Best 27 of Sam Kean quotes - MyQuotes

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Sam Kean
By Anonym 15 Sep

Sam Kean

Also unlike a planet, an electron—if excited by heat or light—can leap from its low-energy shell to an empty, high-energy shell. The electron cannot stay in the high-energy state for long, so it soon crashes back down. But this isn’t a simple back-and-forth motion, because as it crashes, the electron jettisons energy by emitting light.

By Anonym 18 Sep

Sam Kean

Scarily, cadmium is not even the worst poison among the elements. It sits above mercury, a neurotoxin. And to the right of mercury sit the most horrific mug shots on the periodic table—thallium, lead, and polonium—the nucleus of poisoner’s corridor.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Sam Kean

Despite the earnest belief of most of his fans, Einstein did not win his Nobel Prize for the theory of relativity, special or general. He won for explaining a strange effect in quantum mechanics, the photoelectric effect. His solution provided the first real evidence that quantum mechanics wasn’t a crude stopgap for justifying anomalous experiments, but actually corresponds to reality. And the fact that Einstein came up with it is ironic for two reasons. One, as he got older and crustier, Einstein came to distrust quantum mechanics. Its statistical and deeply probabilistic nature sounded too much like gambling to him, and it prompted him to object that “God does not play dice with the universe.” He was wrong, and it’s too bad that most people have never heard the rejoinder by Niels Bohr: “Einstein! Stop telling God what to do.

By Anonym 19 Sep

Sam Kean

This hinted at something that no one had ever suspected -- that the brain tracks moving things more easily that still things. We have a built-in bias toward detecting action. Why? Because it's probably more critical for animals to spot moving things (predators, prey, falling trees) than static things, which can wait. In fact, our vision is so biased toward movement that we don't technically see stationary objects at all. To see something stationary, our brains have to scribble our eyes subtly over its surface. Experiments have even proven that if you artificially stabilize an image on the retina with a combination of special contact lenses and microelectronics, the image will vanish.

By Anonym 17 Sep

Sam Kean

Lithium regulates the proteins that control the body’s inner clock. This clock runs, oddly, on DNA, inside special neurons deep in the brain. Special proteins attach to people’s DNA each morning, and after a fixed time they degrade and fall off. Sunlight resets the proteins over and over, so they hold on much longer. In fact, the proteins fall off only after darkness falls—at which point the brain should “notice” the bare DNA and stop producing stimulants. This process goes awry in manic-depressives because the proteins, despite the lack of sunlight, remain bound fast to their DNA. Their brains don’t realize they should stop revving. Lithium helps cleave the proteins from DNA so people can wind down. Notice that sunlight still trumps lithium during the day and resets the proteins; it’s only when the sunlight goes away at night that lithium helps DNA shake free. Far from being sunshine in a pill, then, lithium acts as “anti-sunlight.” Neurologically, it undoes sunlight and thereby compresses the circadian clock back to twenty-four hours—preventing both the mania bubble from forming and the Black Tuesday crash into depression.

By Anonym 20 Sep

Sam Kean

When you do the math and examine how much energy is produced per atomic union, you find that fusing anything to iron’s twenty-six protons costs energy. That means post-ferric fusion* does an energy-hungry star no good. Iron is the final peal of a star’s natural life.

By Anonym 20 Sep

Sam Kean

Yet they enjoy the high. In the surest sign that selenium actually makes them go mad, cattle grow addicted to locoweed despite its awful side effects and eat it to the exclusion of anything else. It’s animal meth.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Sam Kean

Lithium tweaks many mood-altering chemicals in the brain, and its effects are complicated. Most interesting, lithium seems to reset the body’s circadian rhythm, its inner clock. In normal people, ambient conditions, especially the sun, dictate their humors and determine when they are tuckered out for the day. They’re on a twenty-four-hour cycle. Bipolar people run on cycles independent of the sun. And run and run.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Sam Kean

Art, in other words, betrays a sexy mental fitness.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Sam Kean

Germans at the time believed, a little oddly, that dyes killed germs by turning the germs’ vital organs the wrong color.

By Anonym 18 Sep

Sam Kean

So while Pauling struggled with his model, Watson and Crick turned theirs inside out, so the negative phosphorus ions wouldn’t touch. This gave them a sort of twisted ladder—the famed double helix.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Sam Kean

Because our lungs regularly deal with carbon dioxide, they see nothing wrong with absorbing its cousin, SiO2, which can be fatal. Many dinosaurs might have died this way when a metropolis-sized asteroid or comet struck the earth 65 million years ago.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Sam Kean

Aluminium’s sixty-year reign as the world’s most precious substance was glorious, but soon an American chemist ruined everything.

