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Book Review The Green Flame Surviving Government Secrecy. By A. Dequasie

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In this second edition the small errors in the first have been
largely eliminated. In the article “Alternant hydrocarbon”
propene is wrongly given as an example instead of the ally1
radical. The orbital diagrams in the article “WoodwardHoffmann rules” seem confusing compared with the explanations given in other textbooks. However, the manner of
presentation is, in the end, a matter of personal preference.
The standard of production is remarkably good for a
book in this price bracket. In this respect it stands out from
the flood of books that are poor value for money because the
camera-ready texts vary in print quality and layout (a situation that must be blamed not on the authors but on the
publishers). Two-color printing is used throughout, but the
use of color for emphasis has been applied sparingly. Many
of the figures are printed in the broad margin, which makes
for an easily readable text and also invites browsing. The
book is pleasing to handle and use, both with regard to its
outward form and its content.
Although this book is, of course, not a substitute for a
textbook on quantum mechanics, it can be strongly recommended as an aid to finding one’s way around the field and
as a reference manual to use in conjunction with other reading.
Wolfram Sander
Institut fur Organische Chemie
der Technischen Universitat Braunschweig (FRG)
Chirality and Optical Activity in Organometallic Compounds.
Edited by I.: I. Sokolov. Gordon and Breach, New York,
1990. VIII, 145 pp., hardcover $ 110.00.-ISBN 2-88124714-1
“Optically active compounds” and “chirality” are terms
that were, until not very long ago, associated only with organic chemistry. Only gradually did it come to be appreciated that the principles of asymmetry could be carried over to
organometallic compounds, if one surrounded a metal center with chiral organic ligands, or constructed it in such a
way as to form a chiral center. The field then developed very
rapidly and in many different directions. V. I. Solokov correctly recognized that there was a need for a systematic treatment of the stereochemistry of organometallic compounds.
He has restricted his treatment to transition metals, a fact
that is not obvious from the title.
The book is divided into four chapters. After an introduction to the basic concepts of chirality in organometallic compounds, a chapter by A. P. Klyagina establishes a relationship between optical activity and electronic structure, based
on the theoretical analysis of circular dichroism (CD) spectra. The book concludes with a description of various structural types of chiral and optically active organometallic compounds and their applications in organic synthesis.
Although the theoretical treatment of CD spectra forms
an important part of the book, it is a preliminary to the main
core, centered on the description of classes of compounds in
Chapter 3. It is undoubtedly difficult to make a representative selection from the great wealth of complexes that have
a metal atom as a chiral center, but even so, the choice of
examples here seems rather strange. Except for the classic
example of [CpMn(NO)(CO)PPh,][PFJ, the opportunity to
sketch the historical development of this field of chemistry
has been missed, and that would certainly have been useful
as an aid to understanding the subject. Instead of this the
reader is expected to refer to an inappropriately large num1096
Verlagsgesellschaft mbH. W-6940 Weinheim. 1992
ber of original papers. Important stereochemical reactions
are introduced by means of examples, but tetragonal-pyramidal complexes are treated much too briefly and their
intramolecular dynamics are not covered at all. In contrast,
planar chiral complexes and chiral metal clusters are treated
in great detail.
Applications to organic synthesis have been confined to
stoichiometric reactions, which is appropriate since most
asymmetric catalysts do not contain organometallic groups.
However, at the end of the book is a list, covering 1 % pages,
of reactions that are catalyzed asymmetrically by optically
inactive organometallic compounds. Surely one could have
done even better by starting from the phenomenon of optical
induction in metal complexes with chiral centers (unfortunately not mentioned), and progressing from this to the
transfer of chirality from the optically active ligand of an
organometallic catalyst onto the coordination center, and
thence to a state-of-the-art analysis of mechanistic studies.
This is a case where less quantity would have meant better
Despite these criticisms one should not overlook the fact
that the book is a first attempt at a clear and up-to-date
presentation of a very heterogeneous body of knowledge (the
literature coverage extends up to 1989). The wealth of detailed information that it contains will make it a valuable
resource for the specialist.
