Coming Alive: The bubbles, candle flames and snowflakes on your coffee table

20 May 2022


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Dr Philip Ball reveals the Beauty of Chemistry in his SCItalk on 25 May 2022

Often coffee-table books look beautiful without expanding our knowledge. This cannot be said of Dr Philip’s Ball’s work ‘The Beauty of Chemistry’, produced in collaboration with Chinese science photographers Yan Liang and Wenting Zhu. Within the book, Dr Ball uses the astonishing photography to draw in our senses till we experience the dynamic colours, textures and patterns of everyday science – from how bubbles are created in drinks to the science of candle flames and the intricacies of a snowflake.

In his talk at SCI (Society of Chemical Industry) on Wednesday, 25 May at 6pm, Dr Ball will argue that chemistry speaks directly to our senses and this is often what draws chemists to study the subject. This scientific notion of beauty can be compelling and not easily defined. In his book, he explores the chemical processes we all rely on in daily life – from evaporation to precipitation and distillation.

SCI’s series of SCI Talks is a platform for the public to hear from some of the leading voices of the chemistry sector. The prominent speakers offer perspectives and lively debate on issues ranging from climate change to nudge behaviour, the mind and agri-science.

“People either have bad memories of school chemistry labs or are drawn to chemistry’s irresistible allure – the crystals, coloured powders, explosions and smells. The way you can stick a finger in a bowl of mercury,” explained Dr Ball. “No field of science works as well on the senses as chemistry. My book reaches beyond the stinks and bangs to show the aesthetic quality of chemistry”.

Dr Philip Ball is a writer and author as well as a former editor for Nature. His books around the intersection between science and culture include Critical Mass and Bright Earth and Invisible.

You can register for this SCItalk on the ‘The Beauty of Chemistry’ event page.

For more information on the talk or an interview with Dr Ball please contact Maxine Boersma on 07771 563373 or


Notes to editors:

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