- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (June 6, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316051632
- ISBN-13: 978-0316051637
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 820 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements Paperback – June 6, 2011
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"Kean...unpacks the periodic table's bag of tricks with such aplomb and fascination that material normally as heavy as lead transmutes into gold. A-"―Keith Staskiewicz, Entertainment Weekly
"Kean's writing sparks like small shocks...he gives science a whiz-bang verve so that every page becomes one you cannot wait to turn just to see what he's going reveal next."―Caroline Leavitt, The Boston Globe
"[Kean turns] The Disappearing Spoon into a nonstop parade of lively science stories...ebullient."―Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Kean's palpable enthusiasm and the thrill of knowledge and invention the book imparts can infect even the most right-brained reader."―Christine Thomas, Miami Herald
"With a constant flow of fun facts bubbling to the surface, Kean writes with wit, flair, and authority in a debut that will delight even general readers."―Publishers Weekly
"Nearly 150 years of wide-ranging science...and Kean makes it all interesting. Entertaining and enlightening."―Kirkus
"Only once in a rare while does an author come along with the craft and the vision to capture the fun and fascination of chemistry. The Disappearing Spoon is a pleasure and full of insights. If only I had read it before taking chemistry."―Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt and Cod
"If you stared a little helplessly at the chart of the periodic table on the wall of your high school chemistry class, then this is the book for you. It elucidates both the meanings and the pleasures of those numbers and letters, and does so with style and dash."―Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"The Disappearing Spoon shines a welcome light on the beauty of the periodic table. Follow plain speaking and humorous Sam Kean into its intricate geography and stray into astronomy, biology, and history, learn of neon rain and gas warfare, meet both ruthless and selfless scientists, and before it is over fall head over heels for the anything but arcane subject of chemistry."―Bill Streever, author of Cold
1. "It happens often in biology, but only once in a rare while does an author come along with the craft and the vision to capture the fun and fascination of chemistry. Sam Kean's The Disappearing Spoon is a pleasure and full of insights. If only I had read it before taking chemistry." --Mark Kurlanksy, author of Salt and Cod 2. "The best science writers...bring an enthusiasm for the material that infects those of us who wouldn't usually give a flying proton. Sam Kean...unpacks the periodic table's bag of tricks with such aplomb and fascination that material normally as heavy as lead transmutes into gold. With the anecdotal flourishes of Oliver Sacks and the populist accessibility of Malcolm Gladwell...Kean succeeds in giving us the cold hard facts, both human and chemical, behind the astounding phenomena without sacrificing any of the wonder--a trait vital to any science writer worth his NaCl. A-" --Entertainment Weekly 3. "Sam Kean...is brimming with puckish wit, and his love for the elements is downright infectious. Kean's book is so rambunctious and so much fun, you'll find yourself wanting to grab someone just to share tidbits. But the alchemy of this book is the way Kean makes you see and experience and appreciate the world differently, with a real sense of wonder and a joy of discovery, that is downright elemental." --Caroline Leavitt, Boston Globe 4. "This is nonfiction to make you sound smart over gin and tonics: the human history behind the periodic table." --Time.com 5. "Sam Kean...has done something remarkable: He's made some highly technical science accessible, placed well-known and lesser-known discoveries in the contest of history and made reading about the lives of the men and women inside the lab coats enjoyable." --Austin American-Statesman 6. "Fascinating. Kean has Bill Bryson's comic touch when it comes to describing genius-lunatic scientists...The book is not so much a primer in chemistry as a lively history of the elements and the characters behind their discovery." --New Scientist 7. "A quirky and refreshingly human look at a structure we usually think of as purely pragmatic." --SeedMagazine.com 8. "[The Disappearing Spoon is] crammed full of compelling anecdotes about each of the elements, plenty of nerd-gossip involving Nobel prizes, and enough political intrigue to capture the interest of the anti-elemental among us. Once you're done with this book, do your chemistry teacher and all her future students a favor, and send her a copy." --Galleycat 9. "Kean loves a good story, and his account teems with ripping yarns, colorful characters, and the occasional tall tale of chemical invention....let us hope that Kean...continues to bring the excitement of science out of the lab and into the homes of the American reading public." --Chemical & Engineering News 10. "An idiosyncratic romp through the history of science. The author is a great raconteur with plenty of stories to tell....entertaining and enlightening." --Kirkus Reviews 11. "The Disappearing Spoon shines a welcome light on the beauty of the periodic table. Follow plain speaking and humorous Sam Kean into its intricate geography and stray into astronomy, biology, and history, learn of neon rain and gas warfare, meet both ruthless and selfless scientists, and before it is over fall head over heels for the anything but arcane subject of chemistry." --Bill Streever, author of Cold 12. "If you stared a little helplessly at the chart of the periodic table on the wall of your high school chemistry class, then this is the book for you. It elucidates both the meanings and the pleasures of those numbers and letters, and does so with style and dash." --Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
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Kean then makes fun of Crookes for daring to attempt to make scientific sense of spiritualism. Spiritualism was a late 19th century craze. Aside from the success of various occult practitioners in convincing the gullible, the craze led more than a few respected philosophers and scientists to investigate the alleged phenomena and its hold on the human mind. Mr. Kean's attitude leads me to suspect that William James's _The Varieties of Religious Experience_ never made it onto his reading list.
