The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True tales of madness, love and the world from the periodic table of the elements
Hosted by Professor Tom Miller
By Sam Kean
Professor Tom Miller
Tom Miller was born in San Diego, California and grew up in College Station, Texas. After completing his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, he attended graduate school in the UK on a British Marshall Scholarship and received his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 2005, working with David Clary and David Manolopoulos. Tom then returned to the US for a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley to work with David Chandler and Bill Miller. He joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology in 2008 and was promoted to full professor in 2013. While at Caltech, Tom has received awards that include the Sloan Research Fellowship, NSF CAREER Award, Associated Students of Caltech Teaching Award, Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, and the 2015 ACS Early-Career Award in Theoretical Chemistry.
Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie’s reputation? And why is gallium (Ga, 31) the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?*
The Periodic Table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it’s also a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal, and obsession. These fascinating tales follow every element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, and in the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. THE DISAPPEARING SPOON masterfully fuses science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, and discovery–from the Big Bang through the end of time.
*Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal that melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A classic science prank is to mold gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch guests recoil as their utensils disappear.