The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales from the Periodic Table, Sam Kean

Booklist review: Like big-game hunters, scientists who stalked an undiscovered element courted peril: Marie Curie and Enrico Fermi both died from exposure to dangerous elements in the course of their experiments. But besides them and Dmitri Mendeleev, the deviser of the periodic table, which looms over science classrooms everywhere, few discoverers of the elements occupy the consciousness of even avid science readers. Kean rectifies that in this amble from element 1, hydrogen, to element 112, copernicium. Attaching stories to a human-interest angle, Kean ensures that with his elaboration of the fixation a chemist, physicist, industrialist, or artist had for a particular element comes clarity about why the element behaves as it does. The soft sell about proton numbers and electron shells thus closes the deal for Kean’s anecdotes about elements of war, elements of health, and elements of wealth, plus the title’s practical joke of a spoon (made from gallium). Whether explaining why Silicon Valley is not Germanium Valley or reveling in naming-rights battles over a new element, Kean holds interest throughout his entertaining debut.

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  • Jeffrey C. J.

    A video featuring Author Sam Kean about the origins of the elements:

    November 3

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hey all, work and weather are not in my favor today so I won't be able to make it tonight. The book is great though and I catch myself "hmming" on the metro when Kean introduces yet another quirky element! Can't wait to join you all next month. Stay dry! :)

    1 · April 30, 2014

    • amk

      Perfectly all right; better luck next time!

      1 · April 30, 2014

  • Nora

    Book is bought!

    1 · March 23, 2014

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