Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Disappearing Spoon

Just finished a decent read, 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 (Little, Brown and Company, 2010).

It's a history of the periodic table of the elements and full of interesting stories about the elements.  Why did Ghandi hate iodine?  How can we trace the trail of Lewis & Clark with mercury?  Why did the Japanese used cadmium-tipped missiles to shoot Godzilla?  How did Marie Curie make her husband jealous with radium?  What element will make a sppon disappear in a hot cup of tea?  Will new elements continue to be discovered?

Kean writes well and is occassionally amusing as he takes readers on a tour of the elements grouping them together in interesting ways (Elements in Times of War, Artistic Elements, Elements as Money, etc).  He discusses many of the major players in 19th and 20th century physics and chemistry from Mendeleev to Seaborg and provides a lot of interesting tidbits and stories about them.

The book is written for a general audience with a basic background in science.  I enjoyed reading it.

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