Reviews

User reviews

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

The Stories Chemistry Tell
The Disappearing Spoon is a book by Sam Kean made up of a string of short stories which tells the past about some of the elements in the periodic table. Throughout
the short stories Sam kean explains some of the fundamentals of chemistry while adding a little bit of comedy to his short stories and fun facts about the elements he or other scientists have experienced with certain elements depending on which chapter. The purpose of this book is to bring a comedic side to the history of chemistry and it’s history.
Overall the book and it’s stories were very interesting, what really captivated me was not the facts about the element itself in his short stories but about fun things that can be done with this element. For example, the story about making a spoon out of gallium metal and watching as the spoon melts inside the teacup.Or in chapter four when he arose the question on how the elements were formed. These parts of the short stories is what gets the reader interested and it gives the reader a different perspective of chemistry even if they have never even taken a class on the subject.
What Sam kean also did very well was using several different other sources in his book from other scientists from the facts, theories, to just the fun prank stories. Back to chapter four he talks about a theory on how the elements were all formed from only hydrogen as many processes then took place to create supernovas and create more elements over time in comparison with a theory that stated that all elements already existed. He takes facts from research projects and puts them all together with stories and fun facts to make a beautiful mix of an educational yet funny book.
Another factor in Sam Kean’s book is his expression towards what he personally thinks about the elements and how he connects with chemistry as he is fascinated by it. The whole book is based around his fascination and in extreme detail why he is fascinating while along the way adding the facts. This factor makes it so that readers can relate to Sam Kean, a relation of being fascinated by something, something that makes your eyes pop out. This is probably what Sam Kean did best in his stories and the audience most definitely appreciates it as it is not boring, which is after all why people read books, for fun.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Carlo Portillo Eckman
Honors Chemistry
Mr. Halkyard
Oct 29, 2016
The Disappearing Spoon Book Review
The Disappearing Spoon book was written by Sam Kean and the main theme was mostly about historical science and the periodic table. Sam Kean is not a scientist but is an author and a writer. He has written for the New York Times and has also published three books which are based on scientific discoveries in a narrative way. The thesis of the story was based upon historical science and how the periodic table was assembled, and thus the periodic table told a historical story of how each element was found and how it created an impact on whomever found it. The book as somewhat interesting but at the same time I didn’t feel a connection towards the book. By this I mean, It did not have an influence on me but was just informational.
Throughout the book the author keeps on explaining and explaining on how the periodic table was formed and in some way he also explains how each element was found. Some of the most important chapters in the book that I thought were there were the first chapter and how it was explaining how the periodic table was formed and the some of the chapters in the middle of the book (11,12,13). I think that these are some important chapters because these three chapters help explain and show the people that elements can create an impact on everyone whether it deals with money or how elements deceive people.
Sam Kean might be an author/magazine writer but he is no scientist. And I'm not saying that science books have to be written by scientists but my only speculation is that if Sam Kean really and truly new what he was talking about. The book The Disappearing Spoon was a well written and very informational book. Many parts during the book Sam Kean is giving many descriptive sentences on the periodic table and how it is related someway to a castle in its formation. This is something not many scientist I believe would describe the periodic table as. My point being, Sam Kean may have information but it's produced in ways others wouldn’t describe it as (chapter 1&2).
My last and final argument that I believe needs to be brought about is exceptional job of Sam Kean when he was describing atoms. He talked about a topic that is used in our everyday lives and relayed it in a very informational way. He talked about atoms in a total of three chapters back to back to back. Each chapter he described atoms in a very easy way for the readers to understand. The three chapters he talked about atoms were in chapters 4, 5, and 6. He made the chapters easy for everyone to understand that atoms are used and are in our everyday lives.
This book was very informational like I said but at the same time it was not a book that “connected” with me. I would recommend this book to other schools who are studying chemistry and just want to know the basis and the origin of chemistry, because Sam Kean does a substantial job of going into detail about atoms, periodic table, elements, and such.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean is a novel regarding chemistry and how it can be related to events outside of the scientific field in a joyful way. I read this book because it was assigned in my honors chemistry one class. This book was informative and very well created a platform to build off of for the rest of the year, but also taught some other and useful facts about history and sociology. Chemistry can go beyond where it's usually expected to be seen, and the Disappearing Spoon takes chemistry and sprinkles it over at least the last 100 years.
This novel is about the periodic table. It starts out by taking the shape of the periodic table in chapters one and part of two and relating it to a castle. The rest of the book follows the same pattern. It takes each element or a few related elements and connects them to a place or event in history.
Deeper into chapter one, Kean talks about the castle as a whole but as well goes deeper. Each element is a now a brick that pieces the castle together. Though he clearly states that each and every brick is made up of a different substance, without any one of the bricks the castle would fall down and destroy everything around it.
In Chapter seventeen, Kean talks about bubbles a fun and friendly subject that shows all chemistry. Bubbles are formed through a chemical reaction causing the bubbles to release. He then goes on to talk about a scientist named Donald Glaser who at the age of 33 won the Nobel Prize for science for his bubble chamber.
Chemistry can go beyond where it's usually expected to be seen, and the Disappearing Spoon takes chemistry and sprinkles it over at least the last 100 years. The readers are brought to the 1900’s to see the history of bubbles, and bubbles are a key part in recognizing chemical reactions. Readers as well are invited to take a new perspective on the periodic table and not forgetting each elements value knowing that if any brick were to be left out, break or not have anymore to replace it the whole castle would fall down. I recommend the disappearing spoon for all people and especially those who are seeking a fun way to build an in depth platform to learn chemistry off of.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

