The Disappearing Spoon...and Other True Tales from the Periodic Table
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The Disappearing Spoon...and Other True Tales from the Periodic Table

By (author) Sam Kean

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Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium (Cd, 48)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history? The periodic table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal and obsession. The fascinating tales in "The Disappearing Spoon" follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold and every single element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. Why did a little lithium (Li, 3) help cure poet Robert Lowell of his madness? And how did gallium (Ga, 31) become the go-to element for laboratory pranksters? "The Disappearing Spoon" has the answers, fusing science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, discovery and alchemy, from the big bang through to the end of time.

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  • Paperback | 400 pages
  • 124 x 196 x 28mm | 281.23g
  • 28 Jul 2011
  • Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Black Swan
  • London
  • English
  • Illustrations, ports.
  • 0552777501
  • 9780552777506
  • 21,273

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Author Information

Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a child and now he is a writer in Washington DC. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, Air & Space/Smithsonian and New Scientist. In 2009 he was a runner-up for the National Association of Science Writers' Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for best science writer under the age of thirty. He currently writes for Science. This is his first book.

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Review quote

"Kean has Bill Bryson's comic touch... a lively history of the elements and the characters behind their discovery" New Scientist "A wealth of fascinating stories with a dazzling cast of heroes and villains. Written with gusto and backed by a mind-boggling amount of research, this is a real page turner" -- Robert Matthews Daily Telegraph "One of the most readable and entertaining books about science yet published ... [Kean] is master of enlightening metaphors" Daily Express "The periodic table meets the best-seller list with Sam Kean's Disappearing Spoon, an engaging tour of the elements... with the eclat of raw sodium dropped in a beaker of water" The New York Times "the anecdotal flourishes of Oliver Sacks and the populist accessibility of Malcolm Gladwell" Entertainment Weekly

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Back cover copy

‘One of the most readable and entertaining books about science yet published’ Daily Express Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium (Cd, 48)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history? The periodic table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold and every single element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, medicine and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. Sam Kean’s New York Times bestselling book fuses science with extraordinary true stories of invention, investigation, discovery and alchemy, from the Big Bang right through to the end of time…

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