P is for Periodic Table

sodium (Na) and fluorine (Cl) hook up to make sodium fluoride (NaCl)

Before I get started, a JEOPARDY! Daily Double from 4/14/2010:
ONLY ONE VOWEL $2,000: Though it has only one vowel in its name, this element’s periodic table symbol is 2 vowels.

It’s been a long time since I took high school chemistry. Check out, if you would, this nifty dynamic periodic table. If you put the cursor over a category, it will highlight those elements in that category. If you click on the category, it will give you an encyclopedic interpretation of the group. This is likewise true for the individual elements.

One finds a similar function for the elements only here, with YouTube videos about how the elements are used, when available, and a brief history of the periodic chart, starting with Mendeleev arrangement of the 65 elements that were then known back in 1869. Indeed, most of the periodic tables I found online has some interactivity.

If these were available when I was in high school, maybe I would remember more about chemistry than this: the alkali metals in group 1 liked to hang out with the halogens in group 17, because the former had an extra electron hanging out and the latter was lacking one; thus sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) hook up to make sodium chloride (NaCl), or salt. Conversely, the noble gases (group 18) didn’t play well with others.

One fun representation of the table is the Wooden Periodic Table Table which ended up winning the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with among other features, pictorial representations of some of the greats of science for which some of the latter elements are named, such as Curie, Nobel and Einstein.

But I was confused by the recent news that a new element, element 117, ununseptium (yeah, easy for YOU to say), described in the New York Times this way: “The team produced six atoms of the element by smashing together isotopes of calcium and a radioactive element called berkelium in a particle accelerator.” Wow. I thought the finding of elements would be more – I don’t know – elemental. (Here’s the story in the Christian Science Monitor and the Daily Mail). And only six atoms? There are things I know a lot about; this is NOT one of them.

ABC Wednesday
Oh, The JEOPARDY! question: What is gold? The symbol for it is Au.