Mirror-Image Asymmetry: An Introduction to the Origin and Consequences of Chirality

The fact that Jim Riehl is a good friend and a former colleague does not mean that I can't recommend his book, does it? I would be writing about Mirror-Image Asymmetry even if I had never heard of this tennis player of limited talent. Jim has written a one-of-a-kind book for teachers and students of spectroscopy, organic chemistry and pharmaceuticals, art and architecture, natural history, and even sports. It reminds me a little of Hargittai and Hargittai's Symmetry Through the Eyes of a Chemist (which recently came out in a new edition), but Riehl focuses (pun intended) on the subtle lack of symmetry between chiral objects, rather than the exploitation of symmetry itself. For chemists, he clearly explains the (R,S) and CIP nomenclatures for chiral molecules, and there are lots of examples of how chirality is important in smell and insect pheromones, in drugs and in architecture. This is a really fun, entertaining and informative book, providing a wealth of analogies between molecular properties and the macroscopic world. It will be valuable to organic, physical, and biochemists, but even non-scientists can skip all those molecular structures and still enjoy the book.

Pick Attribution: 

James P. Riehl

Publication Date: 
Friday, January 1, 2010