Friday, August 6, 2010
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements...Review by the Doctor
The Periodic Table is one of man's crowning scientific achievements. But it's also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues' wives when she'd invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?
From the Big Bang to the end of time, it's all in The Disappearing Spoon.
I really like this book. If only I'd had teachers at school who could make a little bit of chemistry and a little bit of physics enjoyable and understandable. Sam Kean does all all of the above, and blends in histories of the people and events behind the periodic table. Don't be alarmed, this is not a textbook, but I wish he had written a few. If you've ever been awed, amazed, frustrated, or befuddled by the elements and where the come form, then read this book, and prepare to laugh. This was one of those books where you want to grab someone and go "hey - read this, it's amazing".
A great read, by a great author.
Thanks to Hatchette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sam Kean here. You can purchase your own copy here.