Superheavy: Making and Breaking the Periodic Table (Paperback)
Shortlisted for the 2020 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books
Creating an element is no easy feat. It's the equivalent of firing six trillion bullets a second at a needle in a haystack, hoping the bullet and needle somehow fuse together, then catching it in less than a thousandth of a second – after which it's gone forever. Welcome to the world of the superheavy elements: a realm where scientists use giant machines and spend years trying to make a single atom of mysterious artefacts that have never existed on Earth.
From the first elements past uranium and their role in the atomic bomb to the latest discoveries stretching our chemical world, Superheavy will reveal the hidden stories lurking at the edges of the periodic table. Why did the US Air Force fly planes into mushroom clouds? Who won the transfermium wars? How did an earthquake help give Japan its first element? And what happened when Superman almost spilled nuclear secrets?
In a globe-trotting adventure that stretches from the United States to Russia, Sweden to Australia, Superheavy is your guide to the amazing science filling in the missing pieces of the periodic table. By the end you'll not only marvel at how nuclear science has changed our lives – you'll wonder where it's going to take us in the future.
“Without any compromise in accuracy, the book is compelling, conversational and entertaining, full of great stories and insights into the characters behind the quest.” —Chemistry World
“Making elements that don't exist in nature is one of the craziest, most painstaking and bold pursuits in all of science, and Superheavy tells that story for the first time, with wit and verve. This deeply researched and engaging tour of the nether reaches of the periodic table will delight and inform everyone from the expert to the reader with only the dimmest memory of the iconic chart of chemical elements on the school lab wall.” —Phillip Ball, author of Beyond Weird
“With meticulous attention to detail and careful research, Chapman masterfully captures the excitement, politics and competition of the transuranic elements. Chapman's energy and enthusiasm is evident in every interaction, whether he is uncovering elaborate experimental details or unearthing scientific rivalries.” —Jess Wade, Physics Research Associate, Imperial College London
“To anyone who imagines that the romantic age of elemental discovery ended in the 19th century, Kit Chapman's hugely entertaining account of the discovery of the elements past uranium will be a real eye-opener. Larger than life characters, strange stories of errors, improvisation, and luck (good and bad) abound here. With a solid introduction to the science underpinning the stability and separation of these mysterious and mostly ephemeral species, there is much for everyone to learn and connect with here.” —Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, UCL, and winner of the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Prize 2014