April 19th, 2012 | 4 comments »
Chapters 4 and 5 both really made me think a lot about chemistry and chemical elements. Chapter 4 sort of gives the big picture of how elements form and how hydrogen and helium (the smallest two) are the most abundant in the universe, but that trend doesn’t follow and how astrophysics/chemistry dictate the chemistry we have here on Earth. Then chapter 5 gets right down to how people and civilizations use chemistry to their advantage and how different elements rise and fall in importance depending on economic and political pressures. The stories about the Colorado molybdenum mines and were pretty humorous (maybe a Mel Brooks movie is in there) but show how one element temporarily skews what society thinks is important (read the end of that chapter on the niobium and tantalum). I’ve always found the Fritz Haber story interesting. I guess reading the Disappearing Spoon has really made me aware of how important chemicals/chemistry is to modern economics in terms of energy, health, defense and agriculture and how those all become topics for political and international discussion.
Category: The Disappearing Spoon