Chemistry: Making Things More Exact

"Most chemical reactions," says Caltech Chemical Physicist Aron Kuppermann, "are unholy messes." The neat formulas and precise equations of the textbooks may be all right as far as they go, but they present an incomplete picture of what is really "a large number of processes, some of which are not fully understood."

In an effort to clear up the confusion, Kuppermann and Chemist John White have taken an impressive step toward making chemistry exact and predictable: they have made the first direct measurement of the minimum energy required to cause one of...

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