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PERIODIC TALES - HUGH ALDERSEY-WILLIAMS   The elements have personalities, attitudes, talents, shortcomings, stories rich with meaning. Here you'll meet iron that rains from the heavens and noble gases that light the way to vice. You'll discover what connects the bones in your body with the Whitehouse in Washington, the glow of a streetlamp with the salt on  your dinner table. Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colourful pasts, Periodic Tales is anecdote-rich, showing that their stories are our stories, and their lives are inextricable from our own. (Penguin, 2012, PB, 448pp., isbn 97801410452, £9.99)


QUANTUM: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED - JIM AL-KHALILI  Quantum mechanics underpins modern science and provides us with a blueprint for reality itself. And yet it has been said that if you're not shocked by it, you don't understand it. But is quantum physics really so unknowable? Is reality really so strange? And just how can cats be half-alive and half-dead at the same time?  Our journey into the quantum begins with nature's own conjuring trick, in which we discover that atoms - contrary to the rules of everyday experience - can exist in two locations at once. To understand this we travel back to the dawn of the twentieth century and witness the birth of quantum theory, which over the next one hundred years was to overthrow so many of our deeply held notions about the nature of our universe. Scientists and philosophers have been left grappling with its implications every since. (Phoenix, 2012, HB, 288pp, isbn 9781780223957, £10.99)

Selected and introduced by Richard Dawkins, this is a celebration of the finest writing by scientists for a wider audience. This collection captures the poetry and excitement of communicating scientific understanding and scientific effort from 1900 to the present day. Packed with anecdotes, we travel with the author to the radium mountains of Bohemia and understand how the use of elements such as gold, iron and phosphorus transformed the world (Penguin, 2012, PB, 428pp., isbn9780141041452)


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