Spoons of Disappearance
This month, I finished The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. The Disappearing Spoon is a fascinating look at the people who discovered the elements and their quest to create and add to the periodic table of the elements. Kean did an excellent job writing an intriguing book on the subject with far more personality than the average science book. When I was in school, I found the table of the elements rather uninteresting. Yes, the elements are all known substances (as yet), but their representation can be downright boring and the idea of memorizing them seemed absolutely zany for practical purposes--sort of like trigonometry's use in everyday life. I do not have anything against the elements or trigonometry; I just think that, for most people, culinary and budgeting classes are a better use of time. It is not my intention to offend either scientists or physicists--I am thankful for both.
I liked about how the word "computer" actually came from women who would check calculations. These women were called "computers," and they were the individuals who ran through calculations concerning the atomic bomb. These women's work was to check the scientists' calculations using the Monte Carlo method, which basically is a rolling of scientific dice for projected outcomes.
The story of Tycho Brahe's green, copper nose prosthetic was somewhat comical (he lost his original nose's tip at a darkly-lit dinner when he and another fellow fell to sword-fighting after imbibing in some alcoholic beverages). People actually exhumed Brahe's body to check out his nose (didn't we have something, anything more pressing to pursue with our scientific minds?) The fact that copper disrupts the metabolism of microbes, choking the tiny beasts to death after a few hours was news to me. Equally noteworthy is the fact that copper does not affect human cells, which is why copper is used for water pipes--to cut down on germs naturally.
In conclusion, I give The Disappearing Spoon a 9.5 out of 10 for overall enjoyment. I cannot recommend the book highly enough for the curious and/or the boggled in this fascinating subject. I would almost say Kean's The Disappearing Spoon is an "elemental" look at the elements.