|Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified|
|publisher||No Starch Press|
|summary||The periodic table personified|
This book isn't merely a collection of cartoon drawings — information is also included covering when and how the elements were discovered, what they are (or were) used for and other interesting or amusing pieces of trivia. There are also the more traditional facts like atomic number, symbol, position in the periodic table, melting and boiling points and density. Some elements get more detail than others depending on how well known and/or useful they are. My only real criticism of the book is that the elements in period 7 only get small drawings and a cursory description each. I'm not sure why they were singled out for this treatment. Did the author get bored towards the end? Was there lack of budget? Did he run out of time? Does he have a personal grudge against period 7? Considering that this period includes rather famous elements such as Uranium and Plutonium and that they get the same low level of detail as relative unknowns like Ununseptium and Darmstadtium this feels like a rather odd omission.
The main stars of the Wonderful Life with the Elements are the elements themselves but the introductory and closing chapters are worth reading too. The book starts off with an overview of the elements and which ones are found most commonly on our planet and in our living rooms before moving on to the periodic table itself and an explanation of what the various details on the cartoon drawings of the elements mean. The closing sections describe which elements are an important part of a human diet and what the effects of eating too little or too much of each of them are before wrapping up with a warning about the possibility of us running out of certain elements and what the negative impact of this could be. This is all written in an informal, humorous style that makes all these facts appear really interesting and, dare I say it, fun to read.
Wonderful Life with the Elements is a very enjoyable book and the author has done a great job of injecting some colour and personality into what many people would view as a rather dull topic. If I had had a book like this in high-school I think I would have found Chemistry interesting, even without the attractive teacher. It is worth pointing out that is isn't a replacement for a Chemistry text book — it only touches the surface of the large body of theory that underpins the elements and the periodic table. However I would still wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone with even just a casual interest in the subject. The original presentation of this material and the amusing personal touches are fantastic and turn this book into a fun, easy read which isn't something one can say about most books that deal with Chemistry.
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