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

by Sam Kean

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,6301033,460 (3.88)158
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English (102)  Danish (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
Wonderful, enjoyable, immensely readable, I could go on. In fact, if you haven't read this already, why aren't you reading this now? Why are you reading this instead? Go on and read it, I'll wait...





Okay, you're back. Wasn't that great? Sam Kean expertly weaves history, economics, science, politics, psychology and some other subjects I might be missing into a great book. It explains humanity's relationship to that chart in High School Chemistry Class that people forget about, The Periodic Table of the Elements. I learned a few things about some people related to it, and it was all quite fascinating. I would definitely read this again for the heck of it. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Good history of the Periodic Table, if that is what you are looking for. Most people in my book group couldn't finish it. Too "sciency"! ( )
  skyeval | Apr 16, 2019 |
I found this book fascinating, with all of its tales regarding the periodic table and the scientists who spent their lives researching, testing and searching for the elements, and all of the anecdotes associated. The author, in turns, educated, entertained, surprised and delighted me. I want to read more of his books! ( )
  Stacy_Krout | Mar 14, 2019 |
Regrettably DNF. Just couldn't bear 9 audio cds of this!
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
So far, not so great. The degree of anthropomorphizing of atoms in the introductory chapters has left me completely puzzled about the actual science involved. I have no idea what it means that oxygen is "a bully." Does oxygen shake down other atoms for electrons? How does that even work?

However, the chapter on chemical warfare has been (disturbing but) interesting. If the rest of the book is historical-figures character-driven, rather than atomic character-driven, then my overall opinion of the book should improve. Ugh, spoke too soon. Most of the chapter discusses chemical warfare in Europe around the World Wars. Therefore, most of the chapter is about named individuals -- chemists and soldiers and heads of state. And then one gets to the last four pages which are about how the cell phone industry's demand for niobium and tantalum fed the war in the Congo... a war which is all tribalism and ancient grudges (unlike Europe's wars?). "Gruesome stories have circulated about proud victors humiliating their victims' bodies by draping themselves with entrails and dancing in celebration." Lurid detail, but with no names, no location, no citations. I wish I were kidding. Gruesome stories circulated about 'the Hun' during the war, too, but I didn't see those stories getting a whole lot of coverage in this science book and for good reason -- so why are the stories about Congolese atrocities getting uncritically repeated here? And then to just win at post-colonialism, he unironically quotes Joseph Conrad, who "once called Congo, 'the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human consceince,' and there's little reason to revise that notion today." Thank you ever so much for perpetuating the stereotypical images of the Dark Continent, images which don't need revising despite being a hundred years out of date. ( )
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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. (Introduction)
When most people think of the periodic table, they remember a chart hanging on the front wall of their high school chemistry class, an asymmetric expanse of columns and rows looming over one of the teacher's shoulders.
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Never underestimate spite as a motivator for genius.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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(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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