The Disappearing Spoon Introduction

Book by Sam Keen. Smore by Ailsa Carlson

Introduction synopsis

In the Introduction of the book The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Keen, the author introduces the book by talking about he first became interested in the elements on the periodic table as a child. His first interests came from when he was sick as a child. The mercury in the thermometer is what he first took an interest. The interest mostly came from when a thermometer would break and the Mercury scattered. Many facts about the history of this element are discussed in this introduction. He then goes on to introduce the rest of the book. (Introduction, p 3-8)
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Element included in Introduction

In the introduction there was only one element included in the introduction of The Disappearing Spoon.

Element: Mercury (Hg)

Atomic Number: 80

Atomic Mass: 200.59

(Introduction, 4)

Period: 6


Electron Configuration: 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p64d105s25p64f145d106s2

Classification: Metal and is liquid at room temperature

(Ch 1, p13)

Naturally occurring element: Mercury is a product of coal burning, volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

Used in: Batteries, fluorescent lights, thermometers, felt and barometers ( Being phased out from manicuring by 2020)

Compound forms:Mercury Chloride (HgCl2), Mercurous Chloride (Hg2Cl2), Mercuric oxide (HgO), and Mercuric sulfide (HgS)

Compound uses: HgCl2, can be used to disinfect wounds; Hg2Cl2, can also be used to clean wounds; HgO, used to make mercury batteries; and HgS, is used to give red paint pigment.

Where is the element found: Mercury found in nature is not in large quantities but is formed naturally. Although mercury is formed from human activity.

Named after: The planet Mercury. Mercury got its name from mercury since the planet mercury is the fastest moving planet in our solar system and the element mercury also moves very quickly. ( Introduction, 4)

Unique Characteristics: Has a high surface tension which causes it to form into balls when it is not contained. This causes it not to wet a container that it is in.

  • At -452 Fahrenheit mercury with helium(in liquid form) this combination becomes conductor with no electrical resistance.
  • Mercury has been know about even to ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Hindus.
  • Ko Hung thought back in the Fourth century that by eating mercury immortality could be accomplished.
  • Tycho Brahe who was a famous astronomer may have died from mercury poising since archaeologists have found traces of mercury in his mustache.
  • Mercury is found in Fish and shellfish. At fish packing centers mercury vapors are found in the air. This can be dangerous to workers especially if they are exposed to it of long periods of time.
  • When fish is prepared all traces of mercury are not eliminated.
  • Mercury has also been used in tooth fillings. Over time as these are worn down mercury is ingested from them.
  • An acetic acid factory in Minamata, Japan had been putting their waste into a near by bay where many fishermen had their businesses. They then distributed the fish to many places causing many people to experience the side effects of this toxic element.
  • Mercury usually not allowed on airplanes since it form a alloy with aluminum very easily. This stops the aluminum from oxidizing.
  • Itiai-Itiai is a disease that is partly caused by mercury poisoning. ( Ch , p 9)
  • Mercury is a Superconductor as long as it stays chilled at -450 degrees Fahrenheit (Ch, 16)

Importance of Mercury

Mercury means "silver water or quick silver" which comes from the Latin word hydragyrum (Introduction, p7). In the past this element has been used for many things such as laxatives, as a wash for hats and even as a "cure" for Yellow Fever. At this time scientist had not figured out that mercury is toxic for human consumption or even smell. By consuming or smelling the fumes it can lead to brain damage as well hair loss and death. During the explorations of the New world Lewis and Clark used laxatives with large amount of mercury in them. Mercury deposits have been found along the route of their do to their human waste ( Introduction, 5). Also it was used to help "cure" yellow fever in 1793( Introduction, p5) . Mercury Chloride was taken by mouth in attempt help cure many diseases. Some patients have died from mercury poisoning rather then the disease its self due to using this treatment for long periods of time. It is important to know how dangerous this element is so we can take it out of products that we use everyday to cut down on the risk of being poisoned.


Blaszczak. (2014, December 18). Facts About Mercury (Hg). Retrieved from

Jefferson Lab. (2015). The Element Mercury. Retrieved from

Kapsch, P. (2016). Mercury. Retrieved from

Perdue. (n.d.). Surface Tension. Retrieved from

World Health oriniza. (2016). Mercury and health. Retrieved from