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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 (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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  1. 20
    The elements : a visual exploration of every known atom in the universe by Theodore W. Gray (DetailMuse)
  2. 00
    Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks (Katya0133)
    Katya0133: Uncle Tungsten focuses on the author's boyhood love of chemistry and not on the stories of many different people, but both describe a very human relationship with chemical elements.
  3. 00
    Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss (DetailMuse)
  4. 00
    The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus by John Emsley (cmbohn)
    cmbohn: In depth about phosphorous, really interesting stuff.
  5. 11
    A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (amyblue)

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Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean is a history of the periodic table and a collection of some memorable stories of the elements. It's written in a light, easy to approach manner — good for the casual reader curious about chemistry.

Though Kean doesn't go through the elements in order, he does manage through his anecdotal stories to explain how the table came to be and why it is the shape it is. Further more his stories illustrate why the shape has to be the way it is.

His stories outline the fits and starts we've had with the elements. Things we now see as dangerous or poisonous we once used for parlor tricks, health remedies and all manner of other bizarre things. It gives one pause to wonder what substances we might be happily ingesting now that later generations will shudder at! ( )
  pussreboots | Mar 30, 2014 |
Fascinating book, although for someone with limited chemistry knowledge (like myself), it can be a bit dense and complicated at times. ( )
  joyhclark | Mar 13, 2014 |
Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why is gallium (Ga, 31) the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?*

The Periodic Table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal, and obsession. These fascinating tales follow every element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, and in the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. THE DISAPPEARING SPOON masterfully fuses science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, and discovery--from the Big Bang through the end of time.
*Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal that melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A classic science prank is to mold gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch guests recoil as their utensils disappear.
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
The author cleverly uses the periodic table of elements to relate much of the history of science in the 20th century. There are a lot of twists and turns in that history and he relates the Dark Side of science and scientists as well as the victories and benefits. It's fascinating (but not so surprising) that there is money and celebrity to be made in science, and so human nature gets going in all of its facets.

Along the way you'll learn about the elements and about how the scientific method works out in practice.

An interesting read. ( )
  KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
Chemistry is a fascinating science, and in The Disappearing Spoon Sam Kean has chosen a fascinating selection of stories to illustrate the science. He takes us on a journey through the periodic table, showcasing elements that kill, heal, interact with others in strange ways, or took decades to be discovered.

This is a book you'll want to read with someone else at home, so that you can interrupt whatever they're doing every five minutes and say "Hey! Guess what!" and then pester them with fun facts. Overall, Kean does a good job of explaining difficult scientific concepts, making extensive use of metaphor and analogy to relate the concepts to more familiar ones. The only section where my attention span wandered was the part about nuclear physics, but that's more a personal response than a fault on Kean's part. My favourite chapters were the ones discussing "poisoner's corridor", the section of the periodic table where the really nasty elements hang out, and the medical uses of certain elements. The chapter on madness was also interesting.

I would recommend this if you enjoy books about popular science, have fond but vague memories of high school chemistry, or are looking for some non-fiction in the vein of Mary Roach. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 17, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kean, SamAuthorprimary 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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Explores intriguing tales about every element of the periodic table, sharing their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, evil, love, the arts, and the lives of the colorful scientists who discovered them.

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