Book Review: The Disappearing Spoon

“It’s a book about the periodic table of elements” got me an odd look from my wife, when asked what I was reading on my kindle. Yes, I’m a geek.

But this isn’t the dry kind of chemistry book that you might imagine. This is a series of tales of history and intrigue. The author goes through the periodic table in chunks, where elements are similar, and tells the tales unique to those elements. There is a chapter on the elements that give rise to life, with another look at why Silicon based life is really fantasy. It’s followed up by a chapter called the poisoner’s corner, showing how one column in the periodic table is so hostile to life, and has been known to assassins for years.

There are tales about how one of the battles of WWI was fought in Colorado over a German owned mine for an element that only the German scientists had figured out that the previously thought useless element Molybdenum made an excellent hardening agent for steel. You’ll learn that once Aluminum was once more precious than Gold, and why the Brits insist on having another “i” in that word. And all throughout the book you are actually getting a feeling of what the periodic table really means, as the chapters are always written as clumps; be them columns in the table, or other logical groupings.

A really fun book, that I think anyone with a curiosity about the world will enjoy.

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