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Everything is made of them, from the furthest reaches of the universe to this book that you hold in your hands, including you. Like you, the elements have lives: personalities and attitudes, talents and shortcomings, stories rich with meaning. You may think of them as the inscrutable letters of the periodic table but you know them much better than you realise. Welcome to aEverything is made of them, from the furthest reaches of the universe to this book that you hold in your hands, including you. Like you, the elements have lives: personalities and attitudes, talents and shortcomings, stories rich with meaning. You may think of them as the inscrutable letters of the periodic table but you know them much better than you realise. Welcome to a dazzling tour through history and literature, science and art. Here you'll meet iron that rains from the heavens and noble gases that light the way to vice. You'll learn how lead can tell your future while zinc may one day line your coffin. You'll discover what connects the bones in your body with the Whitehouse in Washington, the glow of a streetlamp with the salt on your dinner table. From ancient civilisations to contemporary culture, from the oxygen of publicity to the phosphorus in your pee, the elements are near and far and all around us. Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colourful pasts, Periodic Tales will take you on a voyage of wonder and discovery, excitement and novelty, beauty and truth. Along the way, you'll find that their stories are our stories, and their lives are inextricable from our own....

Title : Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780670918119
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 428 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2018-10-17 01:31

    Updated 6/29/13 - see link at bottomThis book is one of the reasons people will occasionally look at you, slack-jawed, and say “How did you know that?” There are a few greater feelings in life, but not many. A-W picks a few dozen of the 118 known elements and tells us a bit about them, offering stories that might be about their discovery, how they are used, or other cultural looks-see. There is unevenness, to be sure. Some stories are more interesting than others, but the overall level is quite good, informative and entertaining.But wait, there’s more. For those of us with an affection for literary treasure-hunting, it is time to pick up some of the glowing tablets suspended in the air. A-W offers explanations and reference points for how certain materials are viewed culturally. For instance gold goes with power, iron with strength, grave lead, honest tin, virtuous silver, this is feminine, that is masculine, and so on. This is mother’s milk for those trying to ferret out elements of meaning in literature. You will learn about the first use of carbonated water, the derivation of the word tinker, which substance is known as “liquid fire”, some alarming facts about things that glow in the dark. We think of titanium as a material used in jets or rockets, but did you know that titanium oxide is widely used to make white paint? Metals come into and pass out of fashion. One particular poison was in such widespread use that it became known as “inheritance powder”. Why was there such a concentration of element discoveries in Norway? A-W has enough material here about color that he could write an entire book on the subject, and I hope he does.If you enjoy learning new things, Periodic Tales will tickle your brain, right down to the atoms. It’s elementary.==============================EXTRA STUFFAn article in the May 2013 issue of National Geographic looked at what was happening with creation of new elements. Fascinating material.

  • D Books
    2018-10-19 05:27

    The author goes off in too many directions with his story-telling for me to want to stick to reading his book. I read over a hundred pages and can't seem to find it interesting due to how the author goes about writing it. From memories of gathering as many elements of the periodic table during his childhood, to drawn out stories of how a present day person is producing charcoal, to historical tales of elements, and then to the author personally experimenting to abstract an element. It makes you want to beg the author to please pick a style of writing and stick with it. I'm going to find it hard to pick this book up again to finish.

  • Nikki
    2018-11-05 21:17

    This wasn't quite as engaging to me as the blurb and the reviews quoted on the cover suggests -- in fact, it started to feel rather meandering -- but it is quite an interesting read, covering both the scientific history of elements, how and when they were discovered, and the social histories, why they were used and for what. Some facts I didn't know; other parts I got impatient with: yes, yes, I know all that.Overall, worth a read if it sounds interesting to you, but be prepared to skip bits where he's telling you things you're not interested in/already know.