The book "The 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 tells the story, or rather a mass amount of stories that tell the tale of elements as they are discovered, torn apart, and deciphered. Sam Kean tells us, the reader, where we can find the places where chemistry comes to us.
In it, Sam brings chemistry to us by referencing everyday objects. For instance, Sam shows us the history behind the very thing we use everyday and maybe even all day: silicon transistors. Sam explains the story of a young scientist who is investigating the potential to switch the mighty big vacuum transistor for a transistor designed entirely differently: a semiconductor known as germanium. He fights hard to get this working, but one of his colleges realizes that he has made a mistake with the element he chose: instead using silicon for his transistor. After this the man with the germanium fights for the title of who invented the transistor, and wins. In this story, we learn what interesting history there is that came before our awesomely powerful computers. The steps we take are just important as the steps we have already taken.
In his stories of the Nazis, Sam shows us how horrible things have happened because of our knowledge of the elements. In World War I, a chemist figured out that bromine could be used in chemical warfare on the field, and employed these strategies at war. The consequences were terrifying and brutal, all because we knew how to harness the power of the elements.
Sam also tells us how fickle chemistry can be as well when another chemist did something similar. Using various methods, the chemist had created ammonium nitrate, a chemical that is lethal to humans, and was even employed in the Nazi gas chambers. However this chemical was indeed a two faced animal, as it is also an extremely good fertilizer for fields, and is now used widely around the world.
The Disappearing Spoon was indeed a very good novel that reminded me of the various parts of human history and a particular radio show called radiolab. We do indeed need to be reminded sometimes of where chemistry meets humankind.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements is by Sam Kean. It is about chemistry, specifically, the periodic table of elements, and the elements inside of the table. Sam Kean has written three books, two bestsellers including The Disappearing Spoon. He had no previous background of science or chemistry, yet he still created a masterful novel. I write this review as it was assigned to our class as a project by our teacher. When we write a review, it shows a mastery of the subject. The novel was written to help explain all of the elements in the world and to help decipher the periodic table. Sam Kean uses short stories that are easy to read as a way to help understand a very dense subject. I believe that that book was made to make chemistry fun, and to see how it is incorporated in our daily lives.
The book is separated into sections by columns and rows of the periodic table, making and breaking atoms, periodic confusion, elements of human character, and science today. Each section explains the different elements of the table. The elements he talks about are all in depth and the back stories behind each element are very interesting. Things that you would have never known by looking at the elements, he talks about in the book.
In The Disappearing Spoon the discovery of radium and chemical weapons present arguments. For example, the previously unknown element radium was found in the waste of uranium experiments conducted by Marie Curie. She had also found another element, and she named it polonium after her home country Poland. During WWI, Poland was invaded, and this did not help with trying to market polonium. Radium took over the markets, and polonium was soon downcast. Marie Curie eventually did earn her reputation back but radium almost ended her career. The discovery of elements and their ions also affected how we fight wars today. The introduction of nukes was largely in part to the uranium ion. Bromine and chlorine gas was used in WWI and WWII in the form of shells. It was very effective in stopping and injuring the enemy. This was previously unheard, yet chemistry paved the way for the modern war we see today.
The disappearing spoon was created to help the readers through the periodic table by giving information and unknown stories. Chemical advances have come a long in the past 100 years, with chemical advances such as chemical warfare, and the introduction of harmful chemicals. These stories help us make a connection with the material that I am learning in the classroom. When I have this connection, the learning and remembering becomes easy.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