By Anonym 19 Sep

Sam Kean

Think of the most fussy science teacher you ever had. The one who docked your grade if the sixth decimal place in your answer was rounded incorrectly; who tucked in his periodic table T-shirt, corrected every student who said "weight" when he or she meant "mass", and made everyone, including himself, wear goggles even while mixing sugar water. Now try to imagine someone whom your teacher would hate for being anal-retentive. That is the kind of person who works for a bureau of standards and measurement.

By Anonym 18 Sep

Sam Kean

The color of the emitted light depends on the relative heights of the starting and ending energy levels. A crash between closely spaced levels (such as two and one) releases a pulse of low-energy reddish light, while a crash between more widely spaced levels (say, five and two) releases high-energy purple light.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Sam Kean

All the elements other than hydrogen and helium make up just 0.04 percent of the universe. Seen from this perspective, the periodic system appears to be rather insignificant. But the fact remains that we live on the earth… where the relative abundance of elements is quite different.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Sam Kean

If certain bacteria, fungi, or algae inch across something made of copper, they absorb copper atoms, which disrupt their metabolism (human cells are unaffected). The microbes choke and die after a few hours.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Sam Kean

In fact, his travelogues spend amazingly little time discussing his blindness. Only one passage stands out for its frank discussion of his handicap and how it changed his worldview. In it, Holman was reminiscing about a few rendezvous from his past. Disarmingly, he admitted that he had no idea what his paramours looked like, or even whether they were homely. Moreover, he didn't care: by abandoning the standards of the sighted world, he argues, he could tap into a more divine and more authentic beauty. Hearing a woman's voice and feeling her caresses -- and then filling in what was missing with his own fancy -- gave him more pleasure than the mere sight of a women ever had, he said, a pleasure beyond reality. "Are there any who imagine," Holman asked, "that my loss of eyesight must necessarily deny me the enjoyment of such contemplation? How much more do I pity the mental darkness which could give rise to such an error.

By Anonym 19 Sep

Sam Kean

Today alpha equals 1/137.0359 or so. Regardless, its value makes the periodic table possible. It allows atoms to exist and also allows them to react with sufficient vigor to form compounds, since electrons neither roam too freely from their nuclei nor cling too closely. This just-right balance has led many scientists to conclude that the universe couldn’t have hit upon its fine structure constant by accident.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Sam Kean

So if big enough droplets fell far enough fast enough, someone floating right near the metallic hydrogen layer inside Jupiter maybe, just maybe, could have looked up into its cream and orange sky and seen the most spectacular show ever--fireworks lighting up the Jovian night with a trillion streaks of brilliant crimson, what scientists call neon rain.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Sam Kean

If anything runs deeper than a mathematician’s love of variables, it’s a scientist’s love of constants.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Sam Kean

All we know for sure is that if some astronomer turned a telescope to a far-off star cluster tonight and found incontrovertible evidence of life, even microbial scavengers, it would be the most important discovery ever—proof that human beings are not so special after all. Except that we exist, too, and can understand and make such discoveries.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Sam Kean

Never underestimate spite as a motivator for genius.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Sam Kean

Iron is the final peal of a star’s natural life.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Sam Kean

For his part, Mendeleev scanned Lecoq de Boisbaudran’s data on gallium and told the experimentalist, with no justification, that he must have measured something wrong, because the density and weight of gallium differed from Mendeleev’s predictions. This betrays a flabbergasting amount of gall, but as science philosopher-historian Eric Scerri put it, Mendeleev always “was willing to bend nature to fit his grand philosophical scheme.” The only difference between Mendeleev and crackpottery is that Mendeleev was right: Lecoq de Boisbaudran soon retracted his data and published results that corroborated Mendeleev’s predictions.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Sam Kean

Mendeleev, unlike the squeamish Meyer, had balls enough to predict that new elements would be dug up. Look harder, you chemists and geologists, he seemed to taunt, and you’ll find them.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Sam Kean

In these days before antiseptics, doctors themselves also suffered high mortality rates. Florence Nightingale, a nurse during the Crimean War (1853-1856), watched one particularly inept surgeon cut both himself and, somehow, a bystander while blundering about during an amputation. Both men contracted an infection and died, as did the patient. Nightingale commented that it was the only surgery she'd ever seen with 300 percent mortality.