  • Bettie☯
    2018-10-25 02:27

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Ints
    2018-10-26 04:22

    Man, iespējams nepamatoti, ir šķitis, ka populārzinātniskās grāmatas latviski tiek izdotas daudz par maz. Un tādēļ man ir neviltota sajūsma ieraugot grāmatu veikalu plauktos kādu zinātnei veltītu grāmatu latviski. Ieraugot šo grāmatu, man uzreiz radās vēlmi to izlasīt. Pirmkārt tādēļ, ka tā bija latviešu valodā un otrkārt, viņa man labu laiku stāv izlasāmo sarakstā.Grāmatas pamatā ir ķīmisko elementu periodiskā tabula. Autors lasītājam pavēsta zināmu un ne tik zināmo elementu vēsturi. Savulaik jau cilvēki pazina tikai dažus elementus -zeltu, dzelzi, alvu, sēru, dzīvsudrabu, varu. Pārējie elementi bija pazīstami tikai savienojumu veidā. Ķīmijas pirmsākumi noteikti meklējami alķīmijā, cilvēku centienos jebkuru vielu pārvērst zeltā. Katra jauna elementa atklāšana radīja pavērsienu cilvēces attīstības vēsturē. Mākslinieki meklēja veidus, kā šo novitāti iekļaut savos darbos, jaunie elementi kļuva par modes simboliem un beigu beigās par sacensību elementu, lai noteiktu, kura sabiedriskā iekārta ir pārāka – komunisms vai kapitālisms. Dažādas ražošanas nozares savukārt iekļāva jaunos elementus savos ražojumos. Nekas nedod skaistāku zaļo krāsu par arsēnu, un hlors ir tīri labs pamats ķīmisko ieroču ražošanai.Tā kā šāda tipa grāmatas es jau pāris esmu izlasījis, man grāmata lielāko devumu sniedza mākslas un kultūras vēstures kontekstā. Sākot ar to, ka alva reiz bija tāds pats stratēģiskais materiāls kā mūsdienās urāns. Ne visur zelts ir bijis vērtē, un reiz alumīnijs tika uzskatīts par jauno zeltu. Un tas ir tīri vai brīnums, ka cilvēkam indīgākie elementi rada tik spilgtas krāsas. Cinka un svina salīdzinājums namu apjumšanā un no kāda materiāla vislabāk izgatavot skulptūras. Daļu no stāstiem es jau biju dzirdējis – skābeklis un flogistons, Kirī pāris un viņu vājību pēc vakariņām vērot radioaktīvo elementu spīdumu, Mendeļejevs un viņa periodisko elementu tabula, Napoleons un arsēna krāsas tapetes , gallija karotes, tie ir tikai daži.Autors pastāsta arī dažus savus eksperimentus, uz kuriem viņu ir pamudinājusi grāmatas sarakstīšana. Tad nu varam uzzināt kā no urīna iegūt fosforu vai no asinīm dzelzi.Ja lasītājs neko no šī temata iepriekš nebūs daudz lasījis, tad šī grāmata viņam būs īsta zināšanu krātuve. Fakti un notikumi te tiek pasniegti interesantā un saistošā veidā. Te nav sausas zinātniskas valodas ar metālu kušanas temperatūrām un elektronu uzskaiti ārējās elektronu čaulās. Te viss tiek piesaistīts sadzīvei. Kas interesanti, daļu no metāliem, kuru nosaukumi šķiet eksotiski, patiesībā ikdienā mums ir visapkārt. Lasot šo grāmatu patiešām ir jāuzmanās, lai nekļūtu par elementu kolekcionāru. Tie ir cilvēki, kas cenšas iegūt savā īpašumā visus iespējamos elementus. Man šāda doma galvā iešaujas laiku pa laikam, bet pagaidām esmu tam turējies pretī.Grāmatai lieku 8 no 10 ballēm. Iesaku izlasīt visiem, kurus interesē vēsture, ķīmija un ķīmiskie elementi. Jācer, ka reiz latviski tiks izdota arī grāmata „Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the UniverseThe Elements” by Theodore Gray uz kuru „Periodiskās fabulas” pāris reizes atsaucas.

  • Andrew
    2018-11-09 04:28

    A disappointment. I picked this up thinking it might be weirdly informative and entertaining, like Bill Bryson's wonderfully entertaining science history "A Short History of Nearly Everything." But in the end I found almost all the anecdotes lifeless and pointless. Ultimately I gave up and put it back on the shelf about two-thirds through.

