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

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

          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...

Title:The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements Reviews

  • Lisa Vegan

    This is an absolutely brilliant idea for a book and it’s a superb book. It’s beautifully organized and well written. It’s a wonderful way to learn and/or deepen knowledge of chemistry. This book is fine for laypeople, but will give meaning and extra enjoyment even for advanced chemistry students. Much appreciated by me was that the information imparted was over my head only a very few times, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve never taken a chemistry class.

    This book covers the elements of the

    This is an absolutely brilliant idea for a book and it’s a superb book. It’s beautifully organized and well written. It’s a wonderful way to learn and/or deepen knowledge of chemistry. This book is fine for laypeople, but will give meaning and extra enjoyment even for advanced chemistry students. Much appreciated by me was that the information imparted was over my head only a very few times, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve never taken a chemistry class.

    This book covers the elements of the periodic table via its history and by telling stories about the various elements: their history of discovery, how they’ve been used at various times, various people who found ways to make use of them. Anyone with a smidgen of curiosity about any aspect of life should find many things here that they find interesting. So many subjects are covered including astronomy, war, South Pole exploration, health and illness and poisoning, history, other sciences, the personalities of those who have contributed to the findings in the field, and so much more. It’s jam packed with useful facts and enjoyable stories. The relevance of the elements (chemistry) in everyday life is made so clear.

    There are many lovely digressions that turn out not to be digressions at all. There were very amusing parts, including funny quips that frequently pop up, and all of those quips have substance. It has a sort of gossipy (in a good way) tone. I learned so much. I found out that I love Linus Pauling and many other scientists who’ve contributed to the field.

    I was surprised how much of what’s been discovered in the field of chemistry has been done fairly recently, and how it’s still a growing, living scientific endeavor.

    While I’ve always been interested in science, and I did want a chemistry set when I was a child (request denied), I knew deplorably little about chemistry. Like the author, I loved playing with growing balls of mercury from broken thermometers. Quite a few of the elements themselves were, of course, familiar to me, but I didn’t know much about them. I had a bit of chemistry in other college science classes and in nutrition class. As I read, I frequently wished I’d memorized the table before reading this book. There is a table of the elements in the back of the book but it includes abbreviations only; it is not embellished; there is no list of elements by name next to it. However, in the index, thankfully, the elements are listed in bold, and I referred to that index at the beginning of every chapter when some elements were listed, in what looked to me like unusual Scrabble tiles.

    I read the notes as I read along, and they were easy to find because they started with page number and beginning of phrase in bold as a match their section in the book, but I’d still rather they’d have been included in the text proper to make the information even easier to read and to make it flow more smoothly.

    This book should be part of every beginning chemistry class. It makes the subject so interesting. This is certainly not the only attempt to make chemistry a great deal of fun for everyone. The book mentions the Tom Lehrer song, The Elements (which can be seen in many places including here:

    ).

    I really enjoyed this book, although I did end up reading it slowly, and I did take one break to read the young adult novel

    , which I’d been waiting to read for nearly a year.

    This is a gem of a book and such a great idea. I adored the humor, and there was a lot of it. I’ll let readers see for themselves why the book’s title is what it is.

    I hope that

    (or someone) writes similar books about physics, mathematics, etc. etc. I would definitely read them if they were as clever as this book.

  • Jason

    Stop the search. Recall the teams. I have found the non-fiction, summer read of 2010!

    .

    First, what’s a summer read, Mr. Josey Wales thumbnail photo? A summer read is one you can enjoy during a vacation to the beach, with fresh cocktails and clean towels provided by the swarthy, bronzed attendant at a seafront hotel. You can finish it in a few days in bite-sized chunks, it doesn’t overpower you academically, you learn a little, and the subject is something entirely new to yo

    Stop the search. Recall the teams. I have found the non-fiction, summer read of 2010!

    .

