Philip's Reviews > The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
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's review
May 24, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction, jordabecker-book-club
Read from April 23 to May 18, 2011

I'm glad I had Mrs. Smeltzer for Chemistry. Seriously, that lady was an institution in and of herself at my high school. I may not have aced (or Beeced... or even possibly Ceeced) the class, but I learned a lot. I'm not sure I would be ranking this book three stars if I didn't have her. I bet most people who've read this have some background knowledge of Chemistry, Physics, and the Periodic Table in general...

While I thought the book was good, it was probably too hyped for me. My goodreads idol - Binks - wrote the first review I saw, and his goodreads word is gold in my mind. Then I saw other gushing reviews as well from other trusted goodreaders Lisa and Sandi. Finally, one of my librarians picked it as one of their top books of 2010.

And the book was good. The only reason it disappointed was because it didn’t plug into the back of my brain and teach me Chemistry Matix style. I think it was too hyped, and I was anticipating it being pure fun, and while Kean broke apart these complex theories and made them manageable, you can only simplify things like relativity, alpha, and quantum physics in general down so far. Eventually you have to accept that it’s just some tough shiest to learn. ... I mean, Bunsen burners I get, (named after Robert Bunsen, mind you. A delightful little story...) and I thought I understood bubbles, but no... even those are too complex. (Did you know there are antibubbles?)

Once again, I find myself getting too negative about a book I liked. There was tons of fascinating stuff in here. The boy scout who made a nuclear reactor in his backyard in Michigan. The story of Fritz Haber was among the most haunting, chilling and ironic vignettes I’ve ever read. (A Jewish (Lutheran convert) fighting for the Germans in WWI as a chemical weapons expert...) The rationale behind aluminum’s capping the Washington Monument was interesting - as was the creepiness behind discovering X-Rays. That must have been weird.

You always hear about the Curies. They were like the Lois and Clark of Science – if Lois gets most of the powers (and a reputation for being a flirt.) And poor Pierre. Seriously, that man was robbed of a Nobel. By a horse.

Would I recommend the book? Yes. But cautiously. It was an interesting read; it was fun. It wasn’t fluff.

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04/23/2011 page 135

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