Joachim Wachter
Institut fur Anorganische Chemie
der Universitat Regensburg (FRG)
The Green Flame: Surviving Government Secrecy. By A .
Dequasie. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC
(USA), 1991. XII, 220 pp., hardcover $22.95.-ISBN 08412-1857-9
This is a most unusual and unconventional book that virtually defies categorization. The title refers to the bright
green flame that occurs when pyrophoric boron hydrides
ignite in air, as well as to the youthful, green naivete of the
scientists and engineers who worked with them, and the
cover of the book is quite appropriately colored green. Yet if
one is seeking the kind of chemical and technical information
contained in such monographs as Alfred Stock’s Hydrides of
Boron and Silicon (Cornell University Press, 1933), William
Gerrard’s The Organic Chemistry of Boron (Academic Press,
1961), William N. Lipscomb’s Boron Hydrides (w. A. Benjamin, 1963), or Herbert C. Brown’s Boranes in Organic
Chemistry (Cornell University Press, 1972), one will be disappointed. This is not a systematic treatise on boron hydrides, although some of the chemistry of these intriguing
compounds is discussed, along with pertinent chemical equations. Rather it is the anecdotal, personal reminiscences of a
sexagenarian recalling his activities and adventures as a
young (23-29 years old) chemical engineer working from
1953 to 1960 for the U.S. Government on secret research to
develop a boron-based jet and rocket super fuel for the
Army’s Project Hermes and Navy’s Project Zip.
The writing career of the author, who received his B.S. in
chemical engineering in 1950 from the University of Pittsburgh and who spent the period 1951- 1953 as a writer in the
U S . Army Chemical Corps, is as unconventional as this, his
third, book. Dequasie’s previous books are The Dragonslayers (Carlton, 1972), a medieval satire, and Thirsty walker,
1983), a western novel. In 1983 he received the Medicine Pipe
0S70-0833/92/0808-l096$ 3 . 5 0 + .2S/O
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 1992, 31, N o . 8
Award of the Western Writers of America, of which he is a
member. His writing skills are evidenced by the entertaining
and easygoing style of his latest book, which, despite the
inclusion of many chemical engineering details, is readily
accessible to the general reader.
The 13-chapter book begins with the author’s acceptance
of an assignment on a classified government project without
knowing what the job was and having been misled as to
where the work was to take place (he thought that he would
be employed at Olin Mathieson’s Niagara Falls plant, but
instead he was assigned to the same company’s boron fuels
pilot plant at the Malta Rocket Test Station at Malta, New
York). Dequasie managed pilot plants and assisted in the
design of the first commercial plant until the project, which
consumed about a billion dollars (as measured in 1990 dollars) in the construction alone for eight plants was abandoned on August 10,1959, shortly before production was to
begin in earnest. The project was terminated because of excessive costs but primarily because boric oxide, one of the
combustion products of boron fuels, is a solid, which caused
problems of erosion and deposits in the engines and produced less thrust than if the combustion product were a gas.
This unsurmountable defect should have been recognized
before the project was even begun.
The boron hydrides not only ignited spontaneously in air,
but they possessed nerve-gas toxicity, making gas masks routine equipment for project workers. Boron hydride poisoning, nicknamed “the goodies”, was also rumored to cause
sterility or impotence. Furthermore, in combination with
solvents and other substances, boranes were explosive, and
eight persons were killed in explosions during the course of
the project. Dequasie strikingly recounts these “hazards at
every turn” and other chemical and engineering challenges
along with quotidian problems such as testing valves, filling
cylinders, changing vacuum pump oil, scaling up reactions,
cleaning pots, and dealing with broken pipes, toxic exposures, shock waves, and the like. He also discusses at length
after-hours activities such as snowball fights, pinochle and
drinking parties, girl-chasing, dating, swimming, fishing,
camping, canoeing, hiking, cooking, flying lessons, social
clubs, ball games, explorer scout leadership, and bachelor
life in general. In his own words, the book is “not a
documentary about high-level administrative decisions
[but]. . .the story of the project as lived by front-line, handson people.” The 56 illustrations consist of snapshots of project workers, plant maps, documents, newspaper articles,
scenery, buildings, equipment, airplanes, and even a groundhog. A 10-page (2 columns per page) index adds to the utility
of the volume.