  • Bryan Nguyen
    2018-11-10 00:40

    Hugh Aldersey-Williams's Periodic Tales tells the story of the cultural history of the elements separated in five topics, the subjects of the book which are: power, the richness of the element or how valuable it is; fire, the changes of compounds when they react with other compounds like water; craft, the way people can manipulate the elements; beauty, the appearance of an element and how elements color our world, and earth, how an element affected a certain place or how the place affected an element. The book is set in from way back earlier than 1600 B.C.E. to 2011, when the book was published, at no particular place, but mostly in Europe, where many pure elements were discovered and where several elements were synthesized, because multiple scientists from different countries contributed in the world of science. Telling many stories about the elements, including his own, Aldersey-Williams researches information about the elements, conducts a few of his own experiments, and presents us many elements' histories. He speaks about the history of the elements and his past related to the them, interesting stories about elements that we use today like gold, silver, and mercury, which was used in movies for a certain special effect.A very memorable event for me was a short section called "Pee is for Phosphorus." After telling us a story of how a scientist used fifty liters of urine for an experiment to see if phosphorus is in our urine, Aldersey-Williams conducted a similar experiment with his old teacher, but with less than fifty liters for a quicker completion rate. He followed the same procedure with some modifications but can't seem to extract the phosphorus out. He then theorizes that phosphorus was extracted, but in very small amounts. This was memorable because of the experiment and the weird title of the section.Ultimately, the story of the history of the elements is a story of scientists, like Marie Curie, discovering new elements, updating Mendeleev's period table to the periodic table we know today, experimenting with elements to learn new things, and manipulating elements for our personal gains, like using arsenic either for medication or assassination. It all adds up to a tale of cultural history, a subject that our generation wouldn't be very interested in, but it does educates readers of the usefulness of everyday elements or elements we used to use in the past. Periodic Tales tells that story very descriptively, reminding us how often we take advantage of our everyday objects, and how little we know about them, like how do they work, who invented them, or what they are made of.I learned a lot of things thanks to this book. It is practically a science book for college students. I learned what explodes when reacted with water, what makes our streetlights glow, what makes an object a certain color, and what possibly killed Napoleon (undetermined if it was the actual cause of death). Also, I learned some chemistry terms. This book made me change what I read because I really want to read interesting facts now, either from the internet or from a book. I need to expand my horizon of what I read because someday, the information I gained could help me later in the future.Unfortunately, this book isn't one of those books that's like an emotional roller coaster ride. This book is somewhat monotone, but I felt amazed, confused, and bored while reading this. Of course, I had "Whoa, really?" moments when I read something very interesting, but I also had "Huh?" and "Zzz" moments because of the uninteresting facts or the complicated chemistry terms that I don't understand. Even though I had confused and bored moments, I enjoyed reading about a quarter to half of the book, but the rest gave me a headache like the after-effect of a sugar rush.Periodic Tales is a rather lengthy book that talks so much about the elements. This book has too much information for an average person, especially someone who doesn't understand chemistry that well. Generally, I would not recommend this book because it has so many facts, confusing segments, and requires some knowledge of chemistry. Although some of the information was interesting, most of the other information felt boring to me. I would recommend this book to people who wants to grow up to be some type of scientist, people who's great in science, or people who really want to learn more about the elements.

  • Andreas Schmidt
    2018-10-16 04:38

    Godibile e interessanteCon questo testo si comprende quanto tutto sia interconnesso: materia, luce, energia. In particolare, è singolare notare quanto gli elementi della tavola periodica, nei loro composti e nelle loro forme pure, abbiano inciso sui modi d'essere dell'uomo e nel suo linguaggio figurato. I vari elementi chimici hanno contribuito a creare una vasta gamma di colori, dai fuochi d'artificio ai prodotti di bellezza per il corpo, con le loro caratteristiche di tossicità e pericolosità nel corso della storia. Come i vari elementi chimici sono la chiave del progresso per capire il funzionamento dell'universo. Alla fine, questo testo è un gran bel viaggio, anche se occasionalmente l'autore è un po' troppo immodesto nel presumere di avere la chiave per la conoscenza finale della vita: scivoloni su aneddoti, leggerezze sulle armi e il modo con cui sono sviluppate, leggerezze sulla spiritualità (bollare la cabala come scempiaggine mi pare un po' eccessivo). Ma del resto l'autore è un chimico, che forse commette l'errore di scegliere come unica via per la verità quella che si trova nella tavola periodica degli elementi ed è convinto che nella sua collezione di elementi chimici puri da aggiungere a un barattolo per completarla, ci sia l'unica verità dell'universo. Nel complesso rimane comunque un buon libro, come non ne leggevo da tempo.

