Monday, May 23, 2011

Weird Science

From time to time I feel compelled to read science books, and my latest foray landed me smack in the lap of The Disappearing Spoon: and Other Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of World From the Periodic Table of the Elements, by Sam Kean.  If the title alone isn't provocative enough, one doesn't have to read far in order to get a taste of the absurd and the quirky, courtesy of this excellent book.  Kean's stories here run the gamut from the hard science of discoveries attached to the noble gases, the base elements, and so forth . . . all the way to scientific speculation regarding the possibility of silicon-based life forms vs. carbon-based (our known forms of life here on earth).

As I recall, there was even one original Star Trek episode about some silicon-based life forms (rock-like-creatures) that Mr. Spock communicated with through his Vulcan mind-meld.  "Oh. . . . the pain . . . the agony!"  Don't always remember dialogue but I remember that one!

My own high school history with the periodic table and chemistry/physics features spit-wads thrown at the Hydrogen and Boron fields accompanied by two low "C's", followed by the great relief that I would not have to take any more hard science in college, but could concentrate my energies on writing love poems to girls.  As Robert Frost said, I chose the path less travelled . . . but one filled with a lot more fun.

Sam Kean would agree with me.  Helium (He), Oxygen (O), and Magnesium (Mg) might be fun to work  with theoretically, but they won't get you to the dance on Friday night.  You gotta have a hot momma for that, and as far as I know, she ain't on the periodic table.

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