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

ISBN: 978-0-470-38759-7
250 pages
March 2010
Mirror-Image Asymmetry: An Introduction to the Origin and Consequences of Chirality  (0470387599) cover image


An overview of the importance and consequences of asymmetry from molecules to the macroscopic world

As scientists have become more capable of probing the structure of three-dimensional objects at the molecular level, the need to understand the concept and the consequences of mirror-image asymmetry—chirality—has increased enormously. Written at an introductory level, Mirror-Image Asymmetry provides an overview of the importance and effects of asymmetry from the atomic and molecular world of physics and chemistry to the organisms and structures that we see and use in our everyday life. The reader will develop a broad appreciation of three-dimensional asymmetry from the microscopic molecular world to the macroscopic world of handedness, automobile driving, windmills, sports, and similar phenomena. The book features:

  • An introduction to basic definitions and the nomenclature of asymmetric and dissymmetric molecules

  • Up-to-date examples of the importance and consequences of asymmetry in modern drug applications, current theories of the origin of asymmetry in nature, and examples of molecular asymmetry in smell, taste, and insect communication

  • Many illustrations, chemical structures, and photographs that enable the reader to connect the actual asymmetrical structures to the different phenomena that depend on structural asymmetry

In the 150 years since Louis Pasteur discovered asymmetry in molecular structures, scientists have made great progress in understanding how interactions between chiral molecules influence biochemical processes. This knowledge is leading to very sophisticated asymmetric synthetic techniques that have greatly benefitted many research groups especially those in the pharmaceutical industry. This guide to the role of molecular and macroscopic chirality will inspire students and scientists in chemistry, biology, physics, and drug discovery.

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Table of Contents


List of Figures and Biographic Photographs.

1 The Mirror Image.

2 Molecular Chirality in Living Systems.

3 The Origin of Chirality of Living Systems.

4 Chiral Chemistry, Recognition, and Control in Living Systems.

5 Chirality and Drugs.

6 The Chirality of Living Systems.

7 The Handedness of Homo Sapiens.

8 Living in a Right-Hander's World.

9 The Asymmetric Universe.

List of Figures. 




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Author Information

JAMES P. RIEHL received a BS degree in chemistry from Villanova University in 1970 and a PhD in physical chemistry from Purdue University in 1975. He is currently Dean of the Swenson College of Science and Engineering and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota Duluth, a position he has held since 2000. Dr. Riehl is a frequent invited speaker nationally and internationally on the topic of molecular chirality, and is the author of numerous research publications in the applications of optical spectroscopy to the study of chiral structures. He was the recipient of the St. Louis Award of the American Chemical Society for his outstanding contributions to the chemistry profession, and currently holds a University of Minnesota McKnight Presidential Leadership Chair.
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"Riehl should be commended for presenting an understable introduction to chirality to such a wide audience." (Choice, October 2010).
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