The title for Sam Kean's new book, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
, comes from a prank that scientists sometimes play: they make a spoon out of gallium (which melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit) and hand it to unsuspecting friends to stir their tea with.
The title sets the tone for this witty, anecdote-filled book about the role elements have played in science, art, war, commerce, medicine, literature, and other fields. An element I'd never heard of before, ruthenium, was the key to riches for Kenneth Parker, who used it to make fountain pen tips in 1944. A more well-known element, silver, plays a role in the fate of Stan Jones (I posted about him in 2002), Montana's Libertarian candidate for Senator in 2002. Jones drank a homebrew concoction of colloidal silver to prevent bacterial infection (he was afraid that conventional antibiotics wouldn't be available in the new millennium) and it stained his skin blue for good (the condition is called argyria and I wrote abut it in my book, The World's Worst, which you can buy for $0.01 on Amazon). Cadmium is both a hero and a villain: a hero for being a part of vibrant pigments (I love my cadmium red and cadmium yellow acrylic paints), and a villain for sickening a great many people in the 1940s who drank out of drinking glasses lined with cadmium.
The disappearing spoon is my favorite kind of science journalism: it reveals a hidden universe in the form of a thrilling tale.
Buy The Disappearing Spoon on Amazon
Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three — collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success — turned the series’ reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.
The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.
I lost about 40 pounds on a keto diet, that being the near-total abnegation of carbs. It worked, for me, but the strict mandate means my foodlife is mostly salads, nuts and meat. Tough going! The popularity of the diet, and others similar to it (paleo, Atkins, etc), has created a market for carbless snacks […]
Home audio has taken some big leaps forward in recent years–not just in terms of sound quality, but also in the style department. The FRESHeBAR Leather Soundbar, now 56% off in the Boing Boing Store, is proof.The FRESHeBAR comes packing almost all the options you’d ever need for a home sound system, including Bluetooth streaming capabilities.The unit’s 90 […]
Much of what goes into creating an amazing photo happens in the digital darkroom. Here’s your chance to master all things photo editing: the Ultimate Adobe Photo Editing Bundle, now available in the Boing Boing Store for just $29.99.Across 8 courses and over 41 hours of intensive instruction, you’ll learn the fundamentals of Adobe’s suite of photo […]
3D printers are hot, but they’re also pricey. While the prospect of cranking out everything we can dream up is enticing, cost is often one factor that keeps us from jumping onto the 3D printing train.Now, thanks to M3D, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can now get its flagship 3D printer–plus four reels of filaments–for just […]