The Disappearing Spoon

By Barath S. (RBG)

If you slept through high-school chemistry, this is your chance to learn about the Periodic Table in a truly painless and highly entertaining way.


Although the periodic table of elements has been revised and adapted ever since it was created by a Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, it remains “one of the great intellectual achievements of humankind”. Sam Kean also recognizes it as a “storybook” and that there’s “a funny, or odd, or chilling tale attached to every element” on the table. It is these stories that make his book so compelling.

The author gives each element a backstory, providing enough technical detail to interest scientists and enough drama and intrigue to keep newcomers turning the pages. This book contains many interesting stories about the elements and how they have influenced our lives and how there are still many amazing stories yet to be told. It is a collection of stories that happen to involve chemistry. This book is great for scientists, history buffs, or just anyone looking for a good story.

In case you were wondering, the title ‘disappearing spoon’ refers to an old parlour trick involving gallium, which has a melting point just above standard room temperature. Despite being a metal with a fair resemblance to aluminium, it will melt in your hands. So make a spoon out of gallium, give it to someone to stir their tea, then sit back and chortle as they wonder where the spoon went. Ah, how we laughed!

The Disappearing Spoon is a worthwhile read if you’re looking for a book that’s fun and enlightening, even if it’s only to uncover the elemental curiosity of its namesake.

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