cover image The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

Theodore Gray. Black Dog and Leventhal (Workman, dist.), $19.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-57912-895-1

Gray (Mad Science) blends science, art, and social commentary in this delightful and informative romp through the periodic table. Each element is photographed in as close to its natural state as possible (hydrogen being one of the most beautiful and creative representations: a stunning photograph of the starlight-laden Eagle Nebula), with a page or two devoted to the history of its use and discovery, along with any unusual atomic properties. A sidebar shows each element's place on the periodic table, atomic weight, density, atomic radius, crystal structure, electron filing order, atomic emission spectrum, and state of matter according to temperature. But what differentiates this from a textbook are the brilliant photos and Gray's lively commentary: e.g., "Yttrium is something of a hippy element," or "the continued use of tungsten in light bulbs is an abomination." In addition to the author's witty asides, fascinating bits of trivia abound: bananas are slightly radioactive; rare earth elements are not really rare; scientists have created fewer than two dozen atoms of meitnerium, an element created in a lab with a half-life of 43 minutes. While the book's size and its numerous gorgeous photographs might classify it as a coffee-table book, kids and adults alike (including those who dozed through basic chemistry) will be mesmerized and inspired to question the elemental basis of our world. 500+ color photos. (Apr.)