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The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean did a good job providing the reader with the history of the ...
on October 28, 2016
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean did a good job providing the reader with the history of the periodic table and the elements. Sam Kean was a writer for the New York Times, the New scientist, and many other famous companies. This book was assigned to our class so that we could better our understanding of the elements. Sam Kean’s goal was to show the history of the periodic table and how the use of the elements has changed over time and he achieved that goal. It was a little slow to begin with, but it started to pick up later throughout the book.
The development of the Periodic Table began in the 1800s. It was created by a Russian Chemist named Dimitri Mendeleev (references to this can be found on page 17 of the book) who was born on February 8, 1834 and died on February 2, 1907. Because of the Periodic Table, scientist were able to better predict what element was to come next. This is because the Periodic Table was well organized and put certain elements into rows and columns, telling the charges and masses of the elements and their atoms. Ernest Rutherford, a physics professor at the University of Manchester, created a way of splitting atoms. This can be found on page 98 of the Disappearing Spoon. He and a student of his also found a new way to look at the atom of an element. Before, many believed that the atom was shaped were certain rays would just pass through them and that the electrons would be placed in “rows.” When Rutherford and his student created the new look of the atom, it astonished chemists and other scientists around the world. They found that the rays can pass through some parts of the atom, but some get bounced back. In 1940, the U.S. government decided to start helping with the fight against the Axis powers. One way they did this, was by asking scientists, like McMillan, to work on things like radar. By creating this, it would help the U.S. take down the Axis powers. Evidence of this can be found on page 117.
As time went on, chemistry started to become more than just the study of matter and elements. It began to be used in other areas of Science. An example of this, is medicine. Certain compounds and elements are used to help heal patients or to strengthen them. Sam talks about how chemistry can even be used to get rid of tumors. Sam says, “Normally, triggering a nano-nuke inside the body is bad, but if doctors can induce tumors to absorb gadolinium, it’s sort of an enemy of a bad thing.” (page 171) Elements have an impact on other parts of the body too. For instance, it can impact one’s taste of something. Sam says, “The taste buds for savory, or unami, lock onto glutamate…” (Page 193).
Overall, the book did a good job teaching about the development of the periodic table and the ever-changing uses of the elements. The parts that show this the best, the Periodic Table and when it was created, the production on radar during WWII, and the use of chemistry and elements in medicine.