I expect a science writer to have sufficient awareness of the Zeitgeist of the periods he discusses to not view the past through a mere contemporary vision. I certainly expect a science writer to recognize contemporary fallibility and therefore be very careful to *respectfully* note what appear to be the errors of the past. Unless we wish to be taken for clowns by our progeny, we should take care not to laugh at the ideas of our ancestors.
The Disappearing Spoon
In the novel The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean writes about the periodic table. Sam Kean teaches us through history and research and stuff, which makes learning about the a little more interesting than it is. I still don't like learning about it.
Through Sam Kean’s stories, he tries make learning about the elements, easy to remember. For example, the story about the cold war and Berkeley's involvement in the discovery of berkelium and californium, during bombing experiments. Also, Sam Kean puts fun facts all around the novel. For example, Kean writes about the longest word, which is 1,185 letters long, and it describes a protein, which is built up of the 6th most versatile element, carbon.
Not only does Kean make elements easy to remember, but he also makes the reader keep on reading, through interesting chapter themes, and the novel’s differences to lecturing. In The Disappearing Spoon, Kean gives the reader more anticipation through his titles of the chapters. For example, chapter five is titled, “Elements in Times of War”, elements and war are very different things, but when put together, the reader becomes more curious. Also, the novel’s difference between lecturing makes the reader keep on reading. Instead of giving the straightforward facts on how chemistry works, like in lecturing, Kean’s writing of chemistry through stories fuels the reader to find info and to dive deeper into the book’s element history.
In conclusion, Sam Kean keeps the reader thirsty for knowledge because of his writing style, stories, fun facts, interesting chapters, and how his book is the exact opposite of lecturing. Not only would I recommend this book to anyone, but I would especially recommend this novel to chemistry teachers. By incorporating The Disappearing Spoon into their teaching curriculum, they will hopefully make the students more enthusiastic about learning chemistry.
Kean discusses the history of each element in a brief, interesting way. When talking of element 118, Ununoctium, he describes the scandal behind it. After it was “discovered,” people began searching for the data only to find there was none. Of course it was later proven, and is now sitting on the 7th period of the periodic table. Again history is present when Kean talks of chemical warfare, and how bromine and chlorine bombs were thrown between Germany and France. These historical tidbits add a sense of reality to the story, allowing for the reader to relate to the text easily. It keeps the reader interested, even for one not necessarily interested in chemistry.
The description of harmful effects the elements potentially have add yet another layer of realism. The danger behind the atoms that make up our world remind us to respect them and proceed with caution in research. Nuclear bombs are clearly dangerous, as shown by history. However, when Kean talks of when it was first hypothesized, the pioneers clearly see the danger and possible misuse while moving forward. We can see looking back the power elements contain, as the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan destroyed two cities and countless lives. Again, when Cadmium is brought up, the danger of elements is seen. It was being dumped into the water by a Japanese mining company, and the consumption lead to a disease causing liver failure and weakened bones. The sense of danger Kean places above the elements shows us that while they are essential to our survival, they can kill us just as easily if not treated properly. This section in the book really keeps the reader hooked, as the very real possibility of death or serious harm while dealing with elements will hold the attention of anybody.
Kean does a good job keeping the book interesting through the history and harmful effects of elements. The scandals and potential dangers in the world of Chemistry give it much more depth. As a reader, the book sought only to increase my interest in the field with these aspects. All in all, The Disappearing Spoon was a fun to read, and taught me more of the broad field that is chemistry.