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The Molecule as Meme

Jeffrey H Williams


Until the mid-1920s, many physicists did not believe in the reality of molecules. Indeed, it was not until after the physics community had accepted Ernest Rutherford's 1913 solar-system-like model of the atom, and the quantum mechanical model of the coupling of electron spins in atoms, that physicists started to take seriously the necessity of explaining the chemical changes that chemists had been observing, investigating and recording since the days of the alchemists. This volume explores the concept of the molecule as a meme, or idea, that had been accepted in the chemistry community and then diffused outwards into the wider scientific community creating a new field of science, physical chemistry.

About Editors

Jeffrey Huw Williams earned his PhD in chemical physics from at the University of Cambridge in 1981. His most recent position was as the head of publications and communications at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM), Sèvres. Since retirement, he has authored four other books in the IOP Concise Physics series: Defining and Measuring Nature: The make of all things, Order from Force: A natural history of the vacuum, Quantifying Measurement: The tyranny of number and Crystal Engineering: How molecules build solids.

Table of Contents

• Introduction: Are molecules real?
• Chapter 1: Atomism
Greek atomism
The atomic renaissance
Early-modern atomic theory, and the birth of experimental science
• Chapter 2: Order in the kinetic chaos
Going inside the indivisible atom
At the centre of the atom
Wave-like, or particle-like?
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle
• Chapter 3: How molecules have been viewed
Some history
• Chapter 4: The molecular meme: Avogadro and his constant
Measurement of NA by X-ray crystal density (XRCD) methods
The mole, or the quantity of something
• Chapter 5: The reality of molecules
The origin of physical chemistry
Albert Einstein's Ph.D. thesis
Robert Brown and pollen grains
Brownian motion
Final comment
• Chapter 6: A physical chemistry primer
The debate about Brownian motion
Continuum models
Brownian motion and the molecular meme
Osmotic pressure
Brownian motion after Einstein
Jean Perrin's determination of Avogadro's number
• Chapter 7: How is energy partitioned in molecules?
Degrees of freedom
Translational energy and ideal gases
Rotational and vibrational dynamics
The end of classical physics
Heat capacities
Black body radiation and the birth of quantum mechanics
A final point: entropy
• Chapter 8: The quantum mechanical synthesis of chemistry and physics
Coupling electrons together
The angular momenta of multiple systems
Term symbols
The Pauli principle
The Periodic Table of the elements
• Chapter 9: Molecules and emergent properties
Origins of complexity
Complexity arising between atoms
• Chapter 10: Making visible, the invisibly small: The interaction of molecules with electric and magnetic fields
Molecular polarization
The Clausius-Mosotti equation
Equilibrium-averaged dipole moment
The local field
Dynamic electric and magnetic fields
Maxwell's equations
Unit conversion
The polarization of electromagnetic radiation
Linear and circular polarization
• Chapter 11: Optical activity
Some background details about magnetic fields
Experimental and theoretical details of optical activity
The Faraday effect
The Kerr effect
• Chapter 12: From the point of view of the molecule
A vector
Cartesian tensors
Some useful properties of tensors
Isotropic averages of tensors
Collision-induced light scattering
• Conclusion: Molecules as microcosms
Molecular motors
The devil in the detail
Quantum Brownian motors


Paperback ISBN: 9780750329514

Ebook ISBN: 9781643272917

DOI: 10.1088/2053-2571/aadaae

Publisher: Morgan & Claypool Publishers


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