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Drooling Electrons, Thermodynamics and Beta Decay … in Verse

In Mala Radhakrishnan’s world, where oxygen and palladium atoms clamor to get into the most sought-after beaker and tortured carbon atoms become boron swans, chemistry is rife with mystery, jealousy and, yes, romance.

Radhakrishnan, assistant professor at Wellesley College, has recently released a book on poetry chemistry, called “Atomic Romances, Molecular Dances.” Her aim is to use poetry, but also easy-to-understand analogies to teach such subjects as thermodynamics, kinetics and molecular reactions.

She wrote her first poem for an on-campus poetry reading, and the feedback was so good that she kept writing them, eventually becoming known in the Boston poetry scene, though typecast, she says with a laugh, as the chemistry poet. Poem titles include “The Flirt and the Inert,” “Bridge Over Troubled H20,” and the “Amalgam in the Middle.”

Hari Sreenivasan caught up with her recently to find out more about her unusual venture.

Here, Radhakrishnan reads one of her poems, “The Radioactive Dating Game.” You can find the text of the poem here.


This post has been updated from its original version.

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