A while back I told all ya’ll about The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Keane. Loved it. It inspired me to order up a poster of the periodic table and stick it on my living room wall, thinking that if it was in front of my eyeballs, there may be some passive absorption. It kinda worked--I learned the noble gases, but really it was just the pressure of a pub trivia team that inspired that. Still I want to understand this stuff at a level higher than my C in high school chemistry.
In an effort to up my game I watched Hunting the Elements by PBS/NOVA. I’ll be honest, based on the boring cover, my hopes were not terribly high. It was ~amazing~. One dude actually made a wooden periodic table, the size of a real dining room table, and gave each element its own little compartment. If I had that in my house I could pick up and hold a sample of molybdenum. Super cool and very practical. There are enough violent explosions and deadly gases throughout to keep things lively, plus who wouldn’t love to see how gold bricks are made?
The book, The Periodic Table: A Visual Guide to the Elements, is essentially a field guide, just two pages per element--one a color picture of the element and the other its most interesting info. Platinum, for example, is a precious metal used all the time in jewelry, as we know, but it’s also essential in your car’s catalytic converter.
So, in my expert opinion as an armchair science girl, I think anyone with an interest would love the dvd. Have a kid who loves kitchen-science experiments? Watch it with them. But also, anyone who may struggle with a chemistry class in the near future might like both in combination. Perhaps even as a preemptive strike at understanding before the struggle begins. Seeing and hearing info in a different way can make a huge, helpful difference . It certainly did for me.
Oh, hello. Remember my stack thing from last month? This is my friend Joanna's stack by her bed. She is one of the kindest and most generous people I know. When my then teenaged daughter went away to college leaving a gigantic mess of a bedroom behind, Joanna helped me excavate for an entire day. We quit when we got to the almost empty bottle of raspberry vodka. Here's what Joanna says about the stack by her bed:
I have an obsessive thing happening now with infographics. Information that is presented in ways that are visually pleasing is, um, pleasing. Entertaining is Fun! is a reprint from 1941. I love advice books about entertaining, particularly from past decades. I was kind of disappointed by Swan Gondola. I loved How About Never --Is Never Good for You? (so irreverent) and Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (surprisingly sad). It's extremely rare that there's not a single young adult fiction title in my stack. But [confession time] I bought an e-reader a few months ago and have Code Name Verity and More All-of-a-Kind Family downloaded and ready to read. [E-reader not included in stack.]
As a psychology major in the late 70's and early 80's it seemed that every textbook for every class included the story of Phineas Gage. He was the guy who had a tamping iron accidentally blasted through his cheek and out the top of his head while working on a railroad explosives crew in 1848. There were always illustrations, daguerreotypes, and a gruesome description of his injury. (As I read the Wikipedia page about him right now, I get a little sparkly thing at the back of my eyeballs, and I'm not easily grossed out.) As students, what always blew our disco-studded minds was that Gage lived. Not only lived, but seemed mostly normal. However, as we all know, "normal" has a lot of gray matter near the edges.
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons is Kean's newest book. His first one, The Disappearing Spoon was super good, and very easy to read even if one may have gotten a C in high school chemistry. This one promises to be just as good, thanks in part to Phineas Gage. And I like brains better than the periodic table anyway.
We're all book lovers here, right? I mean, why would you be here if you weren't? My theory is that we come in two basic types. Type one (not me) checks out a few books at a time, reads them all, or at least gives them all a try, before returning and checking out more. Type two (me), takes books home all the time, because you have to get 'em when you see 'em. I want to read them all, but there's no way that'll happen. The rule is that I do have to at least open them. There are stacks in most rooms of my tiny house, except the bathroom--never in the bathroom.
This is a pic of my most important stack, the stack of honor, the one by the bed. That way these books are always close at hand for those times when I need an Amazonian jungle tale, for example. Or something to coach me through a dishwasher repair.
If a few of my friends aren't too shy--(they're not)--I'll get them to take a picture of their stack by the bed and we'll have little stack peep show. Stay tuned.