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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… (edition 2011)

by Sam Kean

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1,882883,654 (3.9)114
Member:NielsenGW
Title:The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
Authors:Sam Kean
Info:Back Bay Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:science, chemistry, elements, Kindle, DDCC

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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

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The Disappearing Spoon is a lively, anecdote-filled stroll through the periodic table of the elements. To some extent it's about chemistry and nuclear physics and the history of how scientists have figured out the principles of those sciences, come up with the periodic table as a way to organize the elements, and discovered new elements to fill in the spaces on it. But, as the subtitle might suggest, it's not just all about the science. There's a lot of human interest here, including stories about the personal lives and rivalries of scientists, as well as discussions about various elements' role in such fields as warfare, history, biology, and art.

It's all very readable and often quite entertaining, and is very much aimed at the scientific layman (although I imagine that having taken a high school chemistry course -- even a dimly remembered one -- is likely to be of some help). Most of the science, and many of the stories about scientists, were things I already knew, but despite that I still found it enjoyable and interesting, and those who are less familiar with the subject matter are bound to learn some fascinating new things.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about the title, it refers to a practical joke popular among chemists: You make a spoon out of gallium and give it to a friend to stir their tea with. Gallium looks just like aluminum, but it melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit, so that when they put the spoon into the hot tea, it melts and disappears. See? Chemistry is fun! ( )
1 vote bragan | Feb 7, 2016 |
Interesting and fun ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Interesting and fun ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Fascinating book, although for someone with limited chemistry knowledge (like myself), it can be a bit dense and complicated at times. ( )
  joyhclark | Jan 20, 2016 |
You wouldn't think a book about the Periodic Table of Elements would be a fun read. This one is. Sam Kean recounts the stories behind the elements and their behaviors and along the way answers questions such as:

Why did Gandhi hate iodine?
Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium?
How did radium ruin Marie Curie's reputation?
Why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?
What does the title of the book mean? ( )
  JenniferRobb | Jan 17, 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.
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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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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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