From: Wayne Wood <wayne.wood**At_Symbol_Here**MCGILL.CA>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry-oriented science fiction?
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 2015 11:40:52 +0000
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: A723468C-CCB2-4E5C-B7D2-4131570B865C**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <**At_Symbol_Here**>

I second Randy's motion.  The Martian is a must-read especially for emergency responders.  The predicaments faced by the stranded astronaut are so incredible I found it hard to put the book down. Great vacation reading. 


On Aug 11, 2015, at 7:08 AM, "Randy Norman" <rnormanusa**At_Symbol_Here**YAHOO.COM> wrote:

There's a more recent SciFi novel that I read titled "The Martian" by Andy Weir that's coming out soon as a motion picture whose story involves an Astronaut left behind on Mars. He uses all sorts of basic chemistry and engineering, kind of like in the old TV show MacGuyver, to survive until he can be rescued.


From: McGrath Edward J <Edward.McGrath**At_Symbol_Here**REDCLAY.K12..DE.US>
Sent: Monday, August 10, 2015 10:13 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry-oriented science fiction?

You may also want to look at some works by author Robin Cook.  Two in particular:  "Fever" is the story of a doctor whose family lives near asite that a major company is dumping benzene into the local estuary and his daughter contracts leukemia.  My personal favorite is "Acceptable Risk."  In this, a researcher is studying a fungus-based alkaloid for anti-depressant properties, and learns the hard way of unintended side effects.  In a subplot, the story also examines the controversial ergot poisoning theory behind the incidents that led to the Salem Witch trials of 1692.  

One of his more recent books (I don't remember the title) deals with Polonium 210 poisoning (although I think the science in this one is a little off).

Eddi3 McGrath

Sent from Samsung tablet

-------- Original message --------
From ILPI Support <info**At_Symbol_Here**ILPI.COM>= ;
Date: 08/10/2015 8:47 PM (GMT-05:00)
Subject Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry-oriented science fiction?

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is arguably the ultimate story of the environmental impact of a particular chemical, in this case a more-stable than liquid water allotrope called ice-nine.  It is released to the environment and, of course, freezes all liquid water solid.

In a similar vein, Steven King wrote a short story The End of the Whole Mess, about the discovery of a special chemical that reduces human aggression.  The protagonists disperse it worldwide to achieve world peace.  It is only later that the longer term effects of dementia leading to death were discovered, at which point it was too late to stop it.

Both, of course, spring from the countless examples of chemical breakthroughs that have eventually displayed significant undesired consequences - thalidomide, asbestos, fen-phen, phthalates, erythromycin, DDT etc. just to name a few - literally pick your poison.  Monona maintains a similar list five thousand feet long in 8 point type, I'd wager.

Other examples involve any movie with nerve gas as a central theme - for example, The Rock (Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery try to stop terrorists on Alcatraz armed with chemical rockets).  In Moon Raker (James Bond), the antagonist plans to sterilize the Earth with globes of nerve gas dispersed from low orbit.

Various biohazard/plague movies exist - 28 Weeks Later and The Omega Man.  Also Steven King's The Stand.

The Andromeda Strain ties safety protocols and biohazards together very well.  I guess, arguably, the Alien series of movies is also a good biosafety control lesson.  Remember, always declare your alien parasite when passing through Space Customs...

The China Syndrome is a good example of a a coverup culture in place of safety culture, and a nuclear disaster results.

The Day After Tomorrow- which is what you get for ignoring global warming.  You can also apparently ignore basic science.  The scene where the outdoor temperature drops 100 degrees in a minute without a wisp of wind had me tearing my hair out.

A big one is, of course, Breaking Bad - the TV series about a high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin.

A classic example is Flubber, which is about 10^5 times better than its remake, Flubber.

The Manhattan Project - the 1986 movie about a kid from Ithaca, NY who builds an atomic bomb as a science project has a good deal of chemistry/physics and safety in it.

One non-fiction example is Awakenings - the discovery of the beneficial effects of L-Dopa.

OK, enough - I have to start working on my own talk!

Rob Toreki

Safety Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand names
you know and trust.  Visit us at
esales**At_Symbol_Here**  or toll-free: (866) 326-5412
Fax: (856) 553-6154, PO Box 1003, Blackwood, NJ 08012

On Aug 10, 2015, at 5:51 PM, "Stuart, Ralph" <Ralph.Stuart**At_Symbol_Here**KEENE.EDU> wrote:

I'm thinking about the safety culture presentations I'll be giving next week (better before the presentation than during) and one question that occurred to me is "what examples of science fiction are there that are primarily focused on chemistry and/or chemical safety as a key topic?" I suspect that there are people who are better versed in this literature than I and I'd appreciate examples that come quickly to mind.

I'd also be interested in examples of specific books you may have had as children (age 12 and under) that got you interested in science outside of school.

Thanks for any information on these questions.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Keene State College


Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.