“[A] virtuoso tour of the periodic table.” (Publishers Weekly)
“[C]harming. . . . Aldersey-Williams writes with simplicity and elegance. The stories may not help you on your next chemistry test, but they’ll help you appreciate the building blocks that are all around us yet all too easy to overlook.” (Associated Press)
“A lucid, enjoyable collection . . . that, element by element, demystifies the iconic periodic table.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Aldersey-Williams’s playful, hands-on approach to scientific exploration shines through the book.” (Boston Globe)
For the UK edition: “[F]ascinating and beautiful. . . . If only chemistry had been like this at school. . . . [A] rich compilation of delicious tales.” (Matt Ridley, Prospect
From the Back Cover
Like the alphabet, the calendar, or the zodiac, the periodic table of the chemical elements has a permanent place in our imagination. But aside from the handful of common ones (iron, carbon, copper, gold), the elements themselves remain wrapped in mystery. We do not know what most of them look like, how they exist in nature, how they got their names, or of what use they are to us. Welcome to a dazzling tour through history and literature, science and art. In Periodic Tales, you'll meet iron that rains from the heavens and neon as it lights its way to vice. You'll learn how lead can tell your future and why zinc may one day line your coffin. You'll discover what connects the bones in your body with the White House in Washington, the glow of a streetlight with the salt on your dinner table.
From ancient civilizations to contemporary couture, from the oxygen of publicity to the phosphorous in your pee, the elements are near and far and all around us. Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colorful pasts, Periodic Tales is a passionate journey through mines and artists' studios, to factories and cathedrals, into the woods and to the sea to discover the true stories of these fascinating but mysterious building blocks of the universe.