Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review: 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

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
About the Author:
Official bio: Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a kid, and now he's a writer in in Washington, DC, for Science. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, Smithsonian's Air & Space, and New Scientist. In 2009 he was a runner-up for the National Association of Science Writers' Award for best young science writer.Here's What I Think:

Find periodic table maps, games, and more at ... http://www.samkean.com/
(un)Official bio: Sam Kean gets called Sean once a month. He grew up in South Dakota, which means more to him than it probably should. He's a fast reader but a very slow eater. He went to college in Minnesota and studied physics and English. He taught for a few years at an experimental charter school in St. Paul, where the kids showed up at night. After that, he tried to move to Spain (it didn't take) and ended up in Washington, D.C. He has a master's degree in library science he will probably never use. He wishes he had a sports team he was passionate about, but doesn't, though he does love track & field.

The book is an interesting mix of pure science and entertaining anecdotes about many of the most famous, or at least most intelligent scientists of the year past. You do not have to be a science buff to be intrigued by this very interesting collection of tales. The periodic table is a huge part of all our lives, whether we realize it or not. It was very interesting to learn where names came from, how things were discovered and some interesting uses, that were later found to not be the brightest choices. I might not have struggled so much with the 6 chemistry classes I had to take in college, if I had read this book. In fact I would suggest it as required reading to all collage students. It gives life and substance to and otherwise mundane listing of elements.
BUY IT! You can buy your own copy on Amazon

Disclaimer: Although I did receive a copy of this book from Hachette Book Group, I was in no other way compensated to write this review.


  1. This sounds absolutely fascinating! My husband is a biologist, so it's all science, all the time at our house, and even though I'm nowhere near his level of expertise, I love learning about science. I'm definitely keeping an eye out for this one. Great review!

  2. This one sounds terrific. I have a houseful of budding scientists who would love it!


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