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The Nature of Life

  1. Oct 20, 2005 #1
    I went to the county library to get a book on Biology 101. I took out the one that looked most promising among the small set of choices. It's called "The Nature of Life" by Postlethwaite and Hopson. It seems like an OK book, but I read this paragraph on page 30 and now I wonder what kind of reputation it has. I have the third printing of the first edition, and I believe it is out in a third edition now, so this may have been repaired already. The paragraph gives an explaination for the stability of the atom.

    Because the nucleus contains both positively charged protons and chargeless neutrons, it has an overall positive charge; by contrast, the orbiting electrons have a negative charge. The attraction between these positive and negative charges pulls the electrons toward the nucleus, but the centrifugal (outward pushing) force of the rapidly orbiting electrons tends to throw them outward, away from the nucleus, like the force of a rock tied to a twirling string. A balance reached between the attractive and centrifugal forces holds the electrons in orbit at a set distance from the nucleus.

    For the benefit of any non-physicists here, this is whole cloth. This explaination is wrong from both a classical and a modern (quantum mechanical) point of view.

    I will probably continue reading the book unless I find out that it has a bad reputation. I note that Amazon.com, which usually has customer reviews, has none for this book.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 20, 2005 #2

    cronxeh

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    Well I wont trust a Biologist to know quantum mechanics, but overall it didn't sound as bad as time cube theory :rolleyes:
     
  4. Oct 20, 2005 #3

    Moonbear

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    I've never heard of that book, but despite cronxeh's comments from the peanut gallery :tongue:, biologists are expected to have a basic understanding of chemistry, and that description is a bit scary to say the least, so I'd be very skeptical of the content of the book. Maybe you should ask the librarian to reclassify it in the science fiction section? :biggrin:
     
  5. Oct 20, 2005 #4
    As I read further I find that while the rest of the physics and chemistry is not wrong, neither is it coherent. I don't see how anyone can read this and come away with an understanding of the basic ideas being discussed. I give this book an F so far.

    Just by chance, I was in a good book store today and had a chance to look at another biology book. This one is by Campbell and Reece. I went straight to the description of atoms at the beginning of the book only to read that the electrons are speeding around the nucleus at nearly the speed of light. Well this is not as egregious as Postlethwaite and Hopson, but it would have been better to say nothing rather than provide this incorrect description.

    Judging from the poor quality of the (small sample of) descriptions of atomic structure, my guess is that biology students do not need to understand the quantum mechanical atom. In that case, why discuss it at all? I remember learning about chemical bonds in high school on the basis of a planetary model of the atom.
     
  6. Oct 20, 2005 #5

    Moonbear

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    Cambell's Biology text is a good one for biology. I don't recall anything about atoms at the beginning of it. I leave that topic for the chemistry classes.
     
  7. Oct 20, 2005 #6

    cronxeh

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    :rofl:

    i'm SUCH a goober head :approve:
     
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