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The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elementsby Sam Kean
Sam Kean proves that chemistry makes for great storytelling with this entertaining look at the human stories behind the elements found in the periodic table. A delightful history of science, The Disappearing Spoon makes for both an engaging and enlightening read.
Synopses & Reviews
Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why is gallium (Ga, 31) the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?*
The Periodic Table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal, and obsession. These fascinating tales follow every element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, and in the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. The Disappearing Spoon masterfully fuses science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, and discovery — from the Big Bang through the end of time.
*Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal that melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A classic science prank is to mold gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch guests recoil as their utensils disappear.
"Kean...unpacks the periodic table's bag of tricks with such aplomb and fascination that material normally as heavy as lead transmutes into gold." Entertainment Weekly
"Kean's writing sparks like small shocks...he gives science a whiz-bang verve so that every page becomes one you cannot wait to turn just to see what he's going reveal next." The Boston Globe
"[Kean turns] The Disappearing Spoon into a nonstop parade of lively science stories...ebullient." New York Times
"Kean's palpable enthusiasm and the thrill of knowledge and invention the book imparts can infect even the most right-brained reader." Miami Herald
"With a constant flow of fun facts bubbling to the surface, Kean writes with wit, flair, and authority in a debut that will delight even general readers." Publishers Weekly
"Nearly 150 years of wide-ranging science...and Kean makes it all interesting. Entertaining and enlightening." Kirkus
"Fascinating stories...Kean writes in a whimsical yet easy-to-read style." Library Journal
Book News Annotation:
Mere mention of the Periodic Table may cause science-challenged readers to turn a deaf ear, but Kean makes the abbreviated symbols come to life with witty and interesting stories about the role the elements play in our lives. It might have been easier to memorize the table if you knew such facts as Ga, 31 is gallium, named by a Frenchman Le Coq de Boisbaudran for France which means Gallia in Latin, and that he used it to make a teaspoon that would dissolve at 87 degrees Fahrenheit and melt in a teacup. No mineral, or metal, is left unturned in this lively historical perspective. Kean is a current writer for Science magazine. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a kid, and now he is a writer in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, Air & Space/Smithsonian, and New Scientist. In 2009 he was a runner-up for the National Association of Science Writers' Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for best science writer under the age of thirty. He currently writes for Science and is a 2009-2010 Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.
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