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The Periodic Table: One of man’s crowning scientific achievements … and a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession

Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium (Cd, 48)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie’s reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

The Periodic Table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it’s also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and every single element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

Why did a little lithium (Li, 3) help cure poet Robert Lowell of his madness? And how did Gallium (Ga, 31) become the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?* The Disappearing Spoon has the answers, fusing science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, discovery, and alchemy, from the Big Bang through the end of time.

*Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal with a unique property—it melts at 84° F. A classic prank for scientists is to fashion gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch as guests recoil when the Earl Grey eats their utensil.



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