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December 10, 2013
Science Gifts: Elements and More
I've mentioned Theodore Gray's book The Elements before as an fine gift for anyone's who's interested in science or chemistry. I have a copy at home, although I don't have the follow-up, the Elements Vault, which apparently also has some chemical samples in it (doubtless of some of the less offensive elements!)
Last year I ordered the companion Elements Jigsaw Puzzle, which I did with the kids during January and February, to produce a three-foot-wide periodic table with information and photographs of each element. I did not miss the opportunity to mention some of the ones that I'd worked with (and I'm soon to add a couple of new ones to that list - more later). Gray also has a deck of element cards and a calendar, for your decorating needs.
There are other good entries in this area. The Disappearing Spoon is an entertaining book on various odd properties of the elements (chemists will have said "Gallium!" by now for the spoon of the title). I haven't seen Periodic Tales, but it comes well recommended.
A slightly different note is struck by another book I've long recommended, Oliver Sacks' Uncle Tungsten, which is a memoir as well as a meditation on chemistry (and the love of chemistry). Another memoir, an episodic one, is of course the late Primo Levi's The Periodic Table. It's somber at times, but also amusing, and when I read in it the phrase "Chlorides are rabble", I knew I was in the presence of a good writer, a good chemist, and a good translator.
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