Thoughts : And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean, Back Bay Books 2010, 416 pagesChallenge: What’s in a Name: Cutlery Category Genre: Pop Science Type/Source: Tradeback Paperback / Local Indie Bookstore Why I read this now: I think it took me all month to read it. I wanted something new and different after all the 2016 pub’d books I had furiously flown through.
MOTIVATION for READING: I like fun science. This satisfied the cutlery challenge and looked interesting. My other option was Consider the Fork about technology and food. (Yep, another nonfiction.) If you want a title with a knife, I only recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go if you have ALL books in the series. I hate cliffhangers.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: The author walks the reader through the elements of the Chemistry Periodic Table regaling with history, personalities, OF COURSE some science and other oddball tidbits to fascinate.
Jupiter is a fantasy camp for elements.
WHAT’s GOOD: Easy to understand sections about how they figure the age of the world. I enjoyed the personal anecdotes about the fascinating scientists that worked out these challenges. The author does a fair job of recognizing and discussing privilege in science/history. And how much we still don’t understand – the chapter on the alpha constant! It’s everywhere – totally fascinating. He highlights many recent stories that show how science of the elements is still evolving. [doh. The study of medicine/pharmacology, anyone?!] I know that I have internal bias that science discovery was all done ‘back then’ and when he mentions research and experiments past 2005 — I admit, I am embarrassed to wonder “hey- that is recent!” Maybe it is the realization that I have lived some of this history but how can I be that old already? It really is an odd thing to sense one’s own aging; it still befuddles me.
“If anything runs deeper than a mathematician’s love of variables, it’s a scientist’s love of constants.”
What’s NOT so good: I had to have two bookmarks – one for the text and the other in the footnotes section. I’ll never remember most of it! Only occasionally, the presentation is dense and extremely technical but also easy to skip over and get to the good stuff.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you like science history, this is a don’t-miss. But then again, if you really love science history, you probably know a lot of it already.
It often reminded me of that episode of the Big Bang Theory when Sheldon adopts the cats…
RATING: Three slices of pie. No pie mentioned.