Desalination of seawater by reverse osmosis

Desalination of seawater by reverse osmosis

Marine Chemistry, 11 ( 1 9 8 2 ) 1 8 7 - - 1 8 8 187 Elsevier Scientific P u b l i s h i n g C o m p a n y , A m s t e r d a m - - P r i n t e d in ...

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Marine Chemistry, 11 ( 1 9 8 2 ) 1 8 7 - - 1 8 8


Elsevier Scientific P u b l i s h i n g C o m p a n y , A m s t e r d a m - - P r i n t e d in T h e N e t h e r l a n d s

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Desalination o f Seawater by Reverse Osmosis. J. Scott (Editor). Pollut. Technol. Rev. No. 75, Noyes Data Corp., Park Ridge, NJ, U.S.A., 1980, xi + 431 pp., U.S. $39.00. Over the last ten or t w e n t y years the professional in any field of science has been bombarded with an ever-increasing n u m b e r of non-books. I would include in this collection the b o o k proceeding from a symposium on some over-recondite corner of an already far too subdivided field, and the advanced t e x t b o o k written by a committee. Regardless of the temptation, one cannot simply c o n d e m n these volumes out of hand; after all, I have contributed to both kinds myself, as have most of m y colleagues, and the b o o k t h a t shaped my own concept of good English prose, the King James version of the Bible, was written by a committee. I would n o t even be too surprised to hear t h a t c o m p u t e r analysis had decided t h a t Shakespeare's plays had been written not by Shakespeare, nor by Bacon or Marlowe, but by all of the above, sitting as a c o m m i t t e e of the whole. However, the non-books at best recount the state of their field at the time of publication. They seldom bring forth any startling insights, or any brilliant overview and synthesis. If t h e y are valuable at all, it is as a starting-point for scientists new to t h a t particular corner of the field, or to graduate students needing an entry-port into the recent literature. This b o o k is quite a different sort of creature. It has the virtue of having a single author, although she might better be described as a combination of compiler and editor. The material she has compiled and edited is a collection of recent (a quick scanning gives dates from 1965--1979) patents on aspects of reverse-osmosis desalination, just as the title promises. It is limited to U.S. patents, and is remarkably free of the legalistic language of which most patents are composed. The editor must be given high marks for her ability to penetrate and translate the legal jargon. The resulting descriptions are easily followed, and the illustrations are well-chosen. The book is easy to read. I d o n ' t know just which "advanced composition and p r o d u c t i o n " methods were employed by Noyes in the printing of this book, but t h e y are undeniably effective. This is not an attractive volume, but it is certainly a workmanlike creation, built for hard use. It is a bit more difficult to decide just who would use the book. Patents are usually some distance behind the leading edge of a field; the delays inherent in the federal bureaucracy and the legal process would ensure that. Researchers in the field would presumably k n o w all about these techniques. Similarly, the commercial or industrial innovator who learned of these developments only after patents had been issued would be lagging far behind the field. As for the industrial user of the techniques, he is interested in working units, preferably field-tested by some other user; the description of a m e t h o d in a patent is only the first step in the production of a working

188 unit. We have all seen scientific and technical advances advertised as the next great leap forward into the future, and f o u n d the reality, when it finally emerged from the workshops, to be more of a hop-and-skip, w i t h o u t the jump. So, overall, I would say t h a t the book is well-produced, well-edited, and where the editor has condensed and translated the original patents, wellwritten. The audience for the book is limited; I would be hard-pressed to define it. I can only fall back on a version of the old reviewer's cop-out: if this is the kind of b o o k y o u need, then y o u need this book. P.J. W A N G E R S K Y (Halifax, N.S., Canada)