The book tells the histories of the elements in the periodic table, and in the process, gives a history of famous thinkers, war, literature, protest and more. Kean spoke with NPR's Guy Raz about how he made the periodic table exciting.
Growing up, Kean says, the science teachers that captured his attention most were the ones who explained science through stories. He uses the same technique for his book.
In one story, a single element from the periodic table changed U.S. Senate candidate Stan Jones forever.
“Stan was a big believer that the Y2K virus was going to wipe out civilization,” Kean says. “He was especially concerned that people wouldn't be able to find antibiotics. So he decided he was going to get his immune system ready for the apocalypse in 2000.”
The Montana Libertarian began drinking liquid silver. He'd heard silver had antibacterial effects. It was so, Kean says, but there was a serious — or hilarious — side effect.
“Stan ended up with blue skin while he was running for the Senate,” Kean says. It was permanent.
More here, including an excerpt from the book. [Sam Kean, has been, of course, a longtime writer at 3QD.]