations prior to my student's own labs, but it also provides significant background and understanding into all the important chemistry concepts. Loads of black and white illustrations, and just a good book overall. I noticed the first review on the back of the book was by the author of our current chemistry textbook, Timberlake...thought that was funny though not necessarily a selling point originally for me.

I didn't get the title "The Joy of Chemistry" until they mentioned the other two famous books with titles beginning with "The Joy of ...." Cute trick. Won't be selling this book off any time in the near future, as I am just now finishing reading it the first time and now I am going back with a 'fine-tooth' comb over the entire book and take out what I can use for different chemistry labs and classrooms.

Karen sAdler

Science Education
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By mableroad on March 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book (though skeptical of the title)because my son is getting interested in chemistry. I found it to be very instructive and the demonstrations to be clear and fun too! I would recomend this book to anyone with a budding interest in chemistry - it is layed out very well and easy to follow - and most of all it doesn't read like a text book. My son and I had a good time going through it - though I think I had more to learn than he did. I enjoyed it so much that I picked up another of Cobb's books, Creations of Fire and found it equally compelling.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Judith Dailey on March 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's impossible in our fearful age to buy a good chemistry set-- until now. Who would have thought it would come as a book? Cobb's text is fun, easy to understand, and illustrates fundamental principles. Best of all, the experiments work! Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Many titles assume chemistry facts should best be left to the weighty college-level text: not so Cathy Cobb and Monty Fetterolf's Joy Of Chemistry: The Amazing Science Fo Familiar Things, which relates basic chemistry concepts to everyday life instead of complex math formulas alone. Chapters blend science, invention history, and a lively survey which translates chemistry concepts to real-life examples. Yes, there are formulas and scientific notes - but also a wonderful layman's language which makes Joy Of Chemistry accessible to a wider audience than most.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on February 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The big three sciences are biology, chemistry and physics, although an argument could be made that biology is merely a sophisticated type of chemistry and chemistry merely an extension of physics. All three are important, but when it comes to writing for the general reader, physics and biology seem to get the bigger slices of the publishing pie (especially when extending into subcategories like ecology or astronomy). The Joy of Chemistry, however, addresses this deficiency and offers a good introduction for the lay reader for this central science.

The focus on The Joy of Chemistry is not only on theory but how chemistry fits into the real world. For this reason, writers Cathy Cobb and Monty Fetterolf not only offer real-life illustrations but also provide experiments for the reader to try out. For example, an early chapter on the periodic table is preceded by the recipe for an experiment that exposes copper and aluminum wire to lye to show how two different metals react to a chemical. Then the chapter itself discusses the table and how it is derived, and how certain groups have similar chemical reactions; since copper and aluminum are not in the same group, they react differently.

The majority of the book deals with the ways chemistry works, from reactions to solutions to crystallization. The second portion of the book discusses various types of chemistry, including organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry and analytical chemistry.

Even if you're not inclined to do the experiments (I wasn't), there is still plenty of good, informative material in this book. There are little mistakes here and there such as one point where the text states that two like magnetic poles attract each other, but overall, there aren't many flaws. If your knowledge of chemistry is weak - or if you're just looking for a refresher - The Joy of Chemistry will be a good resource.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While laced with humor, this is a very serious book, and truly a joy. What most surprised me is its willingness to tackle in some fashion all the deepest theoretical findings and issues. They may simplify, but are careful never to misstate. In comparing the dual nature of light, wave and particle, to a pet cat, both wild (when stalking birds) and domestic, the authors are less scientific than usual, but even this analogy contributes to understanding. Given my own confusion, I was glad to learn that "no one has completely explained" why a moving current causes magnetism. The authors do a really good job with chemical attraction, and explain that "all bonds have a bit of each quality - covalent, ionic and metallic - to a greater or lesser degree". I did find some of the references to entropy in explanations a bit unsatisfying, and I think it is because the authors were trying to avoid any discussion of probability.

There is a wealth of information. Despite having taken chemistry, years ago, I learned for the first time such things as what distinguishes a diesel engine, and how cheese is made. I did not actually do any of the many experiments described, but got a lot out of just reading about them. "The Joy of Chemistry" is a great book for anyone interested in science, whether or not you have ever taken a chemistry course.
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