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Giant Molecules: From Nylon to Nanotubesby Walter Gratzer
Synopses & Reviews
Our lives are dominated by giant molecules, which have remarkable properties, some of which are only just being discovered and exploited by science, though many have long been exploited far more effectively by Nature. Giant molecules dominate our lives - from the proteins and DNA within us to the man-made fibres of our clothes and the many plastics that we use every day. And they are set to have an enormous impact on the future, as scientists and engineers learn from nature (biomimetics), and utilize the full potential of tiny carbon nanotubes. The possibilities may seem like science fiction - a space station tethered to Earth by cables of giant molecules, tiny molecular vehicles carrying and dispensing drugs in our bodies, smart materials that adjust automatically to optimize our comfort, minute computers utilizing the information storage capacity of DNA - but they are the subjects of cutting edge research.
Walter Gratzer gives a fascinating account of the discovery and variety of giant molecules, how they come to have their remarkable properties, and how these are used by Nature and increasingly by us, pausing now and again to tell of some of the remarkable characters involved in their discovery and development.
Book News Annotation:
Gratzer (biophysics, Kings College, London), presents this engaging story of giant molecules, from their discovery in the early twentieth century, to the controversy surrounding their existence and their multitude of uses in science and industry. An opening chapter explains the basic chemistry of polymers, laying the groundwork for what is a highly readable discussion of their many forms, from DNA, enzymes and proteins, to nylon, graphite and carbon nanotubes. The work includes numerous illustrations, diagrams and chemical formulas and will appeal to general readers interested in chemistry and the history of science. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Macromolecules are, in a sense, life itself. DNA is one of these giant molecules, as are the proteins that govern the workings of the human body. Yet macromolecules also comprise some of the most artificial constructs, including plastics, polymers, and nanodevices limited only by the scientific imagination. In this splendid book, Walter Gratzer explores the history, structure, and properties of the many-varied macromolecules. Despite their centrality to life, they were long believed to be impossible. Gratzer tells the story of their discovery, explaining the chemistry behind these extraordinary structures in easily accessible terms. He describes how scientists have learned to manipulate them, from designer proteins to thermoplastics, from cosmetics to smart polymers. Now this remarkable field is a meeting ground of the natural and artificial, as seen in biomimetics, gene-splicing, and plans for DNA-based computers. With up-to-the-minute expertise and clear, lively language, Gratzer takes readers to the cutting edge of applied science, where imminent developments promise to revolutionize our lives.
About the Author
Walter Gratzer is an Emeritus Professor of Biophysics at King's College in London. He is the author of such books as Eurekas and Euphorias, Terrors of the Table, and The Undergrowth of Science: Delusion, Self-Deception, and Human Frailty.
Table of Contents
1. Before the dawn
2. The basics - a little chemistry
3. Proteins - from skin and bone to enzymes
4. Storage: of food and information
5. The protean element: carbon in new guises
6. The plastic world
7. The quiddity of polymers: shapes, sizes, and their effects
8. The new age: giant molecules for the 21st century
9. Present and future: where will it end?
10. The many faces of DNA
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