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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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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.
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.
From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold history of science's darkest secrets, “a fascinating book [that] deserves a wide audience” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
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 one another 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.
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.
In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In The Violinist's Thumb, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.
There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.
Kean's vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species' future.
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.
Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?
The periodic table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of adventure, greed, betrayal, and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow elements on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
Adapted for a middle grade audience, the young readers edition of The Disappearing Spoon offers the material in a simple, easy-to-follow format, with approximately 20 line drawings and sidebars throughout. Students, teachers, and burgeoning science buffs will love learning about the history behind the chemistry.
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.
Este es un fascinante viaje al órgano más impresionante y complejo del ser humano: el cerebro. Las historias aquí reunidas nos hablan acerca de los descubrimientos de las curiosidades neurológicas más extrañas e increíbles.
Estos casos clínicos verdaderos, y que están contados como si fueran cuentos, están basados en terribles accidentes, misteriosas afecciones y milagrosas recuperaciones. Así podemos pasar por extremidades fantasma, canibalismo, cerebros siameses, etcétera. Al avanzar por el libro nos damos cuenta que cada avance científico fue producto de alguna enfermedad, lesión o necesidad.Pero más que hablarnos del trastorno o lesión en sí, el autor nos habla de la persona que se encuentra atrás de esa enfermedad.
Cada capítulo comienza con una especie de misterio a resolver que vuelve a la narración una verdadera crónica policíaca adornada con pistas teóricas y clínicas. Con imágenes y diagramas en momentos muy atinados a lo largo de prácticamente todo el libro, el autor se centra también en uno de los elementos más elusivos, pero más buscados, del cerebro: la conciencia.
Estos relatos nos muestran lo sorprendente y complejo que es nuestro cerebro, pero también lo que al final nos hace humanos y nos diferencia de otros seres.
En El último aliento de César, Sam Kean nos invita a emprender un viaje alrededor del mundo y a través del tiempo para narrar la historia del aire que respiramos. Una historia que resulta ser la misma que la historia de la Tierra y de nuestra existencia en ella.
En cada respiración, literalmente estamos inhalando la historia del mundo. El 15 de marzo del año 44 a. C, Julio César murió en el suelo del Senado tras haber sido apuñalado, pero la historia de su último aliento todavía se está desarrollando; de hecho, es probable que ahora mismo estemos inhalando parte de ese aire tan especial.
De entre los sixtillones de moléculas que entran o salen de tus pulmones en este momento, algunas podrían contener trazas de los perfumes de Cleopatra, gas-mostaza del ejército nazi, partículas exhaladas por dinosaurios o emitidas por la bomba atómica, e incluso restos de nebulosa del origen del universo. Mientras investiga los orígenes y los ingredientes de nuestra atmósfera, Kean revela cómo la alquimia del aire modeló la forma de nuestros continentes, guió el progreso humano, alimentó revoluciones, y continúa siendo una gran influencia en todo aquello que hacemos.