Chapter 1. Carbon
1 Leon Lederman and Christopher Hill (2011) point out that the unpredictability
of quanta puts them at odds with the models of cause and effect that predomi-
nate in science (53). And whether the insights of quantum physics can in fact be
used is currently quite contentious: some neuroscientists claim that the theory
that our sense of smell depends on a match between smell receptors in the nose
and the shape of odoriﬁc molecules should be replaced by a theory in which the
vibration of a molecule effects a quantum shift in smell receptors such that we
recognize a particular scent (Franco et al. 2011).
2 For a good explanation of the variety of subatomic particles and the forces that
hold them together and break them apart, see Slaven (1998).
3 For a detailed explanation of contemporary versions of the transmutation of the
elements (i.e., nuclear reactions), see Atkins and Jones (2010: 713). For a histo-
riography, see Principe (2011).
4 Carbon 14, or heavy carbon, has a half- life of 5,730 years. This means that for a
given portion of heavy carbon, it will take that long for half of it to have decayed
into carbon 12 (Atkins and Jones 2010: 719).
5 If that were to happen, there would be an enormous nuclear explosion. If a
single electron were to be forced into the nucleus — a process called electron