Science in Fiction
This is just a fun page where I make some notes on a few books which caught me eye for their use of chemistry or science. Certainly there are many more which could be listed. If you have a favorite which you would like to add, send me some email. The books vary in quality.
The Cobra Event: Richard Preston, 1997 ISBN 0-345-40997-3
This book contains a lot of biotechnology. It is centered around an attempt to genetically engineer a killer virus and the CDC/FBI efforts to trace the origin of a mysterious illness. If accurate, it shows just how easy it is to produce such a weapon of you have a little knowledge and a few of the right tools. Fun, fast reading.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson 1886 ISBN 0-451-52138-2
My all time favorite example of analytical chemistry gone bad. This is mostly due to the wrong question being asked. Dr. Jekyll needs his 'back-to-Jekyll' drug, but the potion keeps failing despite his efforts to obtain and further purify the necessary chemical. Why? Because the effect was produced by an impurity in the original drug - thus each more purified version is less effective than the one before it!
Mars: Ben Bova 1992 ISBN 0-553-56241-x
There are several examples (mostly simple) of chemistry in this science fiction work. First there are some very nice explanations for the colors of various Martian rocks. But more importantly, a major plot feature involves an oxidation, a term the author uses without explanation I was happy to note. I don't want to say too much about this since it might ruin the plot. But it was nice to see chemistry play such a major role in the plot. Very fun reading.
The Andromeda Strain: Michael Crighton 1969 ISBN 0-345-37848-2
An excellent book about the investigation of a satalite contaminated by some sort of 'space bug'. The key to killing the bug comes with the realization that, like many enzymes, its activity is strongly pH dependent. The movie is pretty good, too.
Acceptable Risk: Robin Cook 1994 ISBN 0-425-15186-7
First, this book is centered around the drug ergot and the attempt to develop it into an antidepressant. Ergot and its physiological effect (one of which is hallucinations) offer a possible explanation for the events leading to the Salem witch trials. Ergot is a parasitic fungus which may have contaminated the communities rye stores. But more interesting to me is the mention (on several pages) of capillary electrophoresis and micellar electrokinetic chromatography!!
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