  • ^
    2018-11-11 23:37

    An extremely enjoyable book. To date it’s the closest I’ve found to one of my absolute favorite childhood books, passed down to me, long since mislaid; the title and author of which I cannot remember. That book had a red cover. Inside there were the most marvelous stories of the discovery of (amongst others) the composition of air (Scheele, Cavandish, Lavoisier), the alkali-earth metals (Davy), and helium (Kirchoff & Bunsen) in our Sun. Mr Aldersey-Williams’ select bibliography now strongly and helpfully points me in the direction of I Nechaev’s 1942 book “Chemical Elements” (or rather of the translation from the Russian), as being my long-lost book.‘Periodic Tales’ adopts Nechaev’s central thesis; to describe the sheer human and technological excitement of the discovery of the chemical elements. Unsurprisingly, there is considerably more to say in 2011 than in 1942; and not only about the fleeting fascinating existences of the man-made transuranic elements; where physicists have gracelessly elbowed the chemists out of the party. Mr Aldersey-Williams’ writes for an adult, or interested teenager, audience, whereas I was reading Nechaev whilst still in primary (age 6-11) education. ‘Periodic Tales’ is wider, deeper, and longer; dipping into literature, mining, cookery, war, oceanography, classical history, Christianity, art, materials science, architecture …. That is by no means a comprehensive list.I was aware of reading this book in a slightly detached manner, probably because much of the fact contained was not new to me. After I graduated in analytical chemistry I found rewarding work as a research scientist. Within the pages of this book I experienced the very same interest, excitement, and knowledge which first sparked my interest in chemistry (and associated sciences) all those years ago. Therein too, lay my only disappointment. A very serious disappointment. Why, oh why have the illustrations been printed in low resolution black and white; and within the text too. OK, I do know why. It’s considerably cheaper to do that in preference to bound-in high resolution black and white images on high quality gloss paper. But by choosing to make such false economies the publisher has not only grave insulted the author’s fruitful work, but also every reader of this book. So 4 stars, not 5. With quality illustrations I would have bought a copy of this book; instead I borrowed a copy from my local public library. Returning to the author’s wonderful text; this is a book to read and savor at leisure, not in haste. I usually hate over-frequent picking up, reading, and putting a book down, but I think ‘Periodic Tales’ actually benefits from periodic pauses, so as to enable the brain to fully enjoy thinking through what has just been read, together with associated connections and ramifications. Like a box of good chocolates, this book is definitely best savored and long-lingered over. Just keep the ‘phone number of a good independent travel agent to hand. I’d never before thought of ‘Element’ tourism (see pg 378 on) … but after nowt but a modicum of thought, I can clearly see the appeal.

  • Tweedledum
    2018-11-16 01:37

    Periodic tales is one of those books that grabs you by the throat and will not let you go. Full of extra-ordinary stories, co-incidences, twists and turns Hugh Aldersley-Williams meanders through the arcane history of the elements and in so doing encourages the reader to want to find out more and more. I have always been jointly fascinated by chemistry and the extra-ordinary people behind the knowledge we so take for granted and on which our civilisation hangs. Many of the people involved in the elements recent history are, of course, well known and celebrated for their work, Curie, Davy, Mendeleev are three that instantly spring to mind. But many others are unsung, unrecognised by the world at large and often forgotten even within the scientific community. Who now knows the story of the genius behind the discoveries at Ytterby or is able to name even 2 of the seven elements that were discovered there or even locate Ytterby on a map? Unlike an encyclopaedia or a chemistry textbook Periodic tales reads more like a mystery story and I found myself keen to keep reading and eager to follow Hugh's trail. It is hard to think of a topic or theme that is not touched on somewhere in this book but everything is handled with a deft lightness of touch and great literary skill. The history of the elements is intimately entwined with the history of humanity and in taking us to the trenches and the use of Chlorine as a weapon he keeps our eyes firmly fixed on the patriotic chemist, Haber, who proposed that the gas be released from ground based cylinders allowing wind to carry it over to the enemy lines. Hugh follows the Haber story through telling of the suicide of Haber's wife (also a chemist) in 1915, following the attacks, and of his own visit to Haber's son and daughters who retired to Bath of all places. Hideous as this particular bit of history is Hugh dances his narrative along now showing the comic, now peeping into the ancient craft of sword making, now revealing the unsung hero. Any review of this book cannot begin to do it full justice. All I can say is Read it. You will not be disappointed and you will find that your view of the world has expanded exponentially.

