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Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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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
"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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Am I a bad mom for reading her present before I give it to her?
We start with a crisp tour through the periodic table and an excellent description of the latest quantum explanations of how electron shells can be best understood. I don't know if you could go from no background whatsoever to an understanding of this topic, but if you have any chemistry/physics background at all then close reading of this several page intro should bring you back up to speed. After that intro you get an explanation of the info-graphs that provide basic data for each element, on each element's page, on electron arrangements, crystal structure, physical characteristics and the like. This is useful and interesting, but not essential material.
The star of the show is the two page treatment of each element, that covers the element's pure form and its most common combined forms. The breezy narrative that sums up each element is entertaining and informative.
The upshot is that this book ends up being the most visually stunning bathroom-coffeetable book, ever. What a happy find.