Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Amazing World of the Elements

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

Summary: 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?

From the Big Bang to the end of time, it's all in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON.

Review: A delightful collection of science, history, and the elements. 

As far as I can tell, this book has stories about all or almost all the elements. I was expected it to go element by element, but Kean grouped elements together in reasonably logical groups, which does make for an easier read. The Disappearing Spoon focuses more on the history of the elements and those who discovered those elements than the science of those elements. The science that Kean provided was very basic and did a good enough job so people could understand the stories. I really had hoped for more in depth science, especially since there was a lot of overlap between chemistry and physics. 

I have always been a big fan of science, especially physics. I haven't read too much about chemistry though this book has me intrigued. I still would love to learn more about the science behind the elements and the development of the periodic table. Reading this book made me realize how many personalities and characters there are in science. I will probably be reading some biographies in the future. Most people know the standard periodic table, but the fact that there are many other versions is pretty cool. 


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy science, especially chemistry or physics, and history. 

No comments:

Post a Comment