Periodic Tales

Posted on November 16, 2012. Filed under: Nonfiction |

Most of us remember staring at a periodical chart on the wall of a classroom. We may learn what the symbols represent, but, for many of us, they don’t hold much meaning. The authors of the following books delve into the periodical chart and give us the meaning we have been missing. They put a story to the elements that goes beyond name, symbol, atomic weight, and atomic number. They make the elements interesting.

book cover for The Disappearing SpoonThe Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
by Sam Kean

“The periodic table of the elements is a crowning scientific achievement, but it’s also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, obsession, and betrayal. These tales follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and all the elements in the table as they play out their parts in human history.

The usual suspects are here, like Marie Curie (and her radioactive journey to the discovery of polonium and radium) and William Shockley (who is credited, not exactly justly, with the discovery of the silicon transistor) – but the more obscure characters provide some of the best stories, like Paul Emile François Lecoq de Boisbaudran, whose discovery of gallium, a metal with a low melting point, gives this book its title: a spoon made of gallium will melt in a cup of tea” (enriched content provided by Syndetics).

book cover for Periodic Tales

Periodic Tales: A Cultural History Of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc
by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

“This unique volume presents a cultural history of the periodic table of elements and examines the many ways in which these common building blocks, often taken for granted or relegated to the chemistry lab, have influenced all aspects of society from art to science to philosophy, religion and culture. ” (enriched content provided by Syndetics).

-posted by Gretchen Schneider

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