Reaction!: Chemistry in the Movies

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Oxford University Press, 2009 - Performing Arts - 340 pages
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ReAction! gives a scientist's and artist's response to the dark and bright sides of chemistry found in 140 films, most of them contemporary Hollywood feature films but also a few documentaries, shorts, silents, and international films.

Even though there are some examples of screen chemistry between the actors and of behind-the-scenes special effects, this book is really about the chemistry when it is part of the narrative. It is about the dualities of Dr. Jekyll vs. inventor chemists, the invisible man vs. forensic chemists, chemical weapons vs. classroom chemistry, chemical companies that knowingly pollute the environment vs. altruistic research chemists trying to make the world a better place to live, and, finally, about people who choose to experiment with mind-altering drugs vs. the drug discovery process.

Little did Jekyll know when he brought the Hyde formula to his lips that his personality split would provide the central metaphor that would come to describe chemistry in the movies. This book explores the two movie faces of this supposedly neutral science. Watching films with chemical eyes, Dr. Jekyll is recast as a chemist engaged in psychopharmaceutical research but who becomes addicted to his own formula. He is balanced by the often wacky inventor chemists who make their discoveries by trial-and-error.

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Writing this book was a labor of love.


Introduction The Dark and Bright Sides of Chemistry in the Movies
Chapter 1 Dr Jekylls Mysterious Transformative Formula
Chemistry Creates Criminal Opportunities
Chemical Arsenals
The Business of Toxicity
Drug Addiction and Psychoactives
Chapter 6 Inventors and Their Often Wacky Chemical Inventions
Forensic Chemistry and Chemical Detectives
Research and Medicinal Chemists Making a Difference
but Before That SelfExperiment
Conclusion Chemistry in the Movies
Appendix 1 How to Use This Material in the Classroom
Appendix 2 About the Back Cover Art
Movie Index
Subject Index

Learning by Doing

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About the author (2009)

Mark Griep is a chemistry professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who is searching for new antibiotics and who recently received a College Distinguished Teaching Award.

Marjorie Mikasen is a Geometric painter, who recently received an Individual Artist's Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council. Her work is in public and private collections. The authors are married and were awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant in the area of Public Understanding of Science to do the research for this book.

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