Thursday, June 14, 2012

What I'm Reading: The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean

I'm just a hair away from being halfway finished with Sam Kean's pop-chemistry book The Disappearing Spoon.  I borrowed it from a friend this past Saturday, but that's not my only reason for booking it (hah, hah) through this one: it's an interesting look both at the science of chemistry as well as the history, personalities, and applications involved with the recent history of chemistry, all framed through the periodic table.

periodic table penny luxe etsy chemistry
Modern Bright Periodic Table by Penny Luxe Sales
Kean has a background in science and knows his stuff. He also provides a refreshingly thorough look at the birth of the elements, going back to the Big Bang, protons, and neutrons. (Alas, no quarks or antimatter, but that's not particularly relevant to his project.)

The good: As I mentioned earlier, there's a wide breadth of information in this book, clearly and engagingly presented. Also, the paperback book club edition comes with recommended reading (from Kean himself) and his top five favorite elements. The appendix also includes a copy of the periodic table for reference.

The bad: I hate endnotes, and unfortunately that's how this book does supplemental information. Why do people hate footnotes? Why?

One interesting fact: All of the earliest recorded incidents of induced fission were observed by women. (And of course they were promptly overlooked...)

Would recommend? Yes! I would especially recommend it in conjunction with Just Six Numbers, as they touch on a lot of the same things. Review of that one coming soon.

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