Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

Oliver Sacks and the Periodic Table of Elements

To anyone who had been following Oliver Sacks and his career, it did not come as a shock that he has died of cancer. This doesn’t make it any less sad, because the man wrote a lot of interesting books. His retrospective pieces on how he was dying are really quite beautiful.

One of the places I knew him best from was Radiolab. From the start he was helping out with ideas and giving the podcast wonderful ideas. Some of my favorite episodes have had him in it. Even after he’d said he was giving no more interviews, he was willing to give a retrospective about his life for radiolab.


While listening to that episode might be a great way to celebrate his life—it made me ugly cry hard when first listening to it in March—I would like to highlight a more recent release. From a young age, one of Oliver’s favorite things was the periodic table of elements. His love of it inspired the most recent episode Elements. While they were making the episode they toook archival footage of their visit to Oliver’s house and his collection of Periodic Table items, along with the reason why he loved it so much.

I am not going to spoil the podcast—if you have 16 minutes to spare I would suggest listening to it—but the passion he had for things that were not part of neurolgy was wonderful. And he can get you to care about it too: I know I’m reading the disappearing spoon after putting it off for awhile.

To Oliver Sacks, you will be missed.

Carbon flashcard art by Kaycie D. at Elements.

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