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
Brian Wood’s Starve, Volume One (collecting issues 1-5) was the best, meanest new graphic novel debut since Transmetropolitan; now, with Starve, Volume Two (issues 6-10), Wood brings the story in for a conclusion that is triumphant and wicked and eminently satisfying, without being pat.
I discovered The 13 Clocks by reading Neil Gaiman’s introduction to the 2008 New York Review of Books edition (which I found in The View from the Cheap Seats, a massive collection of Gaiman’s nonfiction), where he calls it “Probably the best book in the world” — how could I resist?
The View from the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman’s mammoth collection of nonfiction essays, introductions, and speeches, is a remarkable explanatory volume in which Gaiman explains not just why he loves the things he loves, but also what makes them great.
While Netflix and Hulu have seemingly dominated the streaming market with their limited selections, we’ve looked a little outside the box and found something pretty great as an alternative. SelectTV combines all the content of cable with the convenience of streaming, and it’s affordable too.SelectTV is an online subscription service that packs an impressive library of over […]
These days, the vape market is saturated with low-quality products, making it nearly impossible to separate the gems from the duds. The Atmos Rx Dry Herb Vaporizer stands out from crowd for two reasons: its impressive battery life and durable construction. This high-end little gadget is compact enough to fit in your pocket, and packs a powerful punch, […]
If you’re like us, you occasionally get ambitious with your dinner and try to cook multiple sides plus a main dish. These efforts usually end as a cold meal plus a pile of dishes to wash. MasterPan Multi-Sectional Meal Skillet makes it super easy to make multiple dishes at once without the hassle. This heavy gauge bottom pan […]