  • J.P.
    2018-10-20 00:21

    It must be tough to write a book on science. Make it too simplistic and it may have wider appeal but the people most likely to buy it will think it stinks. Go gung-ho into the subject and in this case chemists will love it while it cures the insomnia of the general public. Ultimately, this book is a bit of both.I thought the background on elements could have been done better. The author leaves out some of the basics to sail off on tangents that aren't nearly as interesting. For instance with zinc, he never mentions the most common usage as plating for steel but goes on for pages trying to figure out why bars in France were originally called zincs. There was also too much time spent on oddball references, namely the use of certain elements in art and literature.That the author is way into his topic is proved by the line "...we should all have a little piece of spent uranium to keep in the garden as a momento of our reliance upon it for our energy." I'd rather opt for a gnome.And with all the colorful elements on the planet, all the tiny illustrations are in black and white.I liked it in certain respects, but not in others.

  • Noah Goats
    2018-11-13 05:12

    This is an interesting tour through the elements of the Periodic Table, very similar to the equally good book, The Disappearing Spoon. This book focuses on the ways that the elements impact our culture and teaches a little history and science along the way. Very enjoyable.

  • Andree Sanborn
    2018-10-22 21:15

    It is through this cultural life rather than through experimental encounter in a laboratory that we really come to know the elements individually, and it is a cause for sadness that most chemistry teaching does so little to acknowledge this rich existence.I am not a certified science teacher and have never wanted to be one. Yet here I am teaching Chemistry this semester: the 2nd worse class I ever took in school (physics being the first). Somehow I had to make chemistry accessible to my high school kids. And accessible to me. We can't do experiments because of lack of money and equipment (and I am learning that because of money and liability problems that fewer and fewer chemistry classes are experimenting). I re-read The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into The Land Of The Chemical Elements and became so fascinated with the elements that I now have a course of six books I want to read about them (including Oliver Sacks's Uncle Tungsten). This, Periodic Tales, was the first of my six.I loved it. This book combines human culture and history with science: my favorite type of book. In combination with Gray's Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself reading, and collecting and tagging images on the iPad with Google image search (these can't be shared, unfortunately). Just as Aldersey-Williams says in the quotation above, I now am knowing these elements in their many dimensions; individually. If you, also, become obsessed with the elements, this is the place to start. Slowly, I am percolating different projects in my head so that the elements can be known individually by my students. Students with no background knowledge of science at all shouldn't be bored with it. They should know that they are a part of chemistry.

  • Andres
    2018-10-18 01:16

    If you enjoyed The Disappearing Spoon as much as I did, than this book is a no-brainer must-read.I remember while taking a chemistry class not too long ago that though the nitty gritty details were sometimes daunting, boring, or downright frustrating, it was always the stories about the elements or their discoverers that helped put everything in context, making it a richer learning experience. Seeing as how the history behind the elements wasn't the point of taking the chemistry class I sought out books that would help fill the gap.Now almost 2 years later there are two books that fit the bill (not to say that this book and this book are lacking anything, but the dictionary-style formats aren't quite as organic in presenting the information as are 'Spoon' and 'Tales').Both books are similar in style and cover the same elements (there are only a finite amount of them!) but do so in completely different and interesting ways. It might be due to the time between reading both books but I didn't notice any overlap in information or anecdotes. If something was familiar it was more like getting the other side of the story than a repeat of the same details.I recommend 'Tales' (and 'Spoon') to anyone interested in science, science history, or chemistry. I think reading one or both of these books will help demystify the elements and make learning chemistry that much easier.

