July 31, 2010

The Disappearing Spoon 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 by Sam Kean is quite possibly the most interesting book about chemistry and the periodic elements.

Book Description
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.

My Thoughts
Chemistry is really not my thing. I hated it in high school and in college too. In fact I may have to still take one more course of it (not something I’m looking forward to). The periodic table of elements always seemed like such a big thing to grasp and understand. I never really was one of those students who cared to memorize the properties and their symbols. Just the basic ones for me, thanks.

The Disappearing Spoon is however a book about my dreaded subject to study. This book is quite different from a textbook though, and no test is required – so that makes reading it a bit easier.

The book is divided into different sections of the elements of the periodic table. The stories told in each section are about interesting facts about those elements such as Lewis and Clark carrying mercury and how people can find where they camped by the mercury deposits in the soil to this day. It makes for learning about the elements more fun and less conventional.

Overall, I have to say that I do in fact recommend this book for those interested in Chemistry. Even though this is not going to be required reading for most taking Chemistry, it should perhaps be suggested. Those who learn about the elements from The Disappearing Spoon will have great tales in which to remember them, and this would definitely be a good thing for test day, at least one can hope. High school teachers would also benefit greatly from reading this book and incorporating some of the stories into their lectures – trust me, the students wouldn’t even fall asleep as much!

* Thank you to the publisher of The Disappearing Spoon, Little Brown, part of the Hachette Book Group for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

My daughter is heading off to college and a chemistry class just might be on the schedule! Thanks I will keep this on the list and grab it for her!