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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

Kean, Sam

(Book - 2010)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Disappearing Spoon
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From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes incredible stories of science, history, finance, mythology, the arts, medicine, and more, as told by the Periodic Table. Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why is gallium (Ga, 31) the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?* The Periodic Table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal, and obsession. These fascinating tales follow every element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, and in the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. THE DISAPPEARING SPOON masterfully fuses science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, and discovery--from the Big Bang through the end of time. *Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal that melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A classic science prank is to mold gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch guests recoil as their utensils disappear.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316051644
0316051640
Branch Call Number: 546 K243d 2010
Characteristics: vi, 391 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm

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From Library Staff

"Kean, an award-winning freelance news and science writer, intertwines fascinating stories with biographical sketches about the scientists who contributed to the discovery of the 118 elements found in the current periodic table." ~Library Journal

Join the discussion on March 17, 2015. A humorous, fascinating, plain-spoken history of the elements and the scientists who discovered them. Whether you loved high school chemistry or had more of an adversarial relationship, a highly enjoyable read.

incredible stories of science, history, finance, mythology, the arts, medicine, and more, as told by the Periodic Table. Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why is gallium (Ga, 31) the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?

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 ... Read More »

"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 ... Read More »


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Nov 08, 2014
  • lbarkema rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

This was a difficult one to rate because even though Kean writes in an accessible way, I still can't really recommend it to just anyone-only people who like science will fully appreciate this book. I liked the first 3/4 of it but then I just wanted it to end. I enjoyed more of the stories of how all of the elements were discovered and the various asides, and less of the really abstract "you need to be a chemistry/physics nerd" to understand sections that peppered the last 1/4 of the book. Still it's fun and informative and I like the way in which it was told, and I will definitely read his other books. The genetics one sounds a little more up my alley :)

NYPL Staff Pick
Explore intriguing tales about every element of the periodic table, their role in human history, and the lives of the colorful scientists who discovered them.
- Selection Team

Apr 24, 2014
  • CraigGraziano rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

lmost episodic in nature, the crux of each story is often how a particular element was discovered, and then how humankind has chosen to put it to use. Sometimes it is for public welfare (copper is used on doorknobs and stair railings because most bacteria that land on it die with in a matter of hours), other times for warfare (high demand for the metals used to construct cell phones have contributed to five million deaths in war-torn central Africa since the mid-90’s).

Read more at: http://www.librarypoint.org/disappearing_spoon_kean

Mar 15, 2014
  • mrkswft rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I enjoyed reading this book so much. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the vast field of science. I look forward to reading the Author's other books.

Nov 19, 2013
  • JCLHelenH rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

While the chemistry is a bit over my head, the stories are great. For me, it was a challenging, but rewarding read.

Jun 16, 2013
  • StarGladiator rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Just one correction: As we learned from subsequent movies, the Japanese Defense Forces were not successful in killing Godzilla, as it kept coming back stronger and stronger.

Great Book. Sam Kean does a great job explaining chemistry to people who do not know much about it without making the book feel like a text book. The stories made it really interesting and I can't wait to read his book on DNA.

Jun 13, 2013
  • KarenW rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Have you ever wondered how and why the periodic table has come to be? This in depth study of one of the most basic tools of science, show the intimate relationships that each element has to the other in a way that is completely fascinating for the average nerd. And it is quite readable for the rest of us!

Oct 01, 2012
  • rstucke35 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Fastastic book with intriguing and exciting stories about Science. Very cool.

Aug 25, 2012
  • mswendybe rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

You don't have to be a science geek to love this book. Easy to read stories about the history of the Periodic Table. You'll laugh, you'll cringe, you'll be amazed!

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He absolutely deserved one of the great scientific compliments ever paid, when a colleague said Pauling proved "that chemistry could be understood rather than being memorized"

Aug 25, 2012
  • mswendybe rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Donald Glaser - a lowly, thirsty, twenty-five-year-old junior faculty member who frequented bars near the University of Michigan - was staring one night at the bubbles streaming through his lager, and he naturally started thinking particle physics.

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White_Butterfly_20 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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Sam Kean explores the periodic table talking about how each element was discovered, used, or what makes them interesting.

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