Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements

Overview

What is the most common element in the universe? Can you name the noble gases? Everything we see around us is made of chemical elements, but most of us know little about them. Penned by award-winning science writer John Emsley, Nature's Building Blocks explains the what, why and wherefore of the chemical elements. Arranged alphabetically, from Actinium to Zirconium, it is a complete guide to all 115 of those that are currently known, with more extensive coverage of those elements we encounter in our everyday ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (26) from $1.99   
  • New (1) from $60.00   
  • Used (25) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$60.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(149)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Sending request ...

Overview

What is the most common element in the universe? Can you name the noble gases? Everything we see around us is made of chemical elements, but most of us know little about them. Penned by award-winning science writer John Emsley, Nature's Building Blocks explains the what, why and wherefore of the chemical elements. Arranged alphabetically, from Actinium to Zirconium, it is a complete guide to all 115 of those that are currently known, with more extensive coverage of those elements we encounter in our everyday life. The entry on each element reveals where it came from, what role it may have in the human body, and the foods that contain it. There are also sections on its discovery, its part in human health or illness, the uses and misuses to which it is put, and its environmental role. Readers discover that the Earth consists of around 90 elements, some of which are abundant, such as the silicon and oxygen of rocks and soils, while some are so rare that they make gold seem cheap. Our own bodies contain about 30 elements, some in abundance, some in trace amounts; some vital to our health, and some that are positively harmful. A list of the main scientific data, and outline properties, are given for every element and each section ends with an "Element of Surprise," which highlights some unexpected way in which each element influences our everyday life. Both a reliable reference source and a highly browsable account of the elements, Nature's Building Blocks offers a pleasurable tour of the very essence of our material world.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Most people don't have fond memories of the periodic table from high school science classes, but here one of the best popularizers of the subject has filled his book with so many entertaining tidbits that he's in danger of starting a new fad for chemistry trivia. Take this one: When a piece of indium metal is bent, it lets out a high-pitched shriek.
From the Publisher

"An astonishingly comprehensive survey of nature's fundamental ingredients.... By combining juicy anecdotes and fun with a wealth of up-to-date reference material, 'Nature's Building Blocks' hits the spot."--Malcolm Browne, New York Times

"A marvel--encyclopedic in scope, but so full of enthusiasm, so engagingly written, that one can open it at any point and read for sheer delight.... I have read and possess many books on the elements, but it is Dr. Emsley's new book which will now sit next to me on my desk."--Oliver Sacks

"An engaging gadgeteer of the elements."--George Johnson, New York Times

"A delightful, idiosyncratic survey of the known elements, this guide also includes many nuggets of surprising information--for example, the use of fluorine (found in our bones and teeth) in the development of the nonstick frying pan."--Natural History

"John Emsley's colorful account of all the elements in the universe is a succinct history of everything.... Emsley drew on 20 years of collected magazine and newspaper articles to produce this marvelous reference work. 'Nature's Building Blocks' is the kind of book people consult in the pursuit of a single fact, but this fact will lead to another and another, drawing the reader in an enjoyable chase from naturally occurring nuclear reactors to human zinc deficiency and on to the number of elements named for one small town in Sweden (four)."--New York Times Book Review

Science News
From actinium to zirconium, this marvelous encyclopedia details all 115 elements of the periodic table to reveal the nature of each and its relationship to us. With the general reader in mind, Emsley infuses his text with lots of quirky tidbits of information.
San Francisco Chronicle
From actinium to zirconium, Emsley marshals the details into a well-organized, user-friendly reference about every little thing that makes up every big thing that makes up the universe as we know it ... A quite useful and even fascinating book in its own way, a lot of fun to flip through during idle moments.
New York Times Book Review
John Emsley's colorful account of all the elements in the universe is a succinct history of everything... Emsley drew on 20 years of collected magazine and newspaper articles to produce this marvelous reference work. 'Nature's Building Blocks' is the kind of book people consult in the pursuit of a single fact, but this fact will lead to another and another, drawing the reader in an enjoyable chase from naturally occurring nuclear reactors to human zinc deficiency and on to the number of elements named for one small town in Sweden (four).
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198503408
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2003
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

John Emsley won the Science Book prize in 1995 for his Consumer's Good Chemical Guide, and followed this with a series of popular science books: Molecules at an Exhibition, Was it Something You Ate? (co-authored with P. Fell), and The Shocking History of Phosphorus, all of which have been translated into many other languages. After 20 years as a researcher and lecturer in chemistry at London University, he became a freelance writer, as well as Science Writer in Residence, first at Imperial College London and then at Cambridge University. In 2003 he was awarded the German Chemical Society's Writer's Award.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface vii
Acknowledgements ix
Introduction 1
The elements (A-Z) 17
The periodic table 511
Appendix The discovery of the elements in chronological order 529
Bibliography 533
Lists of elements and atomic numbers 537
The periodic table 539
Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
Element of Surprise

Who doesn't enjoy watching fireworks? Noisy, exciting, colorful. It seems hard to imagine today, but once upon a time people used to make their own fireworks. When I went to school it was still possible to buy the essential ingredients: saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, charcoal, and iron filings, and my friends and I experimented with them. Of course the fireworks we made were not very impressive -- a fizz and a few yellow sparks were all we produced -- and the reason was that we knew no chemistry.

When eventually I was taught chemistry at school, things became much clearer, and the more chemistry I learned, the more interested I became. So what is it about fireworks that make them such a good advertisement for the chemical elements? The most obvious link between them is that three of the traditional ingredients (sulfur, charcoal, and iron filings) are simply pure chemical elements, as is magnesium powder, which is used to create a brilliant white flame. But if you want color, then you need to know a little more about some of the other chemical elements, such as strontium, whose compounds burn with a bright red flame; or barium and copper, which burn green; or sodium, which can color flames a bright yellow.

And blue? No element burns with a purely blue flame, and if you attend a firework show you might notice how few of the bursts of stars that light up the sky are blue in color. Indeed, one of the skills of a practiced firework maker is to produce a blue display, and it is done by a careful combination of other colors, which are blended so as to appear blue.

We now know of 114 chemical elements, although only 85 or so are to be found on Earth, and it's from these that everything we see around us is made. About a dozen of them are used in firework manufacture. Even more are needed to create a human being, and while there are at least a few atoms of 90 elements in our bodies (and that includes gold and uranium), most are not essential to life and are simply there because there are minute traces of them in the foods we eat. Nevertheless, 25 elements are vital, and that goes for cobalt (the metal we normally associate with the pigment cobalt blue used by artists), chromium (of chrome plating), and nickel (used in coins and stainless steel), although the amounts of these in our bodies are tiny.

A lifelong career in chemistry has led me to collect all kinds of interesting facts about the chemical elements, and these I have turned into the book Nature's Building Blocks. In it I tell the fascinating story of each element, under headings such as cosmic element, human element, food element, medical element, historical element, economic element, element of war, environmental element, and, or course, chemical element. And at the end of each section I include an "element of surprise," with a fact so surprising that I felt it needed special note.

For example, we think of uranium as a modern element, essential for generating nuclear power and atomic bombs. Yet 2,000 years ago, in the time of Christ and the Roman Empire, a workman who made the tiles for mosaic floors used a uranium pigment to color some of them a fluorescent green. Where he got his uranium from we will never know, and those who stood on the floors of villas he decorated with his mosaics were happily unaware that the wonderful new color they so admired was giving them a daily dose of radiation! (John Emsley)

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)