The Disappearing Spoon is a book written by Sam Kean that tells the narrative of chemistry using the periodic table and historical events associated with each element. Sam Kean is a writer based in Washington D.C. His works have been featured in many top-tier magazines and newspapers. In particular, this book was named as one of the top science books in 2010 and has received some accolades. The main theme or purpose of this book is to analysis the periodic table by explaining the properties of the elements and putting them in a historical context. Through the historical antidotes, the characteristics, uses, and importance of the elements are shown. In addition, the stories reveal how humans interact and manipulate chemistry, for better and worse, further displaying human nature and innovation. For me, I had to read this because my chemistry teacher assigned it to my class. He did this to give the students an additional foundation for chemistry.
An argument that can be seen throughout the book is that chemistry has numerously been manipulated for war. This topic is the main focus in chapter five, “Elements in Times of War.” First of all, Kean talks about bromine and its contribution to the development and usage of chemical weapons in the World Wars. Bromine, being a rather reactive element want to obtain an octet of electrons, “shreds the weaker elements in cells, such as carbon, to get its electron fix” (82). Therefore, bromine was used as tear gas or lacrimators since it irritates the eyes and noses and displaces the senses. Then, Kean talks about Haber who invented a way to synthesize ammonia (nitrogen fixation). His innovation helped many farmers fertilize crops, increasing food production. However, Kean points out how he uses his invention for bad. Haber helped Germany build nitrogen explosives or fertilizer-distilled bombs. Lastly, Haber then used the notorious chlorine in his weapons. Chlorine, like bromine, attacks human cells but in a more vicious way. One effect of it is that it can produce fluid buildup within a person’s lung. Of course, with the help of Haber, chemical weapons progressed greatly. Zyklon A and its successor Zyklon b proved to be extremely deadly when used by the Nazis to gas the Jews. Thus, all the examples here show the negative side of humanity, the one where chemistry is manipulated for warfare and death.
Next, the race to discovering new elements fueled the Cold War as both countries tried to receive as much scientific merit. University of Cal, Berkeley was well known during the Seaborg era as one of the top scientific programs since it churned out many new elements from 97 to 103. On the other end, Cal was competing with Dubna, Russia who first found a few elements themselves. Most notably, the Dubna team first stated that they discovered 104 and 105, but they had to share credit. The constant fight for credit also led to the argument of naming the elements found. As seen in Berkelium and Californium, Cal Berk enjoys reminding everyone who found elements 97 and 98. In all, the battle to find new elements between the Cal team and Russia not only fueled the Cold War but also helped chemistry and science as a whole progress.
My last argument is that catastrophes due to lack of knowledge often lead to breakthroughs and discoveries about element properties. This theme can be seen in the Poisoner’s corridor, described by Kean, where the south right corner of the ptable contains the most poisonous and toxic elements. In one instance, in Japan, factories dumped leftover cadmium sewage into streams and the ground. As a result, the rice paddies absorbed the cadmium, affecting the public health. Farmers saw an increase in joint and deep bone pain. In one case, when a doctor inspected a girl’s wrist, it broke! As it turned out, cadmium softened bones. It replaces zinc, sulfur, and calcium in the body, starving the body of those essential minerals for proper bodily functions. The next and final example, Thallium, proved to be the most deadliest element on the table since it has the
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon is a collection of stories that are written to blend craziness, romance, history and, of course, chemistry. This book teaches the reader about the origins and history of many of the elements on the Periodic table. Sam Kean is a critically acclaimed writer who has been nominated for the PEN Literary Science Award among others. I enjoyed reading this book because it combines chemistry with other aspects of life perfectly.
One example of this book blending chemistry with other topics is when it blends chemistry with history. This takes place when Kean talks about Bromine: “Early, secret work on chemical agents centered on bromine, and energetic grenade of an element” (82). This shows that the book mentions both the historical and chemical aspects of the elements. Another example of the combination of chemistry and history occurs when Kean talks about steel guns: “Krupp armament company found a recipe for strengthening steel: spiking it with molybdenum” (82). This shows the chemical side that went into guns which was very interesting.
Another example of Kean’s combination of Chemistry and other aspects of life comes when he talks about money: “Midas asked that whatever he touched turned to gold” (223). This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with chemistry but it keeps the reader very interested which is good. One last example of this is when Kean talks about the history of aluminum and the importance of it in construction.
Overall I thought that this book was well worth reading not only because of the knowledge it provides for chemistry but, also for the very interesting stories on the side.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

