Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, a book review

Is it possible to resist a title like The Disappearing Spoon? I sure couldn't!

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, to give it it's full name, has an unlikely title and an unlikely subject. Seriously: A history of science as seen through the periodic table? Is this going to work?

Oooh yes. It works.

It took me a little while to get into The Disappearing Spoon. I spent the first thirty or so pages thinking it interesting but a little bit dry, but after that moved to "fascinating, but not necessarily something I'll suggest to others," and quickly past that into "I must make sure everyone I know reads this!"

As the title suggests, the book covers an incredible amount of territory, everything from the disappearing spoon of the title (Gallium spoons melt when placed in tea; various scientists at various times have amused themselves by watching people's response to this), to the characters of different researchers, to the discovery of new elements, and then there is more in the footnotes--lots and lots and lots more.

Highly recommended.

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