… the amazing science, people, and more behind the periodic table of the elements? 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 a fascinating look at everything from how the solar system was formed, to how the periodic table was formed, to the lives of various chemists and physicists, some famous and some less well known. It also includes useful bits of information, such as why it’s a bad idea to spill tellurium on yourself.* The author has an excellent ability to bring highly technical information to the understanding of an educated layperson, as well as a wry sense of humor. The two combine to make the book very readable and enjoyable. I had to keep two bookmarks in it—one to mark my place in the main text, and one for the excellent asides at the end.
One of my favorite quotes (from p. 338):
[As] he got older and crustier, Einstein came to distrust quantum mechanics. Its statistical and deeply probabilistic nature sounded too much like gambling to him, and it prompted him to object that “God does not play dice with the universe.” He was wrong, and it’s too bad that most people have never heard the rejoinder by Niels Bohr: “Einstein! Stop telling God what to do.”
If you have an interest in the history of science, its practical applications, and odd bits of trivia, I highly recommend this book!
*You’ll reek of garlic for weeks.
Reviewed by Fran (staff)