Thursday, May 8, 2014


Back in 8th grade science class I did a report on Mercury, aka Quicksilver, aka the coolest element on the Periodic Table (!!!). At least that was my opinion at the time. I remember almost nothing now about what I learned then, except for the part about Mercury being toxic. But I do remember being a little in awe of the element. And I remember that I thought it was pretty amazing how all these little "building blocks of matter" could be so different and combine to make even more things that were even more different.

I don't know if they still use these things in high schools now, but back then we had one of those roll down posters over the blackboard with the Periodic Table on it. (Or maybe I'm getting it confused with the maps in History class. The ones where the teacher would try to roll down the one of the US but always get the world map instead and have to fiddle with it for a few minutes.) The Periodic Table we were using was probably not new, and this was already about twenty years ago. If I remember correctly it only went up to element 109.

Last week I saw this article. We've just confirmed element 117. I don't know about you, but I find it pretty mind-boggling that we can actually create new elements. As if nature weren't amazing enough already, we're making extra-natural things. Like we're saying, "Hey, everything in known existence, you're great and all, but we'll do you one better."

So I have this shelf of books by my desk with all of my writing books and research books and "this sounds interesting, maybe I'll find an excuse to use it in a book" books. One of those is The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which I happen to be reading right now. It's about the story behind the periodic table--where elements came from and how we discovered them and the insane and dangerous and all-too-human things we do with them.

It's one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. I love it. It's making me fall in love with chemistry and the universe and science! all over again. In other words... Attention! Book recommendation! Read it!

I don't have a favorite element any more. (Except maybe Tungsten, because there's something about that name, and the fact that its symbol is a W, for Wolfram, which sounds cool too... I dunno, I just like it.) But I still love learning all these things. Makes me feel part of the amazing discoveries that we as humans are making all the time. Go team human.

How about you? Did you ever have a favorite element?

No comments:

Post a Comment