Periodic Table (A Very Short Introduction) ★★★☆☆

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Title: Periodic Table
Series: A Very Short Introduction
Author: Eric Scerri
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 145
Words: 41.5K


From the Publisher

The periodic table of elements, first encountered by many of us at school, provides an arrangement of the chemical elements, ordered by their atomic number, electron configuration, and recurring chemical properties, and divided into periodic trends. In this Very Short Introduction Eric R. Scerri looks at the trends in properties of elements that led to the construction of the table, and shows how the deeper meaning of the table’s structure gradually became apparent with the development of atomic theory and, in particular, quantum mechanics, which underlies the behaviour of all of the elements and their compounds. This new edition, publishing in the International Year of the Periodic Table, celebrates the completion of the seventh period of the table, with the ratification and naming of elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 as nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson. Eric R. Scerri also incorporates new material on recent advances in our understanding of the origin of the elements, as well as developments concerning group three of the periodic table.

My Thoughts:

Sigh. Another mediocre at best book in this extremely topsy turvy series. After that little quote I posted in the CR&Q Post, which was from chapter one, my expectations were at about zero, maybe a one.

While things didn’t stay at the level of the fanboyishness exhibited in that quote post, it definitely stayed in the “written by someone who is fascinated by the Periodic Table”. Scerri started out with a history of the table and how it came into being, how it has been refined and even how today there is question about the best way to present it. Knowledgeable, engaging and interesting. I’m talking 4 star material here.

Then he starts talking about the elements themselves. Oh my goodness. He uses mathematical equations and chemical notations. Here’s a pro-tip from me to any of you thinking about writing an Introduction book on any subject: if you have to include equations and notations, you are doing it wrong. Period. What part of “Introduction” does this series simply not understand? I know I rail against this thing for every single book but it really bothers me for every single book. Not enough to quit reading these (for free after all) but if the library runs out of these (which they will) I’ll not be buying any of these.

Now, learning about how the periodic table came into being and how even today it is still up in the air was totally worth reading this book for. Learning bits and pieces is always worth it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a frustrating experience.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Currently Reading & Quote: The Periodic Table

Part of the appeal of the periodic table derives from the individual nature of the elements such as their colours or how they feel to the touch. Much interest also lies in their names. The chemist and concentration camp survivor Primo Levi wrote a much-acclaimed book called simply The Periodic Table in which each chapter is named after an element. The book is mostly about his relations and acquaintances, but each anecdote is motivated by Levi’s love of a particular element. The neurologist and author Oliver Sacks wrote a book called Uncle Tungsten in which he tells of his fascination with the elements, with chemistry, and in particular with the periodic table. More recently, two popular books on the elements have been written by Sam Kean and Hugh Aldersey-Williams. I think it is fair to say that the appeal of the elements in the public imagination has now truly arrived.
~chapter 1

The bolding is mine. I would like a show of hands of everyone who thinks about the periodic table or even imagines it?

No one? Really? Yeah, me neither.

Until Jason Bourne or John Wick use the periodic table to kung fu fight their way out of an armoured fortress, I think it is safe to say that that the periodic table HAS NOT entered the public imagination. In all seriousness, where do eggheads like this even come up with ideas like that? They make us Magic the Gathering (former) players seem like well adjusted hunks of burning love.

Considering that is from Chapter One, I have a feeling this is going to be another Out of Touch with Reality and the Common Man book, sigh.