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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Natures Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide To The Elements, is an outstanding book, and quite possibly the greatest science book I've ever read. It is filled with countless fascinating facts, such as why an octopus has blue blood and why some people can consume more than twice the lethal dose of Arsenic and live. It really is an excellent reference book for anyone interested in chemistry, biology, nutrition, medicine, or history, and you'll find yourself going back to it time and time again. It does get `slightly' scientific in places such as when it starts to talk about the various isotopes of an element, so some basic knowledge of chemistry is recommended. But it is not overly technical so it's not essential. The sections I enjoyed the most were the `medical elements' which I found extremely interesting. The book is very well structured and easy to follow. This is the kind of book that makes you feel smarter, a true joy to read and I recommend to all. No one could possibly be disappointed.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2002
I read this book like a novel. It describes all the elements, in alphabetical order, with the history of their discovery, their economic use, their role in animals, the environment, and medicine, and their chemisty. I particularly enjoyed the "Element of surprise" section. There is also a short but fascinating description of the history of the discovery of the Periodic Table. This book can probably be enjoyed by someone without any scientific background whatsoever.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2003
Anyone from a chemistry geek (ie, me) to a person just curious about the world around them would find something to enjoy in this encyclopedic exploration of all the elements, natural and manmade. Even the rarest elements have a detailed entry, explaining their role in the environment, society, and an interesting fact. The "Element of Surprise" fact is perhaps the best treat of the book, showing an unexpected side to each atom. Along the way, a firm grounding in the history of chemistry, scientific measurements, and particle physics is given in easily accessed language. A perfect reference book to enjoy and then trot out when a lull in conversation demands an obscure anecdote about magnesium.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 21 March 2009
When I first bought this book, I was a little sceptical. Was I really going to find the courage of reading through all the elements of the periodic table, including Hafnium and Niobium? And even if I did, was I going to enjoy it? Well, thanks to the talent of John Emsley, the answer is yes. Sure enough, you can't beat the old good elements like Iron, Gold, Oxygen and Carbon, and, yes, I did struggle with the like of Dubnium, Hassium and Meitnerium, but altogether, the book reads like a novel. The author manages to stir our interest with surprising anecdotes about the elements (see "element of surprise"). Interestingly, the nuclear origin of the elements is also discussed: Three elements were made in the "big bang", light elements up to Iron were made by stars such as the sun, and heavier elements were made by larger stars and supernovae. A very rich book indeed with many different topics for everyone's taste.
An idea for the next edition: A miniature version of the periodic table showing the position of the element in question would be greatly appreciated; this would avoid the tedious task of referring to the back pages and would help with the learning process.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Its been pretty thoroughly reviewed already but essentially the author takes each of the first 100 elements (those with an atomic number over 100 are lumped together in a chapter of their own) and details such things as its chemical properties, how it acquired its name and a history of its discovery, how the element is produced within stars, its role in human biology, any nutritional role, medicinal uses, military uses, its economic importance, environmental impact as well as any unusual or curious trivia e.g. Antimony pills being sold as re-usable laxatives in the middle ages!

There are also appendices on the periodic table, its development, basic atomic structure and a chronology of the discovery of the elements.

It actually makes very interesting reading and is one of those books that is equally good as a basic work of reference but can also be picked up and dipped into at any time. A welcome addition to my bookshelf!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2009
As a chemistry teacher, this book is quite simply excellent. Whatever element you need to know about, its here - and not just boring facts. Its written in a style that draws you in - and before you know it, you have looked up 3 or 4 more elements just out of interest. Well worth the money - a great book to dip in and out of.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2001
I am a student studying A-Level Chemistry and this was bought as a gift for me by my former Chemistry teacher. As I am particularly fascinated by the elements, I loved all of this book! It is as it says; easy to read, whether you are knowledgeable on Chemistry or not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
As a trainee chemistry teacher I have found this book invaluable. It has provided a massive amount of background material, which I can inform the class about when throwing chemical names at them. useful anecdotes about when the different elements were discovered etc. to the extent that now I get lines of pupils asking loads of questions at the end of lessons because they want to know more. One did answer answer a question "I can't remember the elements name in English but I think its Wolframite in German".

As a bit of a geek who likes to know more than just an element's chemical properties it's really good. Also for cross fertilisation with the history syllabus you can tie science with the pupils history classes. A quick chat to the history teacher what period are Yr 7, 8 etc doing at the moment and yo have a starter for the next lesson. What element was discovered in...? What can it be used for? etc. etc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2010
A very useful book on the elements for the general public.

For me as a science watcher this is a very well put together book on the fascinating subject on how elements react in our universe.

The element properties are described in sections by food, history, medical, economic, war, surprise elements, and so on, well you get the picture, this makes it very useful as a reference book as well as reading in total.

Also explains in the intro the various definitions, for me the ppm, ppb, ppt are very well put over.

The thing I often wonder about is why, when an atom gets a proton and electron its properties change so? No doubt that temperature and pressure, possibly alkanity and acidity and also electron configuration may play a part in how an element appears.

To sum, this is a very readable book and easy to understand as well.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2003
This is a wonderful read - absolutely un-put-downable. It achieves what some may think is the impossible - a book about chemistry or physics that is also entertaining. Open it at any page and you will find something to fascinate and delight.
It will be an important addition to my reference shelf after I have finished reading it cover-to-cover for the enjoyment.
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