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Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements

Popular Science

By: Hugh Aldersey-Williams

448 pages, 60 b/w illustrations

Penguin Books

Paperback | Jan 2012 | #197820 | ISBN-13: 9780141041452
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £9.99 $13/€11 approx

About this book

Everything in the universe is made of them, including you. Like you, the elements have personalities, attitudes, talents, shortcomings, stories rich with meaning. Here you'll meet iron that rains from the heavens and noble gases that light the way to vice. You'll learn how lead can tell your future while zinc may one day line your coffin. You'll discover what connects the bones in your body with the Whitehouse in Washington, the glow of a streetlamp with the salt on your dinner table. Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colourful pasts, "Periodic Tales" is a voyage of wonder and discovery, showing that their stories are our stories, and their lives are inextricable from our own.

Science writing at its best ... fascinating and beautiful ... if only chemistry had been like this at school ... to meander through the periodic table with him ... is like going round a zoo with Gerald Durrell ... a rich compilation of delicious tales, but it offers greater rewards, too
- Matt Ridley

"Immensely engaging and continually makes one sit up in surprise"
- Sunday Times

"Splendid ... enjoyable and polished"
- Observer

"Full of good stories and he knows how to tell them well ... an agreeable jumble of anecdote, reflection and information"
- Sunday Telegraph

"Great fun to read and an endless fund of unlikely and improbable anecdotes ... sharp and often witty"
- Financial Times

"A joyous romp through the chemical elements"
- Today, BBC Radio 4

"Not only a cultural history of the elements, it is also a lament to the loss of science as a hobby"
- Economist

"A flashily brainy book, crammed with literary references and held together by a personal quest to collect as many elements as possible"
- Telegraph

"'Elements are fun' is the essential premise of Hugh Aldersey-Williams's new book and by heck he's right ... Aldersey-Williams mourns the fact chemistry isn't really sexy any more; 'Periodic Tales' is a step towards it getting its mojo back"
- Metro ****

"Imaginative and fun ... almost every page yields a nugget"
- Nature

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Hugh Aldersey-Williams studied natural sciences at Cambridge. He is the author of several books exploring science, design and architecture and has curated exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Wellcome Collection. He lives in Norfolk with his wife and son.

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