The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe


We've covered Theodore Gray on Boing Boing a lot, and for good reason -- he's amazing. His Mad Science book was filled with spectacularly fun science experiments, he built a Periodic Table table with little compartments to hold samples of elements, and now he has a new coffee table photo book called The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe.

Each element is treated to a gorgeous two page spread, with photos and a fascinating short history.

Did you know:

... if you keep your household smoke detector around for a couple of thousand years, most of the americium will have decayed into neptunium (wait another 30 million years or so and it will become thallium, which the CIA can use to make Castro's beard fall out, if he's still alive)

... if you touch tellurium you will smell like rotten garlic for a few weeks?

... arsenic is commonly added to chicken feed (to promote their growth)?

... a chunk of gallium will melt in your hand (you can buy a sample here)?

... a speck of scandium ("the first of the elements you've never heard of") added to aluminum creates a very strong alloy (like the kind used in the Louisville Slugger that was involved in a recent $850,000 lawsuit)? Books that reveal how truly weird our world is are always welcome in my home. This one's a gem.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe


  1. That’s a bit of information from the introductory paragraph of gallium’s Wikipedia entry. Somewhat more useful to people who are considering purchasing this element: you can make homemade mirrors with indium, caesium, and gallium.

  2. (Th)orium (In)dium (K)potassium

    ..and how about a reminder of the brilliant “they might be giants – meet the elements” bb video

  3. I believe S&W is the largest single user of scandium. It goes into the aluminum alloy frames of their AirLite line of pistols. Great to carry, painful to shoot. With so little mass to absorb recoil, the recoil is rather vigorous…

  4. I had the opportunity to poke through this book at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association conference and I assure you it’s gorgeous. Maybe if this had been my text book in high school. I wouldn’t have gotten a C- in Chemistry.

  5. My daughter used his images in a 7th grade science project last year, combining them with Tom Leher’s “Elements Song”

    check it out:

  6. That’s all fine & good, but the universe doesn’t exist, and I can prove it!

    Please see my blog for details. I welcome rebuttals to my claims. However, since you don’t exist, I may not respond.

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