Official bio: Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a kid, and now he’s a writer in Washington, D.C. His stories have appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, and Psychology Today, among other places, and his work has been featured on NPR’s “Radiolab”, “Science Friday”, and “All Things Considered,” among other shows. Caesar’s Last Breath was named the Guardian science book of the year in 2017, while The Disappearing Spoon was a runner-up for the Royal Society book of the year. Both The Violinist’s Thumb and The Dueling Neurosurgeons were nominated for PEN’s literary science writing award.

Unofficial bio: Sam Kean gets called Sean at least once a month. He grew up in South Dakota, which means more to him than it probably should. He’s a fast reader but a very slow eater. He went to college in Minnesota and studied physics and English. At night, he sometimes comes down with something called “sleep paralysis,” which is the opposite of sleepwalking. One of his books appeared in an iPhone commercial once. Right now, he lives in Washington, D.C., where he earned a master’s degree in library science that he will probably never use. He feels very strongly that open-faced sandwiches are superior to regular ones.