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The Bourbaki Gambit by Carl Djerassi The University of Georgia Press Athens Georgia USA (1994). 230 pages

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Book Reviews
The Bourbaki Gambit, by Carl Djerassi, The University of Georgia
Press, Athens, Georgia,USA (1994). 230 pages. ISBN 0-8203-1652-0.
This is the first work of fiction that I have ever reviewed. I saw it as an interesting
and enjoyable departurefrom my usual "pmfaional" reviewing duties. However,in
the end it was rather a daunting exexcise to evaluate someone's literary and anistic
merits and certainly much harder than reviewing an academic monograph. In the
latter case, it is sufficient to review the content and ideas but a wok of fiction
requires a personal evaluation of whether the text actually works as a convincing and
enjoyable piece of writing. Perhaps in future I will stick to data and theories!
How do you write a review d a work of &tion, even if its subject matter is
grounded in science? Do I divulge the plot, the twistsand tums, and give away the
ending? I have settled for a more general overview of the work, or rather some broad
comments. I will leave the reader to decide if you want to read this work, and
unravel its mysteries without any prior knowledge. What is the basic plot? Four
aging Scientists work and publish under the collectivepseudanym &Professor Diana
Skordylis. Their aim is to exact revenge on the academic beaurocracres
. thatpractice
age disrimination. Eventually the collective vision is defeated by the sel6sh nature
of the individualswho crave recognition and glory for their personal achievements.
It is an interesting and plausible idea, the characters are reasonably realistic,
and the necessary science appears realistic - at least to an engineer! So why didn't I
like thisbookmore, or a least as much as I thought I would when I started reading?
The basic problem is that the characters are not that inmesting, and they only
develop within a limited frame of reference. The two central characters are certainly
less interesting than the bit players. By the end of the book I was not particularly
interested in what happened to these people or to their plan. I really wanted
something a bit more exciting, a bit of intrigue, a bit more humour, and a bit more
pemdity. I CeRainly didn't want James Bond, or car chases, or murder and
mayhem, but I did want something to make me care more about these people.
I believe the essence of a good book or film is that the characters must be well
drawn and believable, and the readerhiewer must actually care what happens to
them. Good characterisation will always overcome deficiencies of plot and
implausible situations. After all, life is merely a series of random events and
unlilrely coincidences! So why not believe it in a work of fiction. This is why the
book didn't work for me. The book was well written with a competent turn of
phrase, but by the time I reached page 230 I just wanted to be rid of these largely
uninteresting and mildly pretentious characters. Perhaps my next fictional =view
will be of a Michael Crichton or William Gibson novel?
Martyns- RaY
Membrane Processes, by R. Rautenbach and R. Albrezht, John Wiley
& Sons, UK (1989, reprinted 1994). 459 pages. ISBN 0-47-191-1100
In the last quarter of this century, membrane separations pmcessahave evolved into
very practical unit operations. In fact, as the authors of Membrane Processes point
out, membrane seprtrations are now seriously consided for any plocess involving
fluid separations. Of the membrane process available, ulmfilmion and rev061110533 have been most successful in their variety ofapplications. These processes
are generally used in the food processing and water treatment indostries.
While, the use. of membranes in separations pnxmses are seemingly simple, in
fact, an & d v e design o f a process for a specific large-scale application can be
quik complicated. The authors feel that more extensive use of membraae processes
can be made if irnpoxtant design c o n s i m are recognized and considued.
Many design co-om
are ntcessary to insure that the most economical process
is considered in evaluating the relevance of membrane pmeses, Thus the authors'
intent ofthis bookis toprovidea single source w ~ m e a n b r a u e p r o ~ ~ ~ ~ dise s i g n
appreciated and the most sisnificant factors in developing an economical m m b e
process are addressed. In particular, their goal is to discuss membraue separation
perraining 00 reverse mosis, urtrafiltration, microfiltration, dialysis, elemxlialysis,
liquid membrane pcesses, gas permeation, and Pervaporation.
