Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

Most of us had a required High School course in chemistry. Its mostly remembered for Bunsen burners, boiling liquids, cleaning glassware (making coffee) and trying to balance equations in order to get the same number of + & – to come out even.

Behind the teacher’s desk, high up on the wall was a cacophony of alphabet soup looking like a disparate bunch of recruits trying to line up by command, but failing.   The ranks  and files were straight but there were  gaps, especially in the top row.  Far from uniform, each member had its unique symbols.

Few of my classmates could have explained more than where to find hydrogen, oxygen and carbon (perhaps gold and uranium)  on the table.  I, for one, had, absolutely, no idea of how important chemistry is in our life.

Our every sensation, experiences and actions are chemical reactions.

Even when you are sound asleep, your minute by minute continued existence depends on dynamic chemical exchanges and electrical messaging which travel through structures which are composed of (molecular biological) chemicals. From momentary survival (oxygen/ carbon dioxide exchange), nutrition/ digestion, jogging, connubial bliss or having your child,  it is all electrons, protons atoms and molecular chemistry.

Sean Kean has written a book called Disappearing Spoon,  which is both fun and enlightening. The dreaded Periodic Table of the Elements is playfully deciphered.  Kean reveals the periodic table as it’s never been seen before. Not only is it one of man’s crowning scientific achievements, it’s also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. (1)

Kean employs the enormous value of story telling (gossip?)  Boring rote memory is replaced by a good, gossipy, tabloid-like tale!  (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 perhaps more…..?)

“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. Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country; 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 Disappearing Spoon .” (2)

This book has my personal guarantee that you will, not only like it, but you will be urging your friends to read it.

“Although precursors exist, Dmitri Mendeleev is generally credited with the publication, in 1869, of the first widely recognized periodic table. He developed his table to illustrate periodic trends in the properties of the then-known elements. Mendeleev also predicted some properties of then-unknown elements that would be expected to fill gaps in this table. Most of his predictions were proved correct when the elements in question were subsequently discovered. Mendeleev’s periodic table has since been expanded and refined with the discovery or synthesis of further new elements and the development of new theoretical models to explain chemical behavior.” (3)

Charles Clanton Rogers July 7, 2015

(1) Sean Kean, Disappearing Spoon,  Little, Brown & Co., 2010

(2) Publisher’s notes, Little, Brown and Co.

(3) Wikipedia

4 thoughts on “The Periodic Table for Everyone – “Trust me.”

  1. Thanks for the recommendation, I’m adding Disappearing Spoon to my reading list. I just finished Sam Kean’s earlier book, The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code. He manages to make what’s essentially a DNA refresher course quite entertaining. Thanks Charles!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. clanton1934 says:

      Thank you. The Violinist Thumb is also on my hard drive.


  2. hugolast says:

    I only have one rule: Tell me something about yourself:

    Between 1950, and 1967, my mother – sometimes with my old man, at other times without – myself, and my siblings, lived in 29 different places from South Dakota to Florida.
    For several years there were 7 or 8 of us living in a 36′ x 8′ trailer home. In 1955 there were 6 children – all 8 years and under. While I don’t remember it being a hardship for me at the time, I cannot now imagine life in a sardine can – sans air conditioning, in 100° heat. By 1957, we had moved into a one bedroom, rather dilapidated, farmhouse – complete with outhouse and Saturday baths in a tub on the kitchen floor.
    My old man only made it through 8th grade, my mother 10th. The old man left home at 15, lied about his age, and was still only 17 when he came home -as a sargent – from Europe in December of 1945. He was part of the army that crossed northern France in pursuit of the Germans, took part in the liberation of Liege, and was evacuated from near Bastogne after suffering a severely frozen foot. He spent nearly a year recuperating in at a British hospital. Married, with 3 small children, he was called up during the Korean War – which is how the family wound up in Florida.

    Okay. Hope that fulfills my duty, Clanton.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. clanton1934 says:

      Dear Hugolast,
      Thank you for telling about yourself.
      Did you learn something useful or interesting about the periodic tables? Do you plan on reading the Disappearing spoon? ccr


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