This worthy sequel makes learning chemistry fun with a quartet of inventive board games.



A workbook teaches readers how to balance chemical equations.

This follow-up to Chemistry Games: Volume 1 (2011) gives readers an enjoyable way to study a complex subject. Providing four board games, the volume focuses on teaching students about stoichiometry and the law of conservation of mass. It also seeks to help them memorize the periodic table. Once again, each board is made up of colored squares on the “Outer Path,” which list the elements that each player needs to collect to balance a series of stipulated chemical reaction equations. Players move their pieces on the blank squares of the “Inner Path” by selecting Step Cards. The cards are marked with an element, such as carbon, along with its chemical symbol, atomic number, and the number of protons it has. These games also include Claim Cards, which provide the answers for how to balance the equations in the “Outer Path.” Each board comes with its own periodic table, broken into four sections by the “valence,” or combining power, of the elements. The games are specifically aimed at students who are taking chemistry either at the high school or college level, but they may also be valuable for readers who wish to brush up on the basic, foundational elements of the subject. To anyone else, the offerings will probably be incomprehensible. Gebhart’s (2 Lives in 3 Acts, 2017, etc.) determination to make chemistry accessible and interesting for students, especially by presenting them with a new challenge to explore, is admirable. Best of all, his games can all be reproduced and distributed by educators looking for an innovative way to keep their chemistry classes engaged with the topic. The imaginative work should be especially useful for students struggling with the material in their chemistry classes, who may not expect the curriculum to be amenable to games. The volume subverts the belief that learning the hard sciences has to be difficult or laborious.

This worthy sequel makes learning chemistry fun with a quartet of inventive board games.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4611-3894-5

Page Count: 54

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

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A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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