  • Celtria
    2018-10-27 23:31

    This book sits on my science shelves but it should inhabit a shelf of its own, labelled Biographies of the Inanimate (a section for Borges imaginary Library of Babel?).To quote the author: "My aim in this book has been to show that the elements are all around us, both in the material sense that they are in the objects we treasure and under our kitchen sinks, but also around us more powerfully in a figurative sense, in our art and literature and language, in our history and geography, and that the character of these parallel lives arises ultimately from each element's universal and unvarying properties."Aldersey-Williams reaches that aim in a well-written, easy-read, book of surprises that takes the reader from the trenches of WWI to the swimming baths, from the teacher's chalk to the dentist's chair, from limelight to Las Vegas and on many other adventures for which you don't need any previous knowledge of chemistry. Though you may find yourself tempted to acquire a poster of the Periodic Table to stick on your kitchen or bedroom wall!A warning: reading Periodic Tales may turn you into an irritation to the other reader on the sofa with your interjections into the silence, "Listen to this..." "Did you know..." "I would never have thought...." :)

  • Ryan Vaughan
    2018-10-23 01:33

    In a past review I confessed that I was for the most part scientifically illiterate. I'm not sure how far this book went in curing that but I do know a bit more about the periodic table than I used to. I can name the elements designated as halogens ,fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine as well as a few of the noble gases ,xenon, radon, and krypton. I'm not sure if this really counts as scientific knowledge or just knowledge of scientific terms though.While their chemical properties of the elements in the periodic table are important it is the cultural baggage these substances have accumulated that the author is most concerned with. This is particularly true when talking about the things we value and esteem. Gold and silver are not only objects of worth but symbols of it as well. Just ask the guy who gets the bronze medal. However there was a time when aluminum was so highly valued that the guests at Napoleon III's table were given cutlery made for it to eat with while the less favored were given silver or gold. All in all a very enjoyable book my only complaint was that the author's storytelling is hit and miss at best. The books saving grace is that the author's enthusiasm for his material really shines through.

  • Graham
    2018-11-12 05:38

    A meandering personal scientific historic journey though the elements. I can understand why some folk found this hard going: the numerous diversions off to visit a shop, a mine, a lab, a library, a museum might distract from the central narrative of 'how the elements wee discovered' but actually ACTUALLY this is how science works. Something read or seen might spark the imagination which generates motivation in the midst of fruitless struggle..... Look, if you like to know 'totally useless' facts that might just ignite a bored teenager to take an interest in science, so they see that real people with real lives did real work over years to wrestle a substance out from its mineral which now allows their mobile phone to work, then this book is great. The inclusion of where the quotes came from, a huge bibliography and a fantastic index [with the elements in bold :) :) :) ] just adds value to this tome. The only disappointment was that this book was not produced by Dorling Kindersley. It would have doubled the length to nearly 900 pages but huge photographs in colour would have just been the icing on the panna cotta.

  • Alyson
    2018-11-02 21:15

    A really interesting and entertaining way to learn more about the elements, the periodic table, and the history surrounding them. As a non-chemist, I found the book really enjoyable and very informative. I learned more about the atomic structure of the elements, as well as their cultural influence. I did find that it was a little hard to keep up my pace during the second half. This could be due to the latter half of the book dealing with the slightly less interesting/influential of the elements, my own stamina running down after 200 pages, or the writer's own interest being less pronounced for those particular elements (he seemed kind of tired and ready to be done by the time we got to the rare earth elements. No matter, it was a great book and one that I recommend to people who like short snippets of history and cultural analysis. If you want more in depth analysis of the history of science/chemistry this is not the right book, but could still be used as a starting point for further studies.

  • Julia
    2018-11-01 03:33

    Very interesting. This book definitely tells a different story about the elements than what I, with a chemistry background, usually got. It assigned genders to a lot of the metals and talked about the colors and smells and sounds of the elements and the effect those things had on the way society viewed them before we could define them by their atomic structure. I learned a lot, not just that British people pronounce a lot of the elements weirdly, not just aluminum. Favorite fact: UPPU, a club that you could only join if there was enough Plutonium in your system for it to be detectable in your urine. Favorite quote: "Civilization, it is immediately apparent, is simply organized resistance to oxidation...The gas brings life, and in doing so, brings death closer."

