Sunday, October 18, 2015

Becoming Beyonce: The Untold Story



Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams are the fascinating stories of how the elements were discovered, got their names, and the uses put to these chemical elements over the decades or centuries. There are surprises in this wide-ranging history, including that Plutonium (the most dangerous element known) was first considered as a possible rare and valuable coin. Plutonium is strictly controlled now, and is far more valuable than platinum, barely exists at all in nature, and is only made with great difficulty by refining uranium 238. Still, there are enough nuclear weapons in existence today to turn the Earth into perpetual nuclear winter 100 times over. Past chemical weapons included chlorine gas, used in WWI, a green toxic haze that attacks the lungs and causes one to choke on their own fluids. Phosphorous bombs were used by Allies in WWII, sucking the air right out of tunnels and basements where Dresden families hid, believing they were safe from attack. Marie Curie’s life and death from leukemia after isolating radium is but one of the stories here. Every one of the elements is covered, from gold to gallium (a metal that melts in the hand), helium to einsteinium. Not only does the listener gain a better knowledge of chemistry, but also of the history of arts which use the elements, and the people behind the uses and dangers involved in using elements whose side effects were not fully understood at the time of their discovery. The author also details his own experiences in investigation and research, and narrator Anthony Ferguson is a good choice of the publisher to deliver the text since his accent and timing create an atmospheric element…no helium voice here for sure! A must hear for listeners with curiosity for understanding how the world works, and our relationship to it.  


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