Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

First sentence:

"As a child in the early 1980s, I tended to talk with things in my mouth - food, dentist's tubes, balloons that would fly away, whatever - and if no one else was around, I'd talk anyway."


"Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium (Cd, 48)? How did radium (Ra, 88) ruin Marie Curie’s reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

The periodic table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it’s also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and every single element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

Why did a little lithium (Li, 3) help cure poet Robert Lowell of his madness? And how did gallium (Ga, 31) become the go-to element for laboratory pranksters? The Disappearing Spoon has the answers, fusing science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, discovery, and alchemy, from the big bang through the end of time." -- from the book jacket

My thoughts:

This is a fascinating book about the elements placed in the context of their discovery and their impact on everything. I liked how Kean groups the elements in various contexts, such as medicine and money.

Date read: 1/7/2014
Book #: 2
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Nonfiction

ISBN-10: 0316051640
ISBN-13: 9780316051644
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Year: 2010
# of pages: 346
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing page

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