    First, what’s a summer read, Mr. Josey Wales thumbnail photo? A summer read is one you can enjoy during a vacation to the beach, with fresh cocktails and clean towels provided by the swarthy, bronzed attendant at a seafront hotel. You can finish it in a few days in bite-sized chunks, it doesn’t overpower you academically, you learn a little, and the subject is something entirely new to you, which allows you to ‘escape’ mentally just as you are physically from that 50-hour, weekly cubicle career and hateful commuter traffic.

    The book catalogues the 200 year history of the piecemeal development of the periodic table in chemistry. Wait, this is not your high school chemistry class! Sam Kean uses the most idiosyncratic, unusual, serendipitous, and funny events to tell this story. You learn as much about the brilliant, boisterous, bi-polar, bastardly, and braggadocio scientists as you learn about each element on the periodic table. Each of 19 chapters pulls together several periodic elements and outlines their unexpected similarity and relatedness--atomically, quantumly and culturally. And the narrative moves fluidly back and forth through time to capture the relevant history of each element. The book highlights discoveries that are still being made, current as of late 2009.

    Strontium, Molybdenum, Ruthenium, Francium, Ytterbium. Neptunium, Berkelium, Californium, Lawrencium. What are you all about? How were you discovered? Why are you so important? And why the heck are you so rare?

    This is neat science told in a fun and effervescent way. There are some awesome, awe-inspiring, and yet sometimes pedestrian, elements out there. Science ofttimes moves forward in jumps and spurts, and Kean is quick to relate how it moves chaotically, unexpectedly, bizarrely, and accidentally. The author reviews not just core chemistry but also history, physics, cosmology, and psychology. The scientists and their Rube Goldberg experiments are as interesting as the results. Periodic elements are really cool (yes, I actually said that). They’re phenomenal, toxic, powerful, rare, ephemeral, magical, radioactive, and have the most interesting relationships to each other. We’re told why, when, and how they’ve been used and abused through history, and how they shepherded great leaps in the advancement of human civilization.

    is quick, light reading out in the sun. It handles complex theory in a comfortable, approachable way. Kean uses good rhythm in the book, chapters of uniform length, and a bit of humor to bring it all home. He pulls it off effectively--Mr Wizard meets chaos theory. Sixth grade, mall, ‘wow’-science is discussed right next to the paragraph about how to produce absolute zero or 35 million degrees, both of which, incidentally, are created by lasers.

    In the end, you’ll learn a little, laugh a little. You may not remember anything from this book 2 years from now, but you will retain this: elements are neat as hell, and thank goodness for chemists and physicists.

    New words: depilatory, eluted

  • Kate

    Okay. Let me tell it to you honestly.

    This book is not the most well written book - the sentences are clunky and there is not a clear narrative. It is much more of a rambling collection of stories and facts and quirky science knowledge.

    That said, I couldn't get back to reading this fast enough. I thought about a book about the scientific table throughout the day. I stole a few minutes wherever I could. I carried this book with me and was even *gasp* early to pick up the kids so that I could read

    Okay. Let me tell it to you honestly.

    This book is not the most well written book - the sentences are clunky and there is not a clear narrative. It is much more of a rambling collection of stories and facts and quirky science knowledge.

    That said, I couldn't get back to reading this fast enough. I thought about a book about the scientific table throughout the day. I stole a few minutes wherever I could. I carried this book with me and was even *gasp* early to pick up the kids so that I could read a few minutes in the car.

    I mean, the opening factoid is about our ability to trace Lewis & Clark's trail by following the mercury laced poop trail. I love that shit.

    Growing up, I never loved science. I didn't learn the periodic table in school like others did. And so, there were times in this book, where I only understood a few clauses in each paragraph because the concepts were so advanced, but the author did a great job of bringing it back to a laypersons' comprehension in the next paragraph.

    So, in summary, this book is written for all levels of science (or not) nerds. It is full of incredible tales and the fun secrets and stories of the people involved in the development of the periodic table (and science as we know it).

    I will absolutely be rereading this book - most definitely when the boys are learning the periodic table in school.

