The Disappearing Spoon...and other true tales from the Periodic Table Paperback – 28 Jul 2011
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"...brimming with puckish wit ... his love for the elements is downright infectious ... 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 to reveal next."--Caroline Leavitt, Boston Globe
"Kean has Bill Bryson's comic touch... a lively history of the elements and the characters behind their discovery."--New Scientist
"A non-stop parade of lively science stories... with the éclat of raw sodium dropped in a beaker of water."--New York Times
"Unpacks the periodic table's bag of tricks ... with such aplomb and fascination that material normally as heavy as lead transmutes into gold ... the anecdotal flourishes of Oliver Sacks and the populist accessibility of Malcolm Gladwell"--Entertainment Weekly
"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 Cod and Salt
"One of the most readable and entertaining books about science yet published ... [Kean] is master of enlightening metaphors"--Daily Express
"This book is entirely entertaining - it's a real page turner, and there's very little not to like about the combination of a string of QI like fascinating facts with a whole slew of engaging stories ... a delight to read, taking a very predictable subject and approaching it in an entertaining, original and informative way ... if you want to be entertained and find out lots of history and fascinating facts around the elements themselves, this is the one for you."--Popularscience.co.uk
"This book is the literary equivalent of a prime-time documentary on the Discovery Channel or BBC1: populist, accesible, and elementary (boom-boom!), without being simplistic ... You don't need to know your p from your d orbitals to understand, enjoy and learn from a book carefully written by an author keen to share his enthusiasm with a wider audience ... even for those of us with science backgrounds, The Disappearing Spoon remains diverting and entertaining ... The cast of characters makes it entertaining and accesible ... Given the lamentable state of education about science among the general public, we should applaud Kean's ability to bring chemistry to the masses."--Mark Greener, Fortean Times
Fascinating and hilarious true stories from the Periodic Table - Shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2011See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
At first I wasn't convinced. Kean's jovial writing style does grate at first. It's like he's trying to be Bill Bryson's (who gets the inevitable name check on the front cover) hip young nephew. Then there was a confusing, arm-waving description of electron configuration in atoms, that probably only makes sense if you already understand how it works (short of forcing my wife to read it, I can't easily verify this). But things rapidly get better. Kean style settles down (or I got used to it) and after that his descriptions and analogies are pretty much spot on.
There is very little hard science in this book. For that I recommend (as does Kean) John Emsley's Nature's Building Blocks). Instead Kean treats us to a social and industrial history of many of the elements, and the unknown (to most) ways in which they are important in our everyday lives. Kean wanders rather haphazardly through the table, often discussing elements that are far apart on the table together in the same chapter.Read more ›
This is up there with the best popular science books.
"Peppermint cools your mouth because minty methanol seizes up cold receptors...."
I trust that Wrigley's will not be substituting methanol for menthol because it makes you go blind (this is on a par with a recent fungus book that listed the Death Cap as edible). There's little point advising people to avoid the book because it's clear that no-one can tell the difference any more.
If you're interested understanding the periodic table more then this is definately the book for you. I would go as far to say that every student (studying science or not) should have to read it.
Two quibbles: It is quite US centric - the tale of DNA structure is told from the perspective of the failed US researcher - Pauling, rather than from the successful British/US team. I have no idea what Jell-O is m nor anything to do with Hershey bars.......this begins to grate after a while.
And second - in its attempt to not frighten the general reader it leaves out almost anything to do with actual chemistry. And the bits it does skirt round (the influence of electron shells in valency and bonding for example) it treats in such a juvenile 'gee whizz - think how clever the scientists must be to understand this stuff' sort of a way that it also grates.
I think that the author could have credited the reader with just a little more intelligence and tried to go a little deeper - maybe even with some diagrams - to show a bit more of how the table is constructed and the deep structure behind it. Instead, we are left with a series of mostly disconnected anecdotes which are entertaining but don't help much with an understanding of Chemistry.
But maybe I'm a bit biased towards my long ago subject :-)
SE, MSC (Chemistry)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Chemistry was always a weakness during school if only my chem teacher could have injected such passion. No chemistry whizz now but some clarityPublished 1 month ago by Darrenthorpe
The science history is interesting but this book is spoiled by the author not knowing the meaning of English words and using them inappropriately. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Steve Ball
A very readable book with good stories about the origins of discovering the elements, it also gives you enough incite to make you want to find out morePublished 6 months ago by reevan01
Very good book and greatly entertaining. I recommend it to any student taking AS/A2 science as it incorporates all the sciences rather well. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer