Kay Mcgriff's Reviews > Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

Elements by Theodore Gray
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's review
Feb 01, 2012

it was amazing
Read from November 18, 2011 to January 27, 2012

If there were ever going to be a book (besides Moby Dick) that I wouldn’t like, The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe (Black Dog and Leventhal 2009) by Theodore Gray, would probably be it. Come one–the periodic table? All I remember from school about it is that I had to memorize an awful lot of element names, numbers and symbols and then try to balance them in equations. Ugh.

Fortunately, Theodore Gray opens up much more in this exploration of, well, everything. First off, the color pictures are amazing! Not only does he show the elements in their pure (if possible) and natural (when it occurs naturally) states, he also includes photos of a variety of applications–some legitimate and some not so much. Read it, and you’ll see what I mean. Just because some old product claimed to contain radium doesn’t mean it actually had any–and that’s a very good thing.

I didn’t expect to find myself laughing out loud as I read about the elements, either, but I did on more than one occasion. I found myself amazed, shocked and thoroughly entertained while reading. Did you know that that there are only three metallic elements that are not some shade of silvery gray? They are copper (reasonably priced, but tarnishes over time, gold (doesn’t tarnish, but costs much more) and cesium. As Gray explains, its “main disadvantage of cesium as a metal for jewelry is that it explodes on contact with skin.” I definitely think some of my students (8th grade boys, in particular, come to mind) will enjoy Gray’s focus on explosions and deadly metals. (Warning: Do not try this at home when you read about the reaction of sodium and water).

If you want to learn more, you can check out Gray’s expanding collection of elements at The Periodic Table. The pictures are astounding.

First published in my blog at http://kaymcgriff.edublogs.org/2012/0...

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