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
When ex-CIA agent Tom King teamed up with a group of extremely talented writers to reboot Marvel’s “Vision” in 2015, he had a lot of material to work with — the character had begun as a kind of super-android in the 1940s and had been reincarnated many times, through many twists and turns: what King & Co did with Vision both incorporated and transcended all that backstory, in an astounding tale that Ta-Nehisi Coates called “the best comic going right now.” With the whole run collected in two volumes, there’s never been a better time to see just how far comic storytelling can go.
I first started writing about the remarkable Joi Ito in 2002, and over the decade and a half since, I’ve marvelled at his polymath abilities — running international Creative Commons, starting and investing in remarkable tech businesses, getting Timothy Leary’s ashes shot into space, backing Mondo 2000, using a sprawling Warcraft raiding guild to experiment with leadership and team structures, and now, running MIT’s storied Media Lab — and I’ve watched with excitement as he’s distilled his seemingly impossible-to-characterize approach to life in a set of 9 compact principles, which he and Jeff Howe have turned into Whiplash, a voraciously readable, extremely exciting, and eminently sensible book.
A flashlight review that begins with the promise “I’m about to hike through a remote canyon to an abandoned mine, and I gotta tell you there’s a storm raging outside” should end on an interesting note, and this one does. [via] Disturbing, strange sounds. That’s exactly what I caught on video while filming and documenting […]
These days, there’s definitely no shortage of touchscreen gloves available, but the key is finding ones that consistently work well. These iGloves Touchscreen Gloves are super reliable, and are on sale for just $11.99.Super comfortable and functional, these gloves will keep your hands warm and still let you use any touchscreen, from phones to tablets. The iGloves’ […]
The Black Friday Mac Bundle 2.0 is one of the Boing Boing Store’s best-selling Mac bundles yet, and it’s about to come to an end. If you don’t get your copy now, here’s what you’ll be missing:This bundle comes packing 9 top-rated Mac apps in one package, at the hugely discounted price of just $23.99. […]
The Boing Boing Store’s Gift Guide is full of ideas for pretty much anyone in your life like hipster ice cub trays, Xbox controllers, Halo Boards, and even diamond necklaces. As always, all products in the Boing Boing Store come at great discounts, too. Shop by price bucket starting at under $20. Under $20:Bloxx Jumbo Ice Trays […]