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About Sam Kean
(un)Official bio: Sam Kean gets called Sean at least once a month. He grew up in South Dakota, which means more to him than it probably should. He's a fast reader but a very slow eater. He went to college in Minnesota and studied physics and English. At night, he sometimes comes down with something called "sleep paralysis," which is the opposite of sleepwalking. Right now, he lives in Washington, D.C., where he earned a master's degree in library science that he will probably never use. He feels very strongly that open-faced sandwiches are superior to regular ones.
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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.
Scientists have always kept secrets. But rarely have the secrets been as vital as they were during World War II. In the middle of building an atomic bomb, the leaders of the Manhattan Project were alarmed to learn that Nazi Germany was far outpacing the Allies in nuclear weapons research. Hitler, with just a few pounds of uranium, would have the capability to reverse the entire D-Day operation and conquer Europe. So they assembled a rough and motley crew of geniuses -- dubbed the Alsos Mission -- and sent them careening into Axis territory to spy on, sabotage, and even assassinate members of Nazi Germany's feared Uranium Club.
The details of the mission rival the finest spy thriller, but what makes this story sing is the incredible cast of characters -- both heroes and rogues alike -- including:
- Moe Bergm, the major league catcher who abandoned the game for a career as a multilingual international spy; the strangest fellow to ever play professional baseball.
- Werner Heisenberg, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist credited as the discoverer of quantum mechanics; a key contributor to the Nazi's atomic bomb project and the primary target of the Alsos mission.
- Colonel Boris Pash, a high school science teacher and veteran of the Russian Revolution who fled the Soviet Union with a deep disdain for Communists and who later led the Alsos mission.
- Joe Kennedy Jr., the charismatic, thrill-seeking older brother of JFK whose need for adventure led him to volunteer for the most dangerous missions the Navy had to offer.
- Samuel Goudsmit, a washed-up physics prodigy who spent his life hunting Nazi scientists -- and his parents, who had been swept into a concentration camp -- across the globe.
- Irène and Frederic Joliot-Curie, a physics Nobel-Prize winning power couple who used their unassuming status as scientists to become active members of the resistance.
Thrust into the dark world of international espionage, these scientists and soldiers played a vital and largely untold role in turning back one of the darkest tides in human history.
From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold history of science's darkest secrets.
Science is a force for good in the world—at least usually. But sometimes, when obsession gets the better of scientists, they twist a noble pursuit into something sinister. Under this spell, knowledge isn’t everything, it’s the only thing—no matter the cost. Bestselling author Sam Kean tells the true story of what happens when unfettered ambition pushes otherwise rational men and women to cross the line in the name of science, trampling ethical boundaries and often committing crimes in the process.
The Icepick Surgeon masterfully guides the reader across two thousand years of history, beginning with Cleopatra’s dark deeds in ancient Egypt. The book reveals the origins of much of modern science in the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700s, as well as Thomas Edison’s mercenary support of the electric chair and the warped logic of the spies who infiltrated the Manhattan Project. But the sins of science aren’t all safely buried in the past. Many of them, Kean reminds us, still affect us today. We can draw direct lines from the medical abuses of Tuskegee and Nazi Germany to current vaccine hesitancy, and connect icepick lobotomies from the 1950s to the contemporary failings of mental-health care. Kean even takes us into the future, when advanced computers and genetic engineering could unleash whole new ways to do each other wrong.
Unflinching, and exhilarating to the last page, The Icepick Surgeon fuses the drama of scientific discovery with the illicit thrill of a true-crime tale. With his trademark wit and precision, Kean shows that, while science has done more good than harm in the world, rogue scientists do exist, and when we sacrifice morals for progress, we often end up with neither.
Early studies of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike -- strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, horrendous accidents -- and see how victims coped. In many cases their survival was miraculous, if puzzling. Observers were amazed by the transformations that took place when different parts of the brain were destroyed, altering victims' personalities. Parents suddenly couldn't recognize their own children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars. Some people couldn't speak but could still sing.
In The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, Sam Kean travels through time with stories of neurological curiosities: phantom limbs, Siamese twin brains, viruses that eat patients' memories, blind people who see through their tongues. He weaves these narratives together with prose that makes the pages fly by, to create a story of discovery that reaches back to the 1500s and the high-profile jousting accident that inspired this book's title.
With the lucid, masterful explanations and razor-sharp wit his fans have come to expect, Kean explores the brain's secret passageways and recounts the forgotten tales of the ordinary people whose struggles, resilience, and deep humanity made neuroscience possible.
