The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

Written by:
Sam Kean
Narrated by:
Sean Runnette

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
August 2010
12 hours 37 minutes
The periodic table is one of man's crowning scientific achievements. But it's also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues' wives when she'd invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

From the Big Bang to the end of time, it's all in The Disappearing Spoon.
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Sandra T.

The anecdotal side stories were interesting but , since it’s been 50 years since I’ve taken Chemistry, I had to struggle or disregard much of the elaborations on the actual chemistry. Also, since most of my audio reading is done in the car while driving I didn’t have the advantage of referring to a diagram of the periodic table… which I think might have been a little help.

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Michael K.

Great listen! It’s a great intro into the periodic tables, I want to learn more about chemistry because of this book, I definitely recommend!

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Love this so much. So many interesting and tragic stories that lead to the creation of science as we know it today. I've listened to it a few times already. Highly recommend!

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Amber L.

fun! and a total joy to listen to!

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The historical information within the book makes it a treasure trove for trivia buffs. I truly enjoyed the first two thirds of the book but really had to make myself endure through the much more technical final third (which I am sure would be more engaging for those who have an interest in physics and quantum mechanics). Overall worth the read. I did enjoy the narrator who seemed to really capture the dry wit of the author.

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Levi C.

Interesting review of the periodic table. I personally loved the historical aspects and personal anecdotes littered throughout the book. The book was witty and would make a nice supplement to anyone in a general or organic chemistry course as well as physics. I definitely gained a stronger appreciation for the table’s simplicity and complexities.

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Tim W.

Great insight into the periodic table and the amazing journey that we are still on to complete and understand our world

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