The Disappearing Spoon, written by author Sam Kean, is about the history of human chemistry and the periodic table. Sam Kean is a writer that focuses mainly on the upbringing of human knowledge, chemistry, and psychology. I was assigned to read this book by my chemistry teacher, Dr. Halkyard. I found it to be very insightful on how humans came to understand chemistry and its continuous findings to add to the periodic table. The main theme of the story is that Sam Kean is showing us the different, unique stories behind all the elements. My take on the main idea of the The Disappearing Spoon is that the book is very useful in teaching the stories behind the elements. And that they are not just elements, but unique narratives that some people have given their lives to contribute to. For example, the story of Marie Curie, her study on radioactivity, and her discovery of radium.
The introduction and chapter 1 are both significant, as they lay the groundwork for the rest of the story to be told. The next few chapters that follow are the most important of chapters. The importance of the middle chapters pushing to the later chapters also holds a great amount of significance. The last 3 chapters detail something very important to humans: the measuring system. This is extremely important, because it is the basis of how we humans go about everyday life. It describes the standard bureau, and how every country measures everything. Chapters 12-15 also include why some elements were named like they were. Some were named after people or things in ancient myths, others were named based on Greek and Latin. The whole book lists and describes scientists that contributed to the creation of today’s periodic table, even if their intent was not to expand the table.
In everyday life, we rely on the findings of many chemists and scientists. It has helped categorize things that we perceive in nature, classifying them by properties on the periodic table and giving usa better understanding of elements in nature. The knowledge of copper has helped us get through winters and provide heating, giving us advancement in the quality and standard of life. With our knowledge of the elements and how they work, the human race has created millions of combinations of medicines to help heal injuries, cure sickness, and extend life expectancy as time goes on.
Knowledge of these elements has augmented the power of the human race and upped control over the world. The human race has manipulated toxic elements for better or for worse. For example, poisonous gas was and is still used in war. Sabotage has been made all the easier, with devices like the Revigator, adding radioactivity to water. Many levels up from gaseous warfare, nuclear warfare was invented in the 1940’s by scientists to end World War II. The human race has been in the pursuit of power since power has been available to us. We have done many things and one of those things is to make man-made elements. This is a show of how we want control to our surroundings.
The knowledge of the elements and our surroundings has led to a massive advancement in scientific discovery. Surveillance has been increased through knowledge of x-rays, used to find weapons and explosives for security of all people. We understand much more about one of the smallest thing in our universe, the atom. After building and using the Large Hadron Collider, we have gained massive knowledge about how the atom moves and works. Even beyond this Earth, we study the elements, and how space works and what is outside of our normal surroundings.
The Disappearing Spoon is very useful in teaching the stories behind the elements. And that they are not just elements, but unique narratives that some people have given their lives to contribute to. These discoveries has led to even bigger discoveries, and this has pushed the human race to achieve great things. The human race has grown more creative and more intelligent with the substantial control over the elements. The scientific advancements that we have pushed ourselves to acheive
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