  • rmn

    I should have liked this book more and I can't really explain why I didn't. It's not poorly written (though it ain't Solzhenitsyn) and it's not that uninteresting of a topic, but I just found that after the first 40ish pages, I dreaded having to read more. It was like pulling teeth, only a bit less painful, even without the option of novocaine.

    I think part of it was that the book wasn't well organized. The author seemed to jump around the periodic table at his whim without keeping a consistent f

    I should have liked this book more and I can't really explain why I didn't. It's not poorly written (though it ain't Solzhenitsyn) and it's not that uninteresting of a topic, but I just found that after the first 40ish pages, I dreaded having to read more. It was like pulling teeth, only a bit less painful, even without the option of novocaine.

    I think part of it was that the book wasn't well organized. The author seemed to jump around the periodic table at his whim without keeping a consistent framework (perhaps that was the point, it was a bit unclear to me).

    Anyway, the writing is OKish enough and it is certainly very well researched, so I can understand why many people have liked it. And it's really not a bad science book, but for some reason I just found myself having a viscerally negative reaction to having to read the next chapter (well I guess I didn't have to keep reading on, but whatever). I don't know, I wish I could pinpoint the source of my discontent with this, but it is what it is, so feel free to try it out for yourself.

  • K

    There's a certain type of goodreads troll -- the one who defends their beloved book by saying something like, "Well, if you knew the topic didn't interest you why were you stupid enough to pick up the book?" To that goodreads troll I now have an answer: this book.

    If you had told me a few weeks ago that I'd find a book about chemistry and the periodic table of elements difficult to put down, I'd have had a hard time believing you. But I did. This book was funny, interesting, even gripping at time

    There's a certain type of goodreads troll -- the one who defends their beloved book by saying something like, "Well, if you knew the topic didn't interest you why were you stupid enough to pick up the book?" To that goodreads troll I now have an answer: this book.

    If you had told me a few weeks ago that I'd find a book about chemistry and the periodic table of elements difficult to put down, I'd have had a hard time believing you. But I did. This book was funny, interesting, even gripping at times, and always engaging. I took off a star because I'll admit that I didn't get all of it despite the author's best efforts. I guess it would take more than a fun book to turn me into a chemistry person. But it was still a wonderful read, and not a guilty pleasure because it was actually educational. This meant I could feel virtuous for once while I ignored my various responsibilities in favor of more reading.

    So not only did I get to enjoy a good book, I feel vindicated in my ongoing belief that a a sufficiently good writer can make any topic interesting, even to a reluctant reader. Yes – sometimes it pays to leave your reading comfort zone. And when it doesn’t, you have every right to complain because it

    about the book, not just about a personal bias with regard to the content.

    For a good book, there should be no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” reader.

  • Nathan

    This book constipated my reading for almost a month. I have overdue fines from other books that were stacked up behind it. Not because I wasn't enjoying the book: it's readable, fascinating, and chock full of the very anecdotes about science and scientists that I love. So then, why the hell did I find this book so hard?

    It's precisely because the book is a collection of anecdotes that it was so hard to read. I felt like I was trying to grasp quicksilver (mercury, symbol Hg from Latin hydragyrum,

    This book constipated my reading for almost a month. I have overdue fines from other books that were stacked up behind it. Not because I wasn't enjoying the book: it's readable, fascinating, and chock full of the very anecdotes about science and scientists that I love. So then, why the hell did I find this book so hard?

    It's precisely because the book is a collection of anecdotes that it was so hard to read. I felt like I was trying to grasp quicksilver (mercury, symbol Hg from Latin hydragyrum, meaning “water silver”) as this steady diet of atomic information arrived. Actually, that's a lousy metaphor: quicksilver is a glistening hypnotic liquid because its atoms stick together. These atomic anecdotes didn't: nothing stuck in my head, nothing stuck to each other. There was no overall organizing principle to the book that I could divine, and reluctantly I finished it barely the wiser than I begun.

