...A Grubby Applied Subsidiary...
A Day For Celebration
Very infrequently do I celebrate a Wall Street Journal book review in this blog. (I know: Very infrequently do I do anything in this blog.) Nonetheless, new blogs are a lot less rare than, for example, the element astatine, whose abundance in the earth's crust is estimated as about an ounce. This estimate appears in the 21 September 2013 book review by Peter Persic of A Tale of Seven Elements by Eric Scerri, "a chemist and philosopher of science at UCLA."
If you have been following my Periodic Table Bingo bonus blog, you may have sympathized with my inability to complete Row 6, which was missing the ineffable astatine. I even committed a blog lamenting this state of affairs, The Case of the Haunted Halogens, which ended with the exhortation to please root for my elements. Perhaps Eric Scerri read the exhortation, since his book about seven elements unsurprisingly names them, and I now celebrate the completion of Row 6 with an astatine sighting. And speaking of "bonus," the element francium also makes a literary appearance, increasing the chance that Row 7 will be filled in my lifetime.
Two element sightings in one day!
Chemistry or Physics?
Not to slight the remainder of Persic's review, he writes about the fascinating, ancient natural uranium fission reactor in Oklo in The Gabon, and explains that gold is gold-colored because of relativistic effects, a fact of which I was unaware, and for which I found confirmation in a Wikipedia article. Being picky on my own motion, I would argue that gold would be gold-colored regardless. The gold color factoid leads to the penultimate paragraph of the review, which I quote here in part, largely because I like it.
This example highlights an underlying tension that Mr. Scerri calls the "invasion of the periodic table by physics." He takes pride in the continued integrity of chemistry as an autonomous realm of thought. Though he presents the quantum-mechanical underpinnings of atomic structure, Mr. Scerri wants to disabuse some physicists of their arrogant delusion that chemistry is only a grubby applied subsidiary of their master science.
So thank you, Mr. Persic and Mr. Scerri, and, dare I say it, Bingo!