“The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements” is a book written by Sam Kean, a physics major, about the history of chemistry, the history of the world through chemistry, and the future of chemistry. This book was assigned to me by my chemistry teacher as a tenth grader. Sam Kean wanted to share his fascination of the elements and the periodic table and, in his opinion, interesting stories about the elements. While I personally did not enjoy the book, I can see how one who enjoys chemistry would. There were interesting parts in the book however, chemical warfare and scientific phenomena was somewhat engrossing.
The book can be divided into five parts, geography and history, the making and breaking of atoms and how they can be used in warfare, biology and medicines, element’s effects on humans today, and the future of chemistry. The first part of the book talks about the history of the elements and the Galapagos islands. The second part talks about how humans have learned to break atoms apart and how they then applied this to warfare. The next part is about medicines and poisons and their intended or unintended effect on the body. The next part discusses how elements are used now in arts and politics. The final part is about the future of chemistry, such as elements we have not discovered yet and chemistry around absolute zero.
Even though I didn’t find the book all that interesting, one of my favorite things to read about was the evolution of chemical weapons. From the Greeks using them as simple smoke, to now using them as mustard gas or atomic bombs. It shows the advancement of chemistry not only through a scientific view but also a political and violent view. It went from a simple, non-deadly weapons to truly horrific weapons that could kill thousands of people.
The second interesting thing I read about was scientific phenomena. This is the study of chemistry below 0 degrees and the development and the change of perception of bubbles. One of the very interesting things I read about was helium becoming a superfluid at -456 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, helium becomes a superfluid, and has no resistance to flow whatsoever. Bubbles were also seen as a scientific breakthrough, because they were seen as the development of cells.
In conclusion, while this book was not very interesting in my opinion, I still learned a few interesting things as I mentioned above. I would recommend this book to anyone who is really interested in chemistry and wants to learn more about it.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

In order to learn more about the periodic table and it’s many stories I read The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. Sam Kean is a scientist and author who is well known for his other science novels such as The Violinist's Thumb and The Tale of Dueling Neurosurgeons. The Disappearing Spoon is a novel that focuses on the periodic table and many individual elements by telling fascinating stories about their findings or discoveries made about them.
The Disappearing Spoon focuses on many different scientists and the elements they founded or expanded knowledge on. Within each chapter, Sam Kean goes in depth on an element or a small group of them by either telling a story or interesting anecdote. These accounts give us more perspective on the uses of each element and its potential to be beneficial or negative towards our world. Some of the many topics he looks at are elements being used for war, money and production. Elements like uranium hold scary powers when enriched properly and pose a scary threat to the future of our society. He also talks about why some elements are more popular than others. For instance, aluminum, which at first was extremely valuable and expensive, is now used to create some of our cheapest and most recycled items like cans. This is because one scientist developed a way to mass produce pure aluminum extremely efficiently. Stories like this provide great insight on each element and why they or may not be so relevant in our society today.
While this book is very fun and interesting, it is still quite challenging and requires focus and attentiveness while reading. I found myself rereading certain sections of the book just because some of the concepts were so complex. I found that one of the issues with the book was that without previous knowledge of the periodic table, it wasn't as easy to follow as I would've liked. This however is only a minor problem to a very good book. The Disappearing Spoon is an amazing story teller. There was almost nothing in this book that had I ever read or heard of before. New names and ideas were proposed to me throughout the reading of this novel and it kept me captivated the entire way. Sam Kean takes a topic like the periodic table, which most people would find boring, and brings it to life. He is extremely thorough in his writing but not to the point of boredom. As a student taking his first year of chemistry, this book has truly increased my interest in the subject and made me think a lot about how our world works today.
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean is a very good summary on the origin of the periodic table and the discovery of it’s elements. This book serves its best purpose for students or anyone looking to expand their knowledge in this subject. The key things that this book does well is bring the elements to a place where everyone can relate to them. By showing their real life capabilities and how most of us are affected by them without even knowing it, Sam Kean draws the reader's interest in even more. In all, I highly recommend this book for it’s ability to teach the elements in an intriguing and relatable way.
-Nick Everest
 

User ratings

5 stars
6
4 stars
4
3 stars
2
2 stars
0
1 star
1

All reviews - 16
2 stars - 0
1 star - 0

All reviews - 16
Editorial reviews - 0

All reviews - 16