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Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe Hardcover – October 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gray, an element collector and Popular Science columnist, has created a visual homage to the periodic table of the elements. The book begins with an introduction to the arrangement of the periodic table. The first 100 of the elements are each profiled on a two-page spread. The left-hand side of the spread features a large color image of the element in its true form, when possible. The right-hand side includes various images of ways the element appears in the world and explanations of some of the compounds in which it can be found. For example, the Selenium entry includes images of selenium sulfide medicated shampoo, Brazil nuts (which are high in selenium), and a red vase that gets its color from a selenium glaze. Most of the images are items from the author�s personal collection. A column running down the right-hand page offers information on the element�s location in the periodic table and its atomic weight, density, atomic radius, and crystal structure in addition to charts portraying its electron order filling, atomic emission spectrum, and states of matter at various temperatures. Because of their instability and short half-life, or because they have not yet been discovered, elements 101 through 118 are presented in two groups of nine. The volume concludes with a brief bibliography and an index in addition to a foldout poster of the periodic table. This eye-catching book is certain to appeal to students and casual browsers alike. --Maren Ostergard


Praise for The Elements:

"I don't know if this is the first coffee-table book paying lush photographic homage to the periodic table, but it is certainly the most gorgeous one I've seen." —John Tierney, The New York Times

"The Elements is a loving reimagination of the classic table." —Wired

"Gray's trademark dry wit and historical anecdotes bring even the most basic lumps to life." —Popular Science

"A great mix of science and art." —Discover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579128149
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579128142
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 1 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (545 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Theodore Gray is the author of The Elements, Molecules, Mad Science, Mad Science 2, and various related books, plus the off-topic (but BAFTA award winning) iPad app Disney Animated. He's the co-founder of Wolfram Research (makers of Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha), founder of Touchpress (publisher of many award-winning iPad and iPhone apps), and an avid robotic quilter. He wrote the Gray Matter column for Popular Science magazine from 1992-2002, and this bio.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

186 of 191 people found the following review helpful By Gavin Scott on October 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Elements is a photographic tour de force of items from Theo Gray's personal collection of element samples. If he were to put on a museum show or do a PBS series, this would be the companion book.

It is a beautiful book, with excellent photography and very high resolution printing on a semi-matte black paper which gives the pictures a floating-in-space quality. About my only gripe is that this is the sort of paper that tends to absorb oil from your fingers and acquire permanent fingerprints, so one has to take a bit of care to keep it looking nice.

The bulk of the book consists of a two-page spread for each of elements 1 through 100. The left hand side of each spread will be a full-page image, typically of the element in its native mineral or a refined form, or some object constructed of the material etc. The right hand page contains a few paragraphs of interesting information/trivia about the element, as well as several images of items from the author's collection of objects made of, containing, or otherwise related to it.

For each there are also some pertinent facts such as its position in the periodic table, and diagrams of the atomic emission spectrum, the melting and boiling points, electron order filling, crystal structure, and some basic numerical facts of atomic weight, density, and radius.

There's also some introductory material and additional discussion of elements 101-118.

This is not a formal reference work in any sense. It's a picture book along with interesting trivia and information. But it is also a fabulously entertaining tour of the elements that make up our world, and it's an absolute joy to curl up with and browse through. A very satisfying thing to possess.
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138 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Steve W. Bonds on November 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chock full of beautifully done photos, as well as sharp wit. Just about every page has something silly somewhere. For example:

"Sodium is the most explosive and the best tasting of all the alkali metals"
"Disposable oxygen tanks for hobby brazing and as a refreshing pick-me-up..."
"So many important chemicals have been discovered by accident that one has to wonder what a bunch of bumblers chemists are"
"Bananas are high in potassium, thus both healthy and radioactive."
"This piece of the mineral thorite might contain an atom of francium, if you watch closely."

He's also quite informative. For example, some of you may have taken exception to his comment on sodium, which he explains on the page about cesium:

"Cesium is widely listed as the most reactive of all the alkali metals, and technically it is. When you drop a piece in a bowl of water it *instantly* explodes, sending water flying in all directions. But that doesn't mean it makes the biggest bang of the alkali metals. Sodium takes longer to explode when tossed into water but the whole time you're waiting, a plume of hydrogen gas is building up, and when all that hydrogen ignites, the explosion is much bigger than anything you can get with cesium"

Sounds like some important research there!

Or this fact that makes perfect sense, though I never really thought about it:

"Even lead will float on mercury"

Overall just an excellent, easily readable, pretty, thought-provoking book.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Steven Adler on October 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Elements by Theodore Gray is a must-have book for anyone who has ever wondered just what exactly the world is made of. That includes curious kids as well as adults with even a passing interest in nature, science and technology. The luscious photographs in this coffee table size book will captivate even young elementary students, while the surprising, witty, non-technical text will keep even professional chemists and engineers entertained and informed.

I opened my newly received copy late at night, intending to look at a few pages before bed. I literally could not put it down, and read it straight through from hydrogen to element 118, so newly discovered it doesn't even have a name yet. Each element's vignette smoothly segues into the next, so it works like an old radio serial melodrama - you just have to keep reading to find out what happens next!

Each element is covered in its order in the periodic table. Along with the multiple photos of pure elements and common (matches and nails) and exotic (atomic clocks and lasers) things containing them from Gray's extensive museum quality collection, you will learn trivia about ones you know well (aluminum, a metal so precious that Napoleon preferred it to gold for VIP dinnerware, is now thrown in the garbage after wrapping sandwiches); ones you might remember from high school (poisonous bromine is in every can of Orange Crush); and ones you probably never heard of (you are required by law to put radioactive americium in every one of your children's bedrooms, and you have!) Lovely diagrams show the electronic configuration, color spectrum and crystal shape. Melting and boiling point bars at the page margins cleverly form a graphic demonstration of the elements' periodic properties when the book is fanned open.
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