Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Disappearing Spoon

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
Little, Brown, and Company. 2010
346 pages
Non-fiction; Science
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library (I was browsing through the stacks despite the massive pile I had already checked out and I remembered hearing about this somewhere so I grabbed it)

Summary: The subtitle is "And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements," which I think does a pretty good job of summarizing what this is about.

Thoughts: The best part of this book is that Kean clearly loves the subject.  He is so passionate and he shares that he's been collecting these stories for much all his life.  His particular fascination is with mercury but he covers all the elements (I think) at least once, whether it's its initial discovery or with a new use that it's been put to.

I would also say that he does a good job of breaking down the science bits.  I'm a history person and there is some history here but there is more explanation of the chemistry and physics of the elements.  I'm not sure I understand everything but I know more now than I did before starting the book.

The stories themselves are really interesting and he also gives recommendations of some other books to give a try which I have added to my list.

Explanation of Title: (Not a spoiler, it's on the dust jacket) Apparently gallium melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thus some pranksters would take it and mold it into a spoon.  They would serve it with tea and watch their guests' baffled expressions when the spoon disappeared.

Overall: Enjoyable and approachable science/history book.

Cover: I like the incorporation of the spoon and the green seems sciencey.  I think I would have liked to have seen part of the periodic table though.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that such a thing as the disappearing spoon existed! Very, very interesting. I am not a science person, really. I was bad at chemistry in high school, I confess, but I do like a good approachable science book. This one would definitely appeal to my uncle.


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