THE DISAPPEARING SPOON
And Other True Tales of Madness, Love,
and the History of the World from
the Periodic Table of the Elements
BY SAM KEAN
The Periodic Table is one of man's crowning scientific achievements. But it's also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues' wives when she'd invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sam Kean is a writer in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, The Believer, Air & Space, Science, and The New Scientist. He is currently working as a reporter at Science magazine and as a 2009 Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.
THE DISAPPEARING SPOON-And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean is a remarkable anthology of stories about the elements of the periodic table. What, you say? I was not the best chemistry student so why would I want to read this? I thought the same thing but the book is a really interesting read made up of remarkable stories of scientists in the past and how all the elements on the Periodic Table were discovered.
In THE DISAPPEARING SPOON, Sam Kean writes about his own curiosity with science and how it related to his own personal experiences. He explains how that lead to his interest in the periodic table and how this book was a result of all of that. Amazingly, he is able to show how important the table is to him and to all our everyday lives in a way that even made sense to me! From this description, one would anticipate stuffy scientific information, data, graphs, and photographs, but instead the book is written like an attention grabbing novel complete with chapters. In the chapters, Kean presents factual information but in an amusing, humorous way. He gives a lot of historical background that makes each mini-story even more interesting. Even from the chapter titles themselves, you can feel the wit that he uses in his writing. With titles like “The Galapagos of the Periodic Table”, “Poisoner’s Corridor: Ouch-Ouch” and “Take Two Elements, Call Me in the Morning”, one can tell that this is a good natured look at some pretty heavy information presented light-heartedly. He is captivated by his subject and the reader gets caught up in his enthusiasm. Kean recounts the tales of mystery, passion and eccentricity that go along with the elements so much so that it just may have readers all over rethinking their feelings about chemistry and the sciences after all.
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