  • Austra
    2018-11-05 04:12

    Interesants ieskats pasaules vēsturē caur ķīmijas prizmu. Lai gan vietām autors novirzījās pa taciņām, kas man ne vienmēr šķita tikpat interesantas kā viņam, šis ir aizraujošs un (cik jau nu iespējams) vispusīgs stāsts par ķīmisko elementu vēsturi, par to kas stāv aiz iekaļamajām formulām, atommasām un savienojumiem - valstis, raktuves, laboratorijas un pilnīgi traki cilvēki. Traki uz ķīmiju.Noteikti iesaku kā papildu lasāmvielu tiem, kas sāk mācīties ķīmiju. Lai uzzinātu par tās aizraujošo pusi. Jo skolā jau nekādus aizraujošos eksperimentus vairs neatļauj. A žaļ. Derēs arī visiem pārējiem, kam patīk interesanti fakti un vēstures kripatas.

  • Naila
    2018-11-16 00:31

    This book reveals so many details about the discovery of elements as well as cases in which such elements were used in crimes,etc. The book also revealed to me how several of the famous scientists/discoverers were acquainted with one another and that they would seek each other's opinions. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in chemistry.

  • Arty
    2018-11-14 22:16

    Full of the sort of information that turns up on QI, this book showed up huge holes in my knowledge... and then filled them with interesting chemicals, some of which I'd never heard of before.

  • Chris
    2018-11-08 03:28

    (Reviewer's disclosure: I am a chemist) - This book is an off angle take on the chemical elements from a historical perspective (how they were discovered), but also deeply on a cultural and meaningful, even poetic, perspective. The author has really done his homework on this, and I learned and was enlightened to quite a bit. I can't say that I was enthralled, finding myself skipping some pages and trying to get to interesting chemical-history parts, but the book was interesting enough to read to the end.It's hard not to compare this book to The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean (which I personally enjoyed very much), but I think that they are very different takes on chemical elements, the stories of how we discovered them, but also what they mean as a society. The author will take the cultural, even spiritual, significance of elements when they were found, or how they were used, and try to paint a more poetic state of them than just hard science (there is very little hard science here).This line from the book sums up how the author treats his subject:"This monochrome was is deceptive, not truth-telling; it soaks everything in a nicotinic glare such that is is no longer possible to perceive color accurately." Great line! He is talking about the yellow-orange wash of sodium vapor lamps, as opposed to the light given out by gas lamps, and how that affected what people saw (color and shadow) but also what the glow *meant* for poets and writers and people when they existed among these differently-lit cities.Lots of stories on discovery of elements, lots of stories on the history and use of elements along with what they meant in certain cultures, and quite a few "pathos" discussions of them as well.

  • David Meiklejohn
    2018-10-21 21:37

    Rating this book doesn't seem possible.On one side, the author uses humor, and wonderful writing to bring to life not just the elements on the periodic table, but the construction of the periodic table, and the labor needed to prove each element as it was found.On the other is a meandering text that verges on imperialist, at times sexist (why do metals need a sex assigned to them?) and certainly euro-centric that made me a bit uncomfortable. I think the best way to describe this book would be if Garrison Keillor and Ira Flatow ghost wrote a radio series for the BBC. It's in depth, indulgent, has beautiful turns of phrase, wondrous descriptions, then gets lost in itself from time to time, makes you learn, scream and frankly leaves you not sure how to feel. Would I recommend this book? Possibly, to certain people. A true love of science going in is needed. Being able to not discard the book as he debates if titanium is male or female for multiple pages could be helpful too. Other than that, the stories that come up are entertaining in equal parts inspiring and occasionally horrifying.

  • Alana
    2018-11-01 02:32

    It took me a long while to read this, because while the individual stories were interesting, the book as a whole just wasn't engaging enough to keep me coming back to it. I finally finished it off by reading about one or two elements every day, enough that the facts and dates didn't start swimming together, and I think that worked better. The anecdotes about the history of each element were interesting, although if you asked me to summarize any of them for you I probably couldn't. I don't think I retained very much (maybe just that there's a mine in Sweden that I should check out) but who knows.Definitely have to be at least a LITTLE into science and/or history to like this one.

