Book Reviews

ImageBillo, E. Joseph.  Excel® for Chemists: A Comprehensive Guide 3rd ed.; John Wiley, Hoboken, US.  $59.95 (Softcover)  732 pp.  ISBN: 978-0-470-38123-6.

Since I’m a spreadsheet “dummy,” I was quite happy to review this book and have already put to use a reference. The 1st edition (1997) was reviewed in J. Chem. Educ. in 2000, but no reviews of subsequent editions have been published in ACS journals.  Since the 2nd edition in 2001, three new versions of Excel for the PC have appeared: 2003, 2007, and 2010. This edition covers both the familiar 2003 version as well as the 2007/2010 versions.

New chapters have been added. Twenty three chapters are organized within five sections covering basics, advanced spreadsheet topics, spreadsheet math, Excel Visual Basic for applications (VBA), and applications of VBA. There are eleven appendixes and a CD that contains most of the worksheets in the text.

This excellent resource should be on the desktop of anyone using or creating scientific spreadsheets, not just for chemical applications.


ImageJudson, Philip. Knowledge-Based Expert Systems in Chemistry: Not Counting on Computers; RSC Publishing: Cambridge, UK.  £121.99 (Hardcover). 211 pp.  ISBN: 978-0-85404-160-2.

This interesting book takes the reader on a foray into Artificial Intelligence (AI) whether the reader realizes that they’ve likely already been there. The cryptic subtitle becomes clearer in the introductory discussions of qualitative vs. quantitative results; the former may be more practical than the latter (including for QSAR).  Knowledge-based systems don’t discover rules; they just apply those that are input. Expert systems can generate their own models using statistical methods, but can’t explain themselves. A waggish definition heard at a conference is “An expert system is one that gives the answers an expert would give, including the wrong ones.”

More than philosophical, most of the book describes practical programs in synthesis planning (LHASA, SECS, SYNGEN, etc.), structure representation (Wiswesser, Smiles, chemical markup, etc.), substructure searching (Morgan names, InChI, Markush, etc.), and predicting toxicity, metabolism, and biodegradation. The book closes with a discussion of the future, including assimilation of results and predictions, not only by scientists, but by the public.

The practical applications discussed illustrate the relevance of this book to the readers of Chemical Information Bulletin and related publications.  Recommended.

Robert E. Buntrock
Orono, ME