The disappearing spoon : and other true tales of madness, love, and the history of the world from the periodic table of the elements

Kean, Sam

Publication Details Click to collapse Cite/Export

  • Creator Sam Kean
  • Format Books
  • Publication First edition. New York : Little, Brown and Co., [2010] ©2010
  • Physical Details
    • vi, 391 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
  • ISBNs 9780316051644, 0316051640
  • OCLC ocn456551224


  • The periodic table of the elements is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, obsession, and betrayal. These tales follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and all the elements in the table as they play out their parts in human history. The usual suspects are here, like Marie Curie (and her radioactive journey to the discovery of polonium and radium) and William Shockley (who is credited, not exactly justly, with the discovery of the silicon transistor)--but the more obscure characters provide some of the best stories, like Paul Emile François Lecoq de Boisbaudran, whose discovery of gallium, a metal with a low melting point, gives this book its title: a spoon made of gallium will melt in a cup of tea.--From publisher description.


  • Includes bibliographical references (page 377) and index.


  • Orientation: Column by Column, Row by Row. Geography is destiny ; Near twins and black sheep: the genealogy of elements ; The Galápagos of the periodic table -- Making Atoms, Breaking Atoms. Where atoms come from : "We are all star stuff" ; Elements in time of war ; Completing the table with a bang ; Extending the table, expanding the Cold War -- Periodic Confusion: the Emergence of Complexity. From physics to biology ; Poisoner's corridor : "ouch-ouch" ; Take two elements, call me in the morning ; How elements deceive -- The Elements of Human Character. Political elements ; Elements as money ; Artistic elements ; An element of madness -- Element Science Today and Tomorrow. Chemistry way, way below zero ; Spheres of splendor: the science of bubbles ; Tools of ridiculous precision ; Above (and beyond) the periodic table -- The periodic table of elements
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