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
Today sees the publication of Bonnie Burton’s (previously) long-awaited new book, Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy.
Tim Wu is a multiple threat: the originator of the term “net neutrality”; a copyfighting lawyer who cares about creator’s rights; a fair use theorist; Zephyr Teachout’s running mate in the NY gubernatorial race; an anti-monopolist who joined the NY Attorney General and used open source to catch Time Warner in the act; a lifelong deep nerd who was outraged by the persecution of Aaron Swartz, and the author of one of the seminal books on telcoms policy and human rights.
Now, he’s back with his best book yet: The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, an erudite, energizing, outraging, funny and thorough history of one of humanity’s core undertakings — getting other people to care about stuff that matters to you.
Following complaints and a scathing exposé by Review Meta (previously) Amazon announced it will now ban incentivized reviews, a form of shill review written in exchange for free or reduced-cost products.
This week’s top deals from the Boing Boing Store range from lobster to wine to desk organization. 1. Get Maine Lobster (50% Off)With these discounted packages from Get Maine Lobster, you can experience the sweet, fresh flavor of world-renowned Maine lobster right at your own dinner table. There are four options to choose from, each at […]
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From self-driving cars to stock market predicting software to the recommendations you get on Amazon and Netflix, machine learning is at the core of modern technology. You could find yourself building technology that is literally changing the world with the skills you’ll learn in The Complete Machine Learning Bundle. This bundle of 10 courses includes 406 lessons that will teach […]