Quotes by: Sam Kean

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The amygdala is one of those brain structures that a lot of people know a little bit about, and there's a definite tendency to conflate the amygdala and the fear response itself - as if the amygdala, and the amygdala alone, 'causes' fear.
Sam Kean
Many different elements can form isomers, but only a few elements on the periodic table, like hafnium, can form isomers that last more than fractions of a second - and might therefore be turned into weapons.
Sam Kean
America was probably Europe's equal scientifically by the end of World War I and certainly surpassed it after the chaos of World War II.
Sam Kean
No one knows quite the reason, but surgically severing the corpus callosum can reduce the rate and intensity of seizures. So in the early 1960s, a few patients with severe epilepsy had their corpus callosums cut, turning them into split-brain people.
Sam Kean
After about 1940, scientists generally stopped looking for elements in nature. Instead, they had to create them by smashing smaller atoms together.
Sam Kean
The price of diamonds can vary greatly depending on size, cut, color, and other factors, including whether they have a history. But because of the rarity of blue boron diamonds, they often fetch more money than gems of similar quality.
Sam Kean
Junk DNA - or, as scientists call it nowadays, noncoding DNA - remains a mystery: No one knows how much of it is essential for life.
Sam Kean
There are a few elements - especially platinum and palladium - that have the amazing ability to absorb up to 900 times their own volume in hydrogen gas. To get a sense of the scale there, that's roughly equivalent to a 250-pound man swallowing something the size of a dozen African bull elephants and not gaining an inch on his waistline.
Sam Kean
I didn't mind staying home from school and medicating myself with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Being sick always gave me another chance to break an old-fashioned mercury thermometer, too.
Sam Kean
Except for certain moments - when cells are dividing, for instance - chromosomes don't form compact, countable bodies inside cells. Instead, they unravel and flop about, which makes counting chromosomes a bit like counting strands of ramen in a bowl.
Sam Kean
When first presented with the jumble of the periodic table, I scanned for mercury and couldn't find it. It is there - between gold, which is also dense and soft, and thallium, which is also poisonous. But the symbol for mercury, Hg, consists of two letters that don't even appear in its name.
Sam Kean
Radium, discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, was especially popular: the 'it' element of its day. Radium glows an eerie blue-green in the dark, giving off light for years without any apparent power source. People had never seen anything like it.
Sam Kean
Your body thinks radium is a great thing to pack into bone - where it kills some cells outright and scrambles the DNA of others, causing problems like cancer.
Sam Kean
The amygdala is indeed crucial for monitoring our environment and deciding what's worth getting worked up over. Once the amygdala determines this, however, it merely trips another circuit to actually produce the panic.
Sam Kean
Our evolution could have gone in different directions a lot of times. We could have gone extinct at some points. We might not have gotten our big brains, or Neanderthals might have made it while we did not.
Sam Kean
Most mutations involve typos: Something bumps a cell's elbow as it's copying DNA, and the wrong letter appears in a triplet - CAG becomes CCG.
Sam Kean
Guinea pigs are practically synonymous with experiments. Lab rats have become the workhorses of modern medicine. Genetics owes a huge debt to the humble fruit fly. There's almost no branch of the life sciences, in fact, that hasn't leaned heavily on one animal or another.
Sam Kean
Some scientists claim - although these claims are contentious - that they can form deadly isomers with simple X-rays and that hafnium can multiply the power of these X-rays to an astounding degree, converting them into gamma rays up to 250 times more potent than the X-rays.
Sam Kean
Whereas recessive traits require two bad copies of a gene to become noticeable, a dominant trait expresses itself no matter what the other copy does. A benign example of dominance: If you inherit one gene for sticky wet earwax and one gene for dry earwax, the sticky earwax gene wins out every time.
Sam Kean
If stem cells divide equally, so both daughter cells look more or less the same, each one becomes another stem cell. If the split is unequal, neurons form prematurely.
Sam Kean
A long iron rod rocketed straight through the very forefront of Phineas Gage's brain. It's kind of an unusual part of the brain: you can suffer pretty severe injuries to it and often walk away from the injury. It's not a part of the brain that's necessarily vital for your biological self. But it is very important for personality.
Sam Kean
The grand saga of how humans spread across the globe will need some amendments and annotations - rendezvous here, elopements there, and the commingling of genes most everywhere.
Sam Kean
Despite its obscurity, probably no element on the periodic table has as colorful a history as antimony. Money, madness, poison, linguistics, charlatanism, sex - pretty much every theme that runs through the periodic table can be found in Element 51.
Sam Kean
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