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I love Iain Banks' work, but he *really* should stay away from chemistry.

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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-08-11 09:38 PM
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I love Iain Banks' work, but he *really* should stay away from chemistry.
"Surface Details" has some really boneheaded factual errors that a two-minute Google search would have fixed.

"Amphoteric lead" does not spontaneously ignite in air. That would be "pyrophoric lead", a real substance, which is finely divided lead and carbon. "Amphoteric" indicates the abililty to function as either an acid or a base. Google "pyrophoric lead" to see videos.

Gold is not less dense than mercury, it is nearly 50% denser. It also dissolves in mercury (which is why it is sometimes used in recovering gold from ore). An ingot of iron or copper would float, but not an ingot of gold, as described in the story. Density is not a simple function of atomic weight, as the discussion implies. The densest metals are near the center of the PT (Osmium and Iridium, as any chemistry gnurd knows). This completely spoils one scene set on an underground lake of mercury. Google "floats in mercury" for videos, including one dork handling a huge quantity of mercury in a *glass* flask.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-11-11 12:04 PM
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1. Does anybody else suspect that editing becomes more lax for very succesful authors?
I recall reading Greg Bear's City At the End of Time and having the impression that it would have benefitted from more rigorous editing.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-11 07:45 PM
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2. Speaking of Surface Detail...
that man has a dark, twisted imagination. I already kind of knew this from bits a pieces of his other work. But here, writing a book about Hell(s), he's really letting it all hang out.

:wow:
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