Archive for the ‘research’ Tag

More than scientific inquiry   Leave a comment

The best books are those you don’t want to pick up because once you do, you don’t want to put them down. It’s a conundrum.  Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is one such book. It’s a love story (on many levels) wrapped in science, specifically chemistry.

Elizabeth Zott is not a woman to be dismissed. Even after her post-graduate education is derailed due to sexual assault, she’s relentless in her pursuit of science.

Well ahead of her time in the late 1950s early ‘60s, she refuses to let her gender restrict her dreams, nor does she allow her good looks to dictate how’s she’s perceived. She’s exceptionally intelligent with a strong sense of self and a desire to be a chemist in the male-dominated scientific community.

She’s hired at a research lab where she meets Calvin Evans, a socially-awkward but distinguished scientist.  A relationship based on mutual respect, desire and, ultimately, love flourishes despite the ill-will of their colleagues.

Garmus deftly illustrates the sexism and hypocrisy of the era.  Yet, this is not a male-bashing narrative. When circumstances change, Elizabeth finds another way – round-about though it is – to pursue a career in chemistry: she hosts a television cooking show where she takes an unusual approach. Instead of identifying ingredients by their common names, she uses scientific terminology (ie., sodium chloride vs salt). Surprisingly, the program is a hit.

Humor and tragedy are incorporated in equal measures with several endearing characters the reader would love to spend more time with.

Lessons in Chemistry

Five Bookmarks

Doubleday, 2022

390 pages (includes acknowledgements)

Repeat Performances   1 comment

I’m a careful driver, but some days I forget having passed a certain roadside
marker, or I have no recollection of having turned left at the light. Based on
Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, it has less to do with a faulty memory
and is more about habit – the consistent recurrence of a deliberate choice.

Duhigg looks at habit from three perspectives: personal, corporate, and socie-
tal. The first two are the most fascinating and well-developed. With thorough
research and a conversational style, Duhigg relates scientific studies about
individuals and the patterns their brains establish to create habits. The author
considers individuals who completely alter their lifestyles by choice, as well
as those whose lives are changed by trauma or illness. He identifies three ne-
cessary elements: cues, routines, and rewards needed to establish habits.

The most interesting, albeit disturbing, aspects are found in the corporate view.
Duhigg reinforces what we already know: our spending habits are not secret.
This loss of privacy is not a new concern, but how we lose it is disconcerting.
Duhigg examines everything from how employees are trained to respond, to how
data is manipulated. The book’s weak link comes as Duhigg combines habitual
actions that evolve into addiction with those resulting from a physical medical
condition when examining societal aspects.

Although the focus of the book is to consider “why we do what we do in life and
business,” Duhigg does offer some suggestions for breaking the triad of habit,
which might be worth a try.

The Power of Habit

Three-and-a-half bookmarks
Random House, 2012
291 pages, plus notes and index