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Title

The Book!

Chemistry in Context: Applying Chemistry to Society, sixth edition (CIC), the book for the course, is, like foreign language textbooks, telephone directory-sized, 8½ inches by 11, but, mercifully, at ¾ of an inch, it’s not as thick as one. I’m hoping it has more narrative drive than the last book of this size I dealt with, Kontakt, a textbook for German that I used about 15 years ago.

January 19, 2010
 
 

Chemistry in Context: Applying Chemistry to Society, sixth edition (CIC), the book for the course, is, like foreign language textbooks, telephone directory-sized, 8½ inches by 11, but, mercifully, at ¾ of an inch, it’s not as thick as one. I’m hoping it has more narrative drive than the last book of this size I dealt with, Kontakt, a textbook for German that I used about 15 years ago. I thought Kontakt was weak on both plot and character development so much so that I really ceased to care about Otto and Hannah’s trips to the supermarket and the train station, and even their discussions of the weather paled no matter how dramatically “kalt und windig” the day happened to be. Indeed, I began to care so little that now I’m not even certain that the protagonists were really called Otto and Hannah -- compare that to, say, The Godfather with it’s unforgettable tale of the Corleone family and you begin to see my problem.

The cover is predominantly green and features the image of a spider’s web, sans spider, and announces itself as “A Project of the American Chemical Society,” a society, I’m guessing, of chemists who are trying to make students more chemically conscious. There are also four authors listed inside, Eubanks et. al., so I’m looking at a book which required four authors and a professional society to produce it. What’s with these people? Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather all on his own.

Okay, enough dodging, open it! The first flip through reveals text, illustrations, and what I assume are formulae, but are certainly something involving numbers and squiggly symbols. Good, I can imagine being able to understand this, assuming I don’t have to bother with the formulae.

The preface begins, “Following in the tradition of the it’s first five editions, the goal of … CIC … is to establish chemical principles on a need-to-know basis within a contextual framework of significant social, political, economic, and ethical issues.” Not exactly “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and surely an unassailable argument against writing by committee. But in the remaining two paragraphs of the introduction to the preface (the preface to the preface?), the authors inform me that I don’t “needto know” all that much about chemistry in order “to make informed and reasonable decisions about technology-based issues.”

I’ll leave aside the assumption that people with information are bound to make reasonable decisions and the difficulty in ever defining ‘reasonable’ and offer a heartfelt “YES!!!” at the news that I don’t need a Ph.D. in chemistry in order to make decisions. Things are looking up.

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