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The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales…

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the…

by Sam Kean

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Unshelved recommends it, and the reasons Chrissie didn't like it are ones that wouldn't bother me.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
Fantastic book. I wish this book had been around when I was taking Chemistry. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
I knew very little about the periodic table other than what I can remember from high school but I wish that high school had talked about this stuff. The reader gets to know the brilliant minds behind the periodic table and how it was formed. Kean has excellent notes that add to the individual stories but if you just want to follow the table you do not need them. Kean also explains some very important scientific theories and data. He does not talk down to the reader, in fact he includes in the reader in some of the jokes that happen. Kean helps bring the scientists back from the dead and makes them human. He gives their mistakes, their passions, and their brilliance. If you want to learn more about the sciences this a good place to start.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library. ( )
  lrainey | May 25, 2016 |
Kean is a really engaging writer who clearly explains complex scientific concepts while adding a distinctly human, narrative touch. Even if the over-arching element of the development of the periodic table is necessarily a little disjointed, the tangents are delightful and informative. I'm not exactly sure who the target audience this book is for, but I feel straddled the line for somebody like me, who had a solid high school education in chemistry or physics, but not an undergraduate education in it. I recommend this book highly, and offer this advice: use a couple of bookmarks for the copious entertaining endnotes and the periodic table at the end. ( )
  achedglin | May 1, 2016 |
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


When I was in high school, I took chemistry... and failed it. In college, I was a science major (at least for the first two years) so I took chemistry…and failed it. So then I took an easier chemistry class (aka “easiest” class possible)… and failed it. And then I changed my major to history, for obvious reasons. So it’s great that after all these years, I have found a book that actually makes me understand something about the field, even if it is the basics (which is honestly more than I grasped before). The author lost me in some places, such as the discussions on quantum mechanics and physics (did I mention I didn’t do well in physics either?). I feel like the book started out strongly but towards the end I just got bored, which could be more due to my lack of understanding than the book itself. A good read if one is looking at learning more about the basics of science with a mixture of history added in. There were some amusing stories found throughout the book and interesting people mentioned. Definitely a well researched book.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
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Kean, Samprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Staehle, WillCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
Never underestimate spite as a motivator for genius.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (6)

Book description
(from the book jacket) 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.
Haiku summary
Talk of chemistry / usually bores me to tears / But here's Godzilla! (MiaCulpa)

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The periodic table of the elements is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, obsession, and betrayal. These tales follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and all the elements in the table as they play out their parts in human history. The usual suspects are here, like Marie Curie (and her radioactive journey to the discovery of polonium and radium) and William Shockley (who is credited, not exactly justly, with the discovery of the silicon transistor)--but the more obscure characters provide some of the best stories, like Paul Emile François Lecoq de Boisbaudran, whose discovery of gallium, a metal with a low melting point, gives this book its title: a spoon made of gallium will melt in a cup of tea.--From publisher description.… (more)

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