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  • Robinson
  • Robinson
  • Hachette Audio

The Elements We Live By: How Iron Helps Us Breathe, Potassium Lets Us See, and Other Surprising Superpowers of the Periodic Table

Anja Royne

4 Reviews

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Popular science

A journey around the world to discover where in nature we can find the elements of life and the many, surprising ways in which they're essential to our survival.

Winner of the 2018 Brage Prize

'Perfect popular science . . . not just a well-written story about the elements, but a book about being human in the world today'
Asmund H. Eikenes, author of SPLASH: A HISTORY OF OUR BODIES

We all know that we depend on elements for survival - from oxygen in the air we breathe to carbon in the molecular structures of all living things. But we seldom appreciate how, say, phosphorus holds our DNA together or how potassium powers our optic nerves enabling us to see.

Physicist and award-winning author Anja Royne takes us on an astonishing journey through chemistry and physics, introducing the building blocks from which we humans - and everything else in the world - are made. Not only does Royne explain why our bodies need iron, phosphorus, silicon, potassium and many more elements in just the right amounts in order to function, she also shows us where in the world these precious elements are found (some of them in limited and quickly depleting quantities).

Royne helps us understand how precariously balanced our lives - and ways of living - really are, and to appreciate little known and generally unsung heroes of the periodic table in an entirely new light.

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Praise for The Elements We Live By: How Iron Helps Us Breathe, Potassium Lets Us See, and Other Surprising Superpowers of the Periodic Table

  • What makes this book the perfect popular science title is the way Royne places new knowledge in a greater context and in ongoing debates on society and our common future. It is not just a well-written story about the elements, but a book about being human in the world today.

  • An excellent book about the elements . . . Physicist Anja Royne has achieved the feat of producing a popular science heavyweight that wears its knowledge lightly. - Aftenposten

  • Popular science par excellence . . . An extremely good book that deals with the big social challenges by starting out with the small . . . Many fields of study probably offer a more promising starting point than the building blocks that form all matter, but Royne brings gold, copper, calcium and carbon alive in a way that makes her book exciting, entertaining, and - not least - enlightening.

  • [T]his lovely book. An enjoyable sweep through topics ranging from respiration to space exploration -solid science presented in an engagingly human way.

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