The Disappearing Spoon Chapter Summaries

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Throughout the novel, The Disappearing Spoon by author Sam Kean, numerous aspects of the chemical world were explored. While the majority of the first nine chapters focused on the formation of the Periodic Table and the natures of its elements, chapters 10 and 11 highlighted the use of elements in the biological realm. Chapters 10 and 11 provided a nice break from the prior chapters in which the author discussed depressing topics of poison and war. While Kean used chapter 10 to discuss the medical uses of elements in the body, he used chapter 11 to discuss how elements can trick the body into performing (or not performing) specific tasks. Kean began this new section of the book by diving into describing the antiseptic properties of oligodynamic (self-sterilizing) elements in chapter 10. The atoms in an oligodynamic element absorb most of the bacteria, making the metal more sterile. One of the most prominent oligodynamic elements is silver. The author was able to explain the antibacterial properties of this element through telling historical tales and stories. For example, Kean spoke of how astronomer Tycho Brahe lost part of his nose and got a replacement silver one to curtail infections. The author also described how pioneers would keep their milk from spoiling by putting a silver coin in the jug. Like silver, the element copper is also oligodynamic. However, unlike silver, copper’s …show more content…

While in chapter 10, Kean discusses how elements act as they are supposed to in medicine, in chapter 11 Kean explains how elements can decide the body into performing different, unexpected functions. Through Sam Kean’s keen ability to teach chemistry through stories, I, the reader, have a sharper understanding of how elemental chemistry functions in the natural

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