As those of us who have worked under government security clearance can testify, work on such projects carried out
during the cold war era was complicated by the stringent
secrecy imposed by concerns with national security. In keeping with the subtitle of his book, Dequasie fully considers
these problems. He makes extensive use of hundreds of newspaper and technical magazine articles and recollections of his
project colleagues to reinforce his own memories, and he
uses recently declassified documents to, in his own words,
“fill in things I had not known.” He speculates on the possible existence of spies and sabotage but leaves the ultimate
decision about these to the reader.
Although the boron hydrides were an expensive failure as
aircraft fuels, this engaging story of the boron fuels project
is much more than a history of chemical engineering or a
secret government project. It vividly captures the life and
vibrancy of an era. It can also serve as a cautionary tale, for
Dequasie declares that “today’s chemists, engineers, and
Angeu. Chrm. Int. Ed. Engl. 1992, 31. No. 8
0 VCH Verlagsgesellschafr mbH.
budding scientists still in school should be aware of the lessons learned by our experience. This book is designed to help
others to avoid repeating our mistakes.”
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno
Fresno, CA (USA)
Band Theory of Solids. An Introduction from the Point of
View of Symmetry. By S . L. Altman. Oxford Science PubIications/Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991. XIV, 286 pp.,
hardcover E 37.50.-ISBN 0-19-855184-3
In this book S. L. Altman is concerned with the electronic
properties of solids, with special reference to symmetry principles. In the preface the author explains that the book is
intended partly for solid state physicists; however, he has
also aimed to examine chemical aspects of solid state theory
and to provide solid state chemists with an introduction to
the field. Leaving aside the question of the appropriate readership, the author here offers a survey, written at a very
advanced level, of symmetry aspects of the band structures
of solids. For solid state physicists at least, the book provides
an easier introduction to the subject than, for example, Ziman, Kittel, or Lax. However, the author is perhaps too
optimistic in believing that it will find general acceptance
among theoretical solid state chemists. In order to reach a
quantitative understanding of the symmetry properties of
solids and their band structures, it is essential to work
through a textbook such as this one. However, in the opinion
of this reviewer it is questionable whether chemists will accept this approach. It seems more probable that solid state
chemists will look for an easier, qualitative, way into this
field, and will be content to leave it at that. Even at this level
one can find suitable review articles. Nevertheless, it is to be
hoped that in future chemists will become increasingly involved in the area of solids, and will be prepared to acquire
the necessary working knowledge.
Altman’s book is divided into 14 chapters. At the end of
each chapter there are exercise problems, the solutions to
which are discussed in detail in the appendix. There are over
80 problems altogether, with a steadily increasing level of
difficulty. Nearly all the chapters are well constructed from
a learning standpoint, and they enable the reader to get to
grips with a field that is by no means easy, and demands
some ability to deal with abstract concepts.
Chapter 1 is easily understandable, and explains the basic
principles of the model of free electrons in solids. The wave
vector k is introduced, and the significance of the Fermi
energy and Fermi surface is explained. The density of electronic states and energy bands are also discussed. Chapter 2
gives a very short introduction to the elements of group
theory (19 pp.). Unfortunately this part of the book is too
brief to meet the needs of an introductory text. The book
would be more easily understood by readers who already
have some knowledge of group theory. In the opinion of this
reviewer, the very condensed introduction to group theory is
the only negative aspect of the book. Chapter 3 deals with
space groups, covering such important topics as the Bravais
lattice and the definition of the Seitz operators for handling
point symmetry and translational symmetry in solids. Chapters 4 and 5 then introduce reciprocal lattices, Brillouin
zones, and the Bloch functions for solids. The derivation of
energy bands from the Bloch functions is also explained.
Chapter 6 returns to the theme of Chapter 3 with a discussion of ways of representing space groups. The effects of
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