    This book demands flashcards. I want to know the anecdotes. I want them to stick. I am going to have to work at it, however, beyond simply reading the book, if that is to happen.

  • Paul Bryant

    My GR friend Jason writes sturdy and trustworthy reviews, but I must take exception with him here :

    Yes, it is all that, IF such stuff as this makes sense to you :

    My GR friend Jason writes sturdy and trustworthy reviews, but I must take exception with him here :

    Yes, it is all that, IF such stuff as this makes sense to you :

    Well, this could be part of the rules of Quidditch for all the sense it makes to poor

    me, so I think The Disappearing Spoon is really for science geeks who think stuff about German chemists being hornswoggled out of a Nobel Prize for Alchemy by some Californian sharpies in 1951 or a neat account of the crucial properties of the biomolecule which are called

    is the very thing for those moments on the beach when there isn't any eye candy around.

  • Bettie☯

    Description:

    Description:

    Part I, Orientation: Column by Column, Row by Row

    ✓1. Geography Is Destiny

    2. Near Twins and Black Sheep: The Genealogy of Elements

    3. The Galapagos of the Periodic Table

    Part II, Making Atoms, Breaking Atoms

    4. Where Atoms Come From: We Are All Made of Star Stuff

    5. Elements in Times of War

    6. Completing the Table . . . with a Bang

    7. Extending the Table, Expanding the Cold War

    Part III, Periodic Confusion: The Emergence of Complexity

    8. From Physics to Biology

    9. Poisoners' Corridor Ouch! Ouch!

    10. Take Two Elements, Call Me in the Morning

    11. How Elements Deceive

    Part IV, The Elements of Human Character

    12. Political Elements

    13. Elements as Money

    14. Artistic Elements

    15. An Element of Madness

    Part V, Element Science Today and Tomorrow

    16. Chemistry Way, Way Below Zero

    17. Spheres of Splendor: The Science of Bubbles

    18. Tools of Ridiculous Precision

    19. Above (and Beyond) the Periodic Table

  • Emily

    This book took me 76 days, or almost

    , to read. In this case, I needed all seventy-six individual days to work my brain through passages like this one:

    This book took me 76 days, or almost

    , to read. In this case, I needed all seventy-six individual days to work my brain through passages like this one:

    All you need to know is that I'm sort of an idiot. If you read the above passage and thought, "This makes perfect sense! What an appropriate way to explain jellium, a state I've always been interested in!", then you are less of an idiot than me and will probably enjoy this book very much.

    To give more context, here's how much of an idiot I am: when I took physics at Stanford (on the way to my successful minor! ha!), I had a lot of trouble with electricity and optics. To study, I did literally every single problem from those chapters, and I did the word problems multiple times. When I got to the final, I immediately recognized one of the problems I had done at least four times, was jubilant for about 2 seconds, and then realized I had absolutely no idea how to do it. (I think I only got half credit.) That is how good I am at squashing scientific concepts into my brain.

    On the positive side, I find all of this very interesting, and because I forget it so quickly, I have a lifetime of renewed discoveries ahead of me.

  • Amanda

    I'm going to have to stop saying that I don't like non fiction. This is the 3rd "science ish" book I have enjoyed recently. This was an interesting look at history as told thru the periodic table. I can't really speak to the accuracy of the science but I really enjoyed reading all the tales. I recognized a lot of the science names but learned some knew things about them. The parts I found the most interesting were how great an effect WWII had on science and scientists and the parts about mental

    I'm going to have to stop saying that I don't like non fiction. This is the 3rd "science ish" book I have enjoyed recently. This was an interesting look at history as told thru the periodic table. I can't really speak to the accuracy of the science but I really enjoyed reading all the tales. I recognized a lot of the science names but learned some knew things about them. The parts I found the most interesting were how great an effect WWII had on science and scientists and the parts about mental health and brain health. I listened to the audio narrated very ably by Seaan Runnette.


Books Finder is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.