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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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Did you enjoy the periodic table of the elements as much as I did when you were a child? Of course you didn't! Therefore, despite the absolute wonderfulness of this book, and its fascinating tidbits and stories and mind-blowing facts, I'm recommending it only for people who are actually interested in this corner of the physics world. If you are, this book will be very, very enjoyable and rewarding. The writer's passion for the material is absolutely transparent and he imbues the pages with total appreciative awe.
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
This was at least 3 if not more, but a 2 on my experience because unfortunately I listened to the audio edition which was very nicely done, but the subject matter was not a good mix with driving. I would have had to approach it like it was a textbook to really appreciate it properly, I just couldn't retain from chapter to chapter what was going on with the all the names of scientists and elements and years and data. I often enjoyed the author's vocabulary, and enjoyed the author's notes. I did think there would be more in the way of quirky little stories though based on how it was presented. ( )
  MaureenCean | May 10, 2015 |
Perhaps not everyone would find the history of the periodic table as fascinating as I do, but I really enjoyed this. Not all of the chapters are about the element's discovery; many are related stories of their discoverers' lives or the element's impact on history. You don't have to understand much chemistry to enjoy this, but it does help to have an interest in the subject to begin with. It's certainly accessible, but perhaps not universally engrossing. ( )
  melydia | Apr 18, 2015 |
Unshelved recommends it, and the reasons Chrissie didn't like it are ones that wouldn't bother me.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
I would use this book to contextualize/humanize the elements of the periodic table. Also, I could use it as part of a research project.
  ogroft | Apr 14, 2015 |
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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.
Never underestimate spite as a motivator for genius.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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