Stories from The Periodic Table

We dive into human chemistry and the strange great tales behind the periodic table of the elements.

Disappearing Spoon (cover detail)

Disappearing Spoon (cover detail)

Sam Kean got turned on by the stories in chemistry class.

Not the math and test tubes, but the yarns.

Of Gandhi and Godzilla. Of Nebuchadnezzar and his Hanging Gardens.

Of history and alchemy and mythology. Of literature and psychology and the forensics of poison.

Now that’s some human chemistry! And it all goes back to the elements.

Gold, silver, mercury, manganese. Hydrogen and caesium and ununquadium.

The table of the periodic elements, he says, is a map of the fundament of the world. And to great stories.

This hour On Point: human chemistry, and the elements.


Sam Kean, author of “The Disappearing Spoon: and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements.” You can read an excerpt.

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