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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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2,170962,994 (3.89)134
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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Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Science has a long history of curious and colorful characters and this book does a good job of highlighting within the context of the periodic table. This book takes a really interesting approach to describing the periodic table and making many of the elements more relatable and shows how many of them impact your daily life. Kean focuses the first three quarters of the book on the different personalities that discovered or contributed to the discovery of various elements. The final quarter of the book focuses more on the role of elements in our modern society. The final quarter is somewhat interesting but largely feels like some longer magazine articles tacked on to increase the length of the book. As a whole it offers an interesting glimpse at some of the stories behind each element and is easy to grasp for all levels of scientific backgrounds. ( )
  pbirch01 | Apr 18, 2017 |
Not sure this would be for everyone, but most who took chemistry (or physics) would find it fascinating. The organization of the book is somewhat like that of the table itself—chapters group stories, facts and history of a few elements based on some shared factor. All of the elements are touched upon and the scientists who were involved with finding and describing them, plus those who created and modified the overall table structure, were first rate. The book is well researched and the stories, including those in the endnotes, are very entertaining. ( )
  ehousewright | Jan 21, 2017 |
An uneven, but entertaining look at all of the elements in the periodic table - how we found them and anecdotes about their use. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
Chemistry and I have a long and unpleasant history going back to my college days, so a book about chemistry that's actually informative and enjoyable is a rarity (like Oliver Sacks's Uncle Tungsten). Kean's book is not so much a history of the periodic table as a collection of odd and interesting stories about the various elements and the men and women who discovered them. Outrageous, salacious, thoughtful, and even poignant, with lots of great suggestions for further reading. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
This book was very interesting and quite a lot of fun. It was sometimes hard to keep the players straight--Sam Kean provides a multitude of anecdotes, stories, and cautionary tales, and the players in one crop up in others--but generally the author is kind enough to provide a reminder of someone we've seen in a previous chapter.

The writing style is casual and easy to read, but this book is geared more towards someone with at least some chemistry and/or physics in their background. While the author does provide explanations here and there about some concepts, the book is much easier to follow with at least some basic chemistry under your belt. Having said that, this book will give you a twinge of resentment towards past chemistry and physics professors. The stories provide you with extra information about theories and data you will remember from your classes, but serve it up wrapped in such a way you'll wonder why your professors couldn't have made it this interesting. ( )
  irregularreader | Oct 31, 2016 |
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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.
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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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(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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