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Book Review Molecules and Life. An Introduction to Molecular Biology. By M. V. Volkenstein

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Molecules and Life. An Introduction to Molecular Biology.
By M . K Volkenstein. Plenum Press, New York-London
1970. 1st ed., xii, 513, pp., 207 figs., numerous tab., bound,
Physicists who had become tired of their subject may boast
of having opened the field of molecular biology. Provided
that they are not regarded merely as molecular geneticists,
they can be said to have used the tools and the underlying
philosophy of physics to place biology on a quantitative
footing. Since then any physicist writing on a topic such as
molecules and life has always aroused great expectations. In
the present case, however, these expectations have not been
fulfilled; this is not a work of startling originality, but rather
a mediocre presentation of biochemistry from the viewpoint
of a physicist, i. e. without any chemistry. The fundamentals
of physical chemistry and information theory are painsstakingly laid out, and an attempt is made to use them to
describe biological processes mathematically. This is
certainly valid, very important, and it has never been
correlated in a book in this way before. But whom is it
going to help? The many biological platitudes will be of
no use to the physicist, though they may well bring a smile
to the face of the biologist; he in his turn will not understand
the physical topics in the manner in which they are presented. The book is thus a failure, although it must be admitted
that all the physical problems are derived in a completely
unambigous manner. They remain, however, just as dull
as the entire surrounding structure, which has been diligently but unimaginatively stuffed full of facts. There is a
great need for a textbook of biophysical chemistry or
physical biochemistry, or whatever one may choose to call
it, but this book will not make any student enthusiatic over
molecular biophysics.
Some absurdities in the text are not the fault of the translation, which could not get far enough away from the original, as a comparison with the German edition will show.
In both cases one is assured that the manuscript has been
specially revised for that particular language version. Personally, I was unable to find any differences, and in some
cases even the same slips occur (e.g. “lamp filament chromosome”).
A truly stimulating textbook on molecular physics still
remains to be written. When it appears, let us hope that
the author is not so much of a self-made biologist, and also
has a fresher style of writing.
L. Jaenicke [NB 981 IE]
Art in Organic
Synthesis. By N. Anand, J. Bindra and
S. Ranganathan. Holden-Day, Inc., San Francisco 1970.
1st ed., xiv, 414 pp., numerous figs., bound, $ 11.00.
“There is excitement, adventure, and challenge, and there
can be great art, in organic synthesis”. With these words
of R. B. Woodward, one of the great pioneers in organic
synthesis, as a motto, the authors have collected together
in alphabetical order more than 100 examples of post-I940
syntheses which are characterized by their intelligent planning and their use of novel reactions and reagents. The
compounds synthesized are natural products or unusual
or strained molecules which were prepared in order to
confirm their predicted properties. A few examples will
give an idea of the high standard of selection : aflatoxin B,,
Angew. Chem. internat. Edit./ Vol. 10 (1971) J No, 8
aromatic (C,OJ- ions (squaric acid, etc.), normal and
bridged annulenes, bullvalene, chlorophyll, colchicine,
Dewar benzene, a-ecdysone, helicin, morphine, penicillin,
quinine, twistane, and vitamin BIZ. Each synthesis is
presented clearly and concisely, with a short introduction
ofprinciples and special features,a clearly presented reaction
scheme, and literature references. The indexes at the end
of the book are arranged by names of reactions, types of
reaction, reagents, authors, and substances. The literature
has been reviewed up to the middle of 1969. There are a
few printing errors and some unhelpful abbreviations, but
these hardly detract from the usefulness of the book.
This work is more than a collection ofexamples for seminars
and lectures on organic synthesis. It offers the practising
chemist an invaluable guide to the selection of analogous
reactions, methods and reagents and also serves as a
literature source. Particular attention is paid to the
strategies (so important in the solution of complex synthesis
problems) for the selection of key and relay compounds,
converging synthetic routes, etc. Since the selection of
syntheses is representative, there is also the possibility of
using the frequency of references in the reaction name
index as a highly informative indication of the range of
possibilities of a given method in research and teaching.
The book can be recommended as a valuable information
source for all branches of organic chemistry.
Burchard Franck [NB 983 IE]
Molten Salts. Characterizationand Analysis. Ed. by G. Mamantou. Marcel Dekker, New York 1969. 1st ed., xvi,
611 pp., bound, $16.75.
This book contains twenty papers from a symposium held
at Atlantic City in September 1968. The first three contributions deal with the fundamental ideas of structure and
energetics of molten salts, the concept of complex ions in
ionic melts, and relationships with phase equilibria. The
next six papers concern the results of ultraviolet, infrared,
and Raman spectroscopy, NMR spectroscopy of ”’Tl salt
solutions, and the use of neutron diffraction in the study
of short-range order. In the four papers devoted to transport, the introduction of the glass-transition temperature
for the treatment of low-melting systems is noteworthy, as
also are the proof of electron conduction, e. g. in Cu’/Cu”
halide solutions, and the use of ultrasonic relaxation. The
other papers are on miscellaneoustopics, inchding distribution equilibria between metal and fluoride melts, doublelayer capacity at dropping electrodes, solubility of halogens,
electrode reactions in fluoride melts, chronopotentiometric
studies, and lastly the thermochemistry and mechanism
of redox reactions of oxygen in nitrate melts.
A11 the contributions include recent research results relating
to a more or less limited part of the entire field ; however,
most of them take the form of comprehensive reviews, and
from the subject viewpoint they are brought together in
such manner that even the reader new to the subject will
obtain a full and up-to-date picture.
There is also a great deal of detailed information on experimental techniques and material problems. The book
is thus of interest not only to those immediately concerned
with the chemistry of molten salts, but also to anyone
concerned with chemical processes at high temperatures.
Hubert Kuhnl
[NB 984 IE]
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introduction, molecular, book, molecules, biologya, volkenstein, life, review
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