Explore the science of familiar things -- and discover the 'Joy of Chemistry'

November 16, 2009

If you're like most people, you probably think chemistry is too difficult to bother with outside of school and too clinical to be any fun. But chemistry offers a magic and elegance to behold: from the fascination of fall foliage and fireworks to the fundamentals of digestion (as when good pizza goes bad!) there is a true 'joy' in chemistry. Cathy Cobb and Monty L. Fetterolf, both professional chemists and experienced educators, challenge the perception of chemistry as 'too difficult' and illustrate its concepts in terms of everyday experience, using familiar materials, in THE JOY OF CHEMISTRY: THE AMAZING SCIENCE OF FAMILIAR THINGS (Prometheus Books, $19).

Now in paperback, this highly accessible guidebook to understanding 'everyday enigmas' was named an "Outstanding Academic Title" by the American Library Association's review journal Choice, which highly recommended The Joy of Chemistry, noting it "covers nearly all the subjects found in a chemistry textbook...in a well-written format that would not frighten the most avid science-phobe, with numerous examples from everyday life used to explain the most complicated concepts."

The authors begin with a bang--a colorful bottle rocket assembled from common objects you find in the garage--and then present the principles of chemistry using household chemicals and friendly, nontechnical language. They guide the reader through the basics of atomic structure, the nature of molecular bonds, and the vibrant universe of chemical reactions. Using analogy and example to illuminate essential concepts such as thermodynamics, photochemistry, electrochemistry, and chemical equilibrium, they explain the whys and wherefores of chemical reactions. Hands-on demonstrations, selected for their ease of execution and relevance, illustrate basic principles, and lively commentaries emphasize the fun and fascination of learning about chemistry.

"Think of this as a chemistry education condensed into a single book: a lightning tour of the field for the uninitiated... 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," said Publishers Weekly.

This delightful and richly informative book amply proves that chemistry can appeal to our intuition, logic, and--if we're willing to get down and dirty--our sense of enjoyment too.

NSTA Recommends, in the Journal of College Science Teaching, said, "The Joy of Chemistry is a real joy to read...[it] should be required reading for science teachers at any level...Even teachers who have never enjoyed physical science will gain enthusiasm from this captivating book. Whether for casual reading or as a source of ideas for classroom activities, this should be on your shelf."

But budding chemists are not to be found only in the classroom. According to the Journal of Chemical Education, "This is a wonderful and entertaining book. The title reflects the authors' desire that their work be considered a primer for the curious adult...I cannot think of any chemistry book I have read that has been more successful than this one in meeting such an ambitious goal...extremely well-written. The tone and pacing are reader-friendly...This would be a great book club selection."
About the Authors: Cathy Cobb (Aiken, SC) is the author of Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth (with Monty L. Fetterolf and Jack G. Goldsmith); Magick, Mayhem, and Mavericks: The Spirited History of Physical Chemistry; and Creations of Fire: Chemistry's Lively History from Alchemy to the Atomic Age (with H. Goldwhite). 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 the coauthor with Cathy Cobb and Jack G. Goldsmith of Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth. He is a professor of chemistry at the University of South Carolina at Aiken.

MEDIA NOTE: Cathy Cobb and Monty L. Fetterolf are available to discuss the magic, beauty, and ease of understanding the fundamentals of chemistry using familiar things from our daily lives. Contact Prometheus Books at publicity@prometheusbooks.com or 1-800-853-7545 for author contact information or to request press materials or a review copy of the new paperback edition of THE JOY OF CHEMISTRY: THE AMAZING SCIENCE OF FAMILIAR THINGS (ISBN 978-1-59102-771-3).

Prometheus Books

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