Sam Kean’s “The Disappearing Spoon” exposes the wild world of the periodic table

Jul 27, 2010

While the periodic table may evoke groans from high school chemistry students, there’s a whole other side to the 118 elements that’s not going to burn your skin. “Alice in Wonderland’s” Mad Hatter and many milliners were truly crazy from their overexposure to mercury. That pesky cadmium that’s in McDonald’s toys and Miley Cyrus jewelry can make your bones as fragile as peanut brittle. Sam Kean lays out all the unknown history of the periodic table in his book <i>The Disappearing Spoon</i>, such as the origins of the elements’ names and the curious lifestyles of the scientists who discovered them. With these 118 elements, there’s more than meets the eye than exploding Mentos and Diet Coke.

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