The authorsmmgaize that membrane separationhas vastly changed in the last
two decades. Thus, this book is a complete revision of the authors' oxiginal book
Written in 1989. The authors chose to begin this difficult UndertaLing by quickly
introducing the various membrane separation processes and discussing their
simhrities and diffmnces. Next, rather than divide their book into fractions that
covex each of these operations in detail,they chose to firstdiscuss the unifying fheay
that is inhesent in atl membrane processes. This approach is very &ective in that it
eliminates redundaacy that is inevitable when sepame pmxsse~are discussed. The
mtfomchapteas ofthe thirtetn Chapterbodrdiscusses the the!my associated with
membrane mnsport phenomena
The next two chapm discuss design
considedons far CIlsCades and modules. The following three chapters discuss
specificdesign COIlsideTBtions for revem osmosis and uleafiltration. The remaining
four chapters discuss additional pressure-drivenmembrane processes, elemodialysis,
Pervaporation and gas permeation. The bodr conveniently provides a Table a€
Contents for each chapter.
Despite the unifying attempt of Membrune Processes, the book appears to lack
continuity and to be hastily prepared. It is clear &om the beginning that this book is
dominated by discussions on reverse osmosis processes. This is not surprising, since
merseosmosis has beea one ofthe most suuxshl membrane sepamtion pmcesxs
to date. However, the chapters on mass transport and mass aansport resistance rn
mostly about reverse osmosis with some later discussion on ultrafiltration. Transport
phenomena associated with elecmdialysis, pempom'on and gas permeation are
suspended until later chapters which are dewmi specifically b these opera ti or^^.
These chapters appeared afrer several chapters devoted to examples of reverse
osmosis and ultrafiltration in industry. This gave the impression that, despite the
appearance of a unifying structure, the book was not well organized. Other aspects
of the book may lead the reader to this conclusion as well. Almost all of the
photographs am very poorly reproduced. Also, many of the figure captions
contained e x e o n s that are not explained in the text and it appears as though
some of the figures, tables and graphs are not properly referenced. At the end of
each chapter, I was expecting a summarizing statement that was consistent with the
objective of the book particularly after the mass innsport and design chapters, I
would have liked to have seen some statements on how these design features
impacted the economics of membrane separations process design. However the
reader is left to infer the sigaifcance of these design features.
The references used seemed to be outdated and missing, even when one
considers the fact that the book was originally published in 1989. For example, the
discussion on the mass transfer weflicients could have included recent refemces on
the deviations of mass transfer coefficients for membrane separation from heat
transfer analogies. Even though the authors mention almethods to enhancing
shear rate to reduce concentration polarhation, the references to these pmceses are
not given.
Also, the transpo~equations for ultrafiltration used were overly simplified, It
would have been more effective to simply include the general expressions developed
for reverse osmosis and to also include ultrafiltration where applicable. For instance,
concentration polarization is as much as a concern in many ultrafiition pmesses
as it is in revem osmosis. I was also concerned with the authors' decision to
extensively develop some of the mass transfer equations but neglect other
parameters. For instance, the reflection coefficient, which is important in selective
separation,was not mentioned. I was disappointed that at least some discussion was
not devoted to selectivity with respect to pore size distribution or membrane
The book did give a good overview of current industrial practice with
membrane processes, and from this point of view, it is indispensable. The chapters
on cascade prouses and module design provided valuable practical information.
The coverage of revosmosis and ultrat3tration practice was particularly well
presented An effort was made to couple the performance of these processes with
economic significance,however the data seemed to be somewhat out of date. Again,
I thought that the design equations could have been beaer summarized for overall
impact and economic significance.
In summary, Membrune Processes does contain valuable information for
industrial concans who are looking for a source that discusses many of the design
derails in membrane separation pmesses. It can be a valuable reference book to
leam about current designs for membrane processes.
Associate professorV.G.J.Rodgers
Dept of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering
The University of Iowa, Iowa City
Iowa 52241-1219, USA
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gambit, athens, usa, georgia, university, bourbaki, djerassi, carl, pres, 1994, page, 230
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