A small bubble of air remained unabsorbed… if there is any part of the nitrogen of our atmosphere which differs from the rest, and cannot be reduced to nitrous acid, we may safely conclude that it is not more than 1/120 part of the whole… Henry Cavendish


The certitude and confidence with which scientists have always made pronouncements – and the slavish devotion that their followers defend them with – is excelled only by the magnitude of how wrong they often are. Cavendish’s assertion had fallen barely a century after it was made and men like Fisher have done the work to explain what Cavendish could not see. A very worthwhile book for scientists and students of science alike there may be some errors in it but, like new elements, we shall have to wait for them to be discovered – a thing that happens periodically.

Much ado about (practically) nothing : a history of the noble gases David E. Fisher New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2010 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 264 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [245]-259) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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There are eight columns in the Periodic Table. The eighth column is comprised of the rare gases, so-called because they are the rarest elements on earth. They are also called the inert or noble gases because, like nobility, they do no work.

They are colorless, odorless, invisible gases which do not react with anything, and were thought to be unimportant until the early 1960s. Starting in that era, David Fisher has spent over fifty years doing research on these gases, publishing nearly a hundred papers in the scientific journals, applying them to problems in geophysics and cosmochemistry, and learning how other scientists have utilized them to change our ideas about the universe, the sun, and our own planet.

Much Ado about (Practically) Nothing will cover this spectrum of ideas, interspersed with the author’s own work which will serve to introduce each gas and the important work others have done with them.

The rare gases have participated in a wide range of scientific advances-even revolutions but no book has ever recorded the entire story. Fisher will range from the intricacies of the atomic nucleus and the tiniest of elementary particles, the neutrino, to the energy source of the stars; from the age of the earth to its future energies; from life on Mars to cancer here on earth. A whole panoply that has never before been told as an entity.

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