  • Mary Whisner
    2018-10-29 00:14

    Well written–breezy even, in an academic way–exploration of the elements. Science history, humanities, art, literature, and a touch of memoir.

  • Lithezebra
    2018-10-21 02:36

    I should have taken "cultural history" more literally. This was not a science book, or even much of a science history book, and I came away feeling like I hadn't learned anything inspiring.. However, if you're more interested in how people have felt about precious and useful metals, without the details of physical science, it's a well written book.

  • Pamela
    2018-10-24 22:17

    I enjoyed the book, and with so much information, I would have to read multiple times to begin to remember most of it. This work had a ton of research into the elements! The author's goal in the book was "to suggest that we are familiar with many of the elements in a cultural way." This led to many curious anecdotes. Such as "The Wizard of Oz" story was an allegory of The U.S. leaving the gold standard in favor of the greenbacks - the yellow brick road to the emerald city...Certainly there are more interesting facts flooding this book, but that was the only one that came directly to mind right now. Not a page turner, didn't keep me up at night reading, and well, sometimes it felt like the author was jumping around. I liked how he tried tracing the elements, playing with them, or replicating old experiments. Perhaps if the book format kept closer to that story it would be an improved book. Nevertheless, if anyone interested in chemistry or elements, it's a decent read.

  • Holmes
    2018-11-11 05:31

    I appreciate the author's intent of showing the historical and cultural sides of chemical elements, but he could have been less long-winded. At times I had to skim-read because of the sheer volume of tedious details.Anyway it's worthwhile to quote a message of the author:We should cherish and celebrate our necessary involvement with the elements. We may not wish to start our own periodic table, but we should at least try to be happier about the unavoidable fact that we depend in one way or another upon almost all of them. The scientist and environmental activist James Lovelock once said he would be willing to store all the high-level waste from a nuclear power station in a concrete bunker on his land. But perhaps we should spread it around: we should all have a little piece of spent uranium to keep in the garden as a memento of our reliance upon it for our energy. Too much? Maybe. But what of all the other elements? The copper that invisibly brings the electricity generated by the nuclear reaction of that uranium into our homes? The rare earths in the phosphor screens of the devices brought to life by this electricity? What of the carbon and calcium that engrave all human history with their black and white? And what of the other elements that colour our world? First and last, our dependence on the elements is biological, as we are reminded when we review the sodium salt content of a TV dinner or pop a supplement pill containing selenium–the latest, by the way, in a long line of elements to be singled out as a fashionable nutrient. We eat them or avoid them, dig them up or bury them, but we rarely stop to appreciate the elements for what they are.

  • Peter
    2018-10-26 05:23

    Had I not found this book on a train with a 'Read Me' sticker on it I would never have heard of it let alone read it and I would have missed out on an interesting read.Firstly I must admit that I never did much enjoy Chemistry at school in or for that matter science in general, I could never remember even the most basic of chemical formulae, and as such knew little about the Periodic Table other than seeing posters of it hung on classroom/bedroom walls. However, that said I have always been interested in History in whatever form. Initially I was somewhat worried that this would turn out to be a dull academic tome and while in places it did lose me a little and was a little dry, on the whole there was enough to keep me interested. In particular I loved the referances to modern culture/literature and even how obscure elements that I had never even heard of were often found right under our very noses within our houses. I loved the idea how gold historically has been seen as masculine and silver was seen as virginal and feminine. Where did the term 'platinum blonde' of the 40's and 50's come from? Was Napoleon Bonapart killed by his wallpaper? The author names the major discoverers of various elements but on the whole does not go into too much indepth history. For that reason some people will see it as too flighty and shallow where others will just find the whole subject matter too dull to persevere.But if you fancy a book that you can dip into a chapter or two at a time, picking up a few interesting snippets along the way with which to annoy/ fascinate your partner or mates down the pub, plus have a passing interest in both/either science and history then give it a go. Who knows you might actually learn something and that can be no bad thing.