The full title of this book is The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sean Kean.
The spoon that disappears is made of gallium (Ga, Atomic Number 31), a metal that melts at around 86 degrees Fahrenheit. One scientific party gag was to serve tea in Victorian parlors and watch the guests as their teaspoons slowly dissolved away. Scientists are fun that way.
The book is a surprisingly entertaining as well as informative read.
Kean takes us through a
tour of the periodic table of elements, the mainstay of chemistry and
physics. As exciting as that sounds (or not), the tour actually includes
murder and madness, love and attraction, and a whole lot of history.
Early in the book the focus is on the development of the table itself as
scientists started to notice patterns of characteristics. Not
surprisingly, these patterns relate to the deep-diving chemistry and
physics of elements and you'll probably learn more about orbital shells
and subatomic anatomy through this book than your introductory science
The author goes on to examine specific elements and groups of
elements as they come to be known, all while giving a voyeur's look into
the often mischievous (and sometimes mad) world of the scientists -
both male and female - who discovered them.
Most science and
history loving readers should find this book fascinating. Kean's writing
style is jam-packed with information and yet easy to read. And even
sometimes downright fun.
The book is definitely worth reading.
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