Quotes by: Sam Kean

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Despite what you might guess, when monitoring your breathing, your body doesn't care whether you're inhaling enough oxygen. It cares only whether you're expelling enough carbon dioxide - that's the gas that sets off the panic button when you're suffocating.
Sam Kean
I was reading this story about these people who suffered from brain injuries, and then their behavior changed kind of drastically afterward, and I just said to myself, 'There's no way that that can possibly be true.'
Sam Kean
The body tends to treat elements in the same column of the periodic table as equivalents.
Sam Kean
Those of us raised in modern cities tend to notice horizontal and vertical lines more quickly than lines at other orientations. In contrast, people raised in nomadic tribes do a better job noticing lines skewed at intermediate angles, since Mother Nature tends to work with a wider array of lines than most architects.
Sam Kean
Although it's the hub of the nervous system and the ultimate terminus of every nerve, the brain itself lacks enervation and therefore cannot feel pain.
Sam Kean
Scientists didn't discover the noble gas helium - the second most common element in the universe - on Earth until 1895. And they thought it existed in minute quantities only, until miners found a huge underground cache in Kansas in 1903.
Sam Kean
All human beings are, in fact, born with dozens of mutations their parents lacked, and a few of those mutations could well be lethal if we didn't have two copies of every gene, so one can pick up the slack if the other malfunctions.
Sam Kean
The noble gases, which reside on the East Coast of the periodic table, are its aristocrats - detached and aloof, never bothering to interact with the rabble of common elements that make up the vast majority of the world.
Sam Kean
The most profound change that genetics brings about might not be scientific at all. It might be mental and even spiritual enrichment: a more expansive sense of who we humans are, existentially, and where we came from, and how we fit with other life on earth.
Sam Kean
Atoms consist of a positive nucleus and negative electrons flying around outside it. Electrons closest to the nucleus feel a strong negative-on-positive tug, and the bigger atoms get, the bigger the tug. In really big atoms, electrons whip around at speeds close to the speed of light.
Sam Kean
Cancer is really a DNA disease... We have these certain genes that prevent our cells from growing out of control at the expense of the body. And it's a pretty good, robust system. But if a couple of these genes fail, then that's when cancer starts, and cells start growing out of control.
Sam Kean
To be sure, ASPM isn't the gene responsible for building big brains - there's no such single gene. But it's critical to the process, and the primate line has almost certainly benefited from distinct changes in ASPM.
Sam Kean
No element gets people telling crazy stories like mercury does. People have told me tales about pharmacists waxing floors with mercury, mothers rubbing it into babies' skin to kill germs, and 10-year-olds coating dimes in it to make them shine, then blithely carrying them around in their pockets.
Sam Kean
Even fictional characters sometimes receive unwarranted medical opinions. Doctors have diagnosed Ebenezer Scrooge with OCD, Sherlock Holmes with autism, and Darth Vader with borderline personality disorder.
Sam Kean
If you had to sum up chemistry in one sentence, it might be this: Atoms need to have full shells of electrons to feel satisfied, and different elements steal, shed, or borrow different numbers of electrons to achieve a full shell.
Sam Kean
I think it's a natural human tendency, when you read something, you tend to read a lot of your prejudices into it. And neuroscience is like a lot of disciplines - it has fashions; things change.
Sam Kean
While our amplified knowledge of genetics - and the increasing precision of the field - does make it tempting to take on celebrity cases, retro-genetics can't always provide clear answers.
Sam Kean
Atoms of Element 118 fill an outer shell with electrons, creating a special type of element called a noble gas. Noble gases are natural turning points on the table, ending one row and pointing to the next.
Sam Kean
Carbon's eastern neighbor on the table, nitrogen, dresses up diamonds in pinks, yellows, oranges, and brownish tints known romantically as 'champagne.'
Sam Kean
The idea of critical windows extends beyond just vision, of course: almost every system in the brain has a critical window when it needs to experience certain stimuli, or it won't get wired up properly. The most obvious example is language: if you don't learn a language early on, it's nigh impossible to become truly fluent.
Sam Kean
The brain, which is plastic when young, must be exposed to certain sights early in life, or it will remain blind to those sights forever.
Sam Kean
Lithium makes a fine battery because it's a scarily reactive metal. Pure lithium ignites on contact if it touches water - a flake of it would sizzle and fry on the water-rich cells of your skin.
Sam Kean
The more that I looked at DNA, the more I realized it was nature and nurture. It's how genes and your environment work together to produce the person you are.
Sam Kean
Medieval alchemists, despite their lust for gold, considered mercury the most potent and poetic substance in the universe. As a child, I would have agreed with them.
Sam Kean
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