It's invisible. It's ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell.
In Caesar's Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world.
On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you're probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra's perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe's creation.
Tracing the origins and ingredients of our atmosphere, Kean reveals how the alchemy of air reshaped our continents, steered human progress, powered revolutions, and continues to influence everything we do. Along the way, we'll swim with radioactive pigs, witness the most important chemical reactions humans have discovered, and join the crowd at the Moulin Rouge for some of the crudest performance art of all time. Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar's Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second.
La tabla periódica es un logro científico excepcional, pero también es un filón de aventura, codicia, traición y obsesión. Las fascinantes historias contenidas en "La cuchara menguante" repasan los elementos de la tabla en función del papel que han desempeñado en la historia, las finanzas, la mitología, los conflictos, el arte, la medicina y las vidas de los científicos locos (algunos) que los descubrieron.
L’histoire du monde et de ses passions à travers la table périodique des éléments
Pourquoi Gandhi détestait-il l’iode ? Comment le radium a-t-il failli ruiner la réputation de Marie Curie ? Pourquoi le tellure a-t-il provoqué la ruée vers l’or la plus bizarre de toute l’histoire ? Comment l’antimoine a-t-il rendu fou le roi Nabuchodonosor ?
Véritable prouesse scientifique, la table périodique a déchaîné bien des passions. D’étonnantes fables accompagnent les éléments qui ont marqué l’histoire mondiale et la vie des scientifiques - souvent fous - qui les ont découverts. Du Big Bang à aujourd’hui, La Cuillère soluble nous dévoile tous les secrets du carbone, du néon, du zinc, de l’or, etc., et l’impact qu’ils ont eu non seulement dans le milieu scientifique mais dans des domaines aussi variés que la politique, les guerres, la mythologie et les arts.
Traduit de l’anglais (États-Unis) par Bernard Sigaud
Com o apurado e já conhecido talento para explicações claras, abrangentes e espirituosas, o renomado jornalista e escritor Sam Kean apresenta os personagens que forjaram a surpreendente e incrível história da neurociência. Kean explora os corredores secretos do cérebro e narra casos esquecidos de pessoas comuns cuja luta, resiliência e profunda humanidade tornaram a neurociência possível.
São histórias de curiosidades neurológicas que incluem membros-fantasma, cérebros de gêmeas siamesas, vírus que comem as memórias de pacientes, pessoas cegas que "enxergam" por meio da língua. Kean costura essas narrativas com uma prosa envolvente e espirituosa que faz as páginas passarem voando, numa história de descoberta que remonta ao século XVI e ao notório acidente que inspirou o título do livro e abriu caminho para uma nova ciência.
"A ciência se torna divertida sempre que Kean está narrando." New York Post
"A habilidade do autor para esclarecer como o funcionamento do cérebro se manifesta na vida das pessoas resulta numa leitura absorvente … Em última análise, essas histórias levantam questões fundamentais sobre a natureza da identidade e o que significa ser humano." The Wall Street Journal
"O melhor livro de Kean! Uma divertida e pouco convencional história do cérebro, cheia de cientistas loucos, criminosos dementes, gênios e almas atormentadas." Amy Stewart, autora de The Drunken Botanist
"Ler essas histórias é como passear por um museu das mais dramáticas anomalias da neurociência, cada capítulo nos levando a um tempo e lugar diferentes … E a linguagem coloquial e a voz íntima de Kean trazem dão vida estimulante a todas elas, e ao leitor." Publishers Weekly
"Leitura compulsiva, divertimento científico ferino." Kirkus
Raramente los secretos científicos han sido tan vitales como lo llegaron a ser durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. En medio de la planificación del Proyecto Manhattan, la Oficina de Servicios Estratégicos de Estados Unidos ideó un plan secreto: la Operación Alsos, destinada a rastrear y entorpecer las investigaciones sobre energía nuclear llevadas a cabo por las Potencias del Eje. El resultado fue un complot digno del mejor thriller, basado en sabotajes, espionajes y asesinatos. En el corazón de esta misión se encontraba la llamada «brigada de los bastardos», un grupo de soldados, científicos y espías que se infiltraron entre los físicos, químicos y militares alemanes para detener la amenaza más aterradora de la guerra: la bomba nuclear ideada por Hitler.
En esta fascinante historia de la batalla por la supremacía atómica destaca no solo el increíble elenco de personajes, sino la capacidad de Sam Kean para mostrarnos las mentes de esos hombres y mujeres que realizaron una de las labores de inteligencia más importante de todos los tiempos.