The full title is The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, what a title! This is a book of facts and history all about how the periodic table and the element that make it up were discovered and used. The egos of scientists fighting for credit is what makes this book not your average history book.  The stories I saw this book at a goodwill and thought I would give it a chance. I will clarify that I have taken my last chemistry class 20 years ago and was a C student at best, and I was able to understand the majority of this book. Sometimes elements and star dust are hard to picture. Where this book really shines are the stories of how the elements were found some are accidents, some were scandalous, and some were found in times of war. The book is filled with amazing factoids.

Here’s facts that I thought were really interesting:

Aluminum used to one of the most expensive metals, more expensive than gold. There’s a pyramid of pure aluminum that tops the Washington Monument because it was a symbol of wealth. People used to have the high honored guest at dinner party eat with aluminum silverware, where the lower class would eat with gold silverware.

The books title, the disappearing spoon refers to the element of gallium, which turns to liquid at room temperature, so it is great for pranks, which was the go prank to give a chilled spoon of gallium to some one to stir tea with which would quickly dissolve.

Thallium is known as the poisoner’s poison. one person ended of experimenting with unknown friends, family, and bosses poisoning up to seventy. The CIA was said to use it in an attempt to kill Castro in Cuba.

The real story of King Midas, wasn’t everything touched turned to Gold, but Bronze.

Goethe who wrote Faust was also a heavy figure in science and contributed to the columns we now use in the periodic table.

There’s plenty of others, that was just some of my favorites that stuck in my head as I write this review. I also didn’t know that so many elements were found in the last 70 years. World War II dealt a pretty good blow to science, having people not believing elements were created when they were because of political bias, It’s all pretty interesting and sometimes drama filled.

I would recommend this book for those that love science, if you want to learn a lot of interesting facts, that could potentially be used in trivia, and impress friends. If you read Radium Girls the Curies stories are in this book as well. I thought this book was pretty interesting, but it has a couple rough spots that I had to make myself read through. I rate this book 3.7 stars out of 5.

I found this on youtube and have nothing to do with it, but it is inspired by the book, and you can see a disappearing spoon which is pretty cool.


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