The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

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The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A fascinating journey through the periodic table, with plenty of anecdotes and intriguing facts. The writing and content are top notch, making The Disappearing Spoon a must-read. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Doubleday
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857520265

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If the disappearing spoon of the title doesn't pique your interest, the subtitle is bound to get your juices flowing: and Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. As far as popular science books goes, it's got all the umm... right elements (sorry, sorry, sorry). We're taken on a tour through the periodic table, hearing exciting tales of scientific discovery and marvel.

I loved The Disappearing Spoon. It's absolutely fascinating, packed with information, and eminently readable. You'll be intrigued by the spoon that melts in a cup of tea (gallium melts at 29C, you see), conflicted by the bad reputation iodised salt has in India, and faintly scared by 16yo David Hahn's backyard nuclear reactor. Only a handful of the anecdotes will be familiar, even if you read a lot of popular science books. It all feels completely fresh. By basing it around the elements, there's a strong backbone to the tales, but the end result is enticingly original. Without a strict chronology, you are hopping back and forth a little, but it's never confusing.

Sam Kean's writing style is upbeat and vibrant. The text trips off the page, and you'll find yourself devouring the whole book in a handful of sittings. It's exactly what you want from a popular science book: not dumbed down, not simplistic, but an enjoyable read where the only prerequisite to understanding it is a basic interest in the subject matter. Even if chemistry left you bored at school, The Disappearing Spoon will fill you with enthusiasm and knowledge.

If you're looking for a broad anecdotal history of modern science, you won't go far wrong with The Disappearing Spoon. You might just read it wanting a light-hearted non-fiction read, but such is the quality of the content and the writing that you'll also receive a good solid grounding in chemistry. Highly recommended.

My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

We Need To Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown and Why Can't Elephants Jump? by Mick O'Hare are two other brilliantly readable and highly enjoyable popular science books.

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Buy The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean at


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