Tag: Periodic Table

Pique the Geek 20091004. The Periodic Table Part 2

Last time we talked about the history of the periodic table and some of the reasons behind why it “works”.  We also took a look at the first three periods (rows), the very short first period, with only two elements, and the two short periods with eight elements each in them.  We also grouped these elements into families (columns) that show similar chemical properties.

Now we shall look at Periods 4 and 5, the two long periods.  These periods (and later ones) contain the transition metals.  In the first three periods, chemical properties change radically from one element to the next as atomic number increases.  For example, fluorine, the most chemically reactive element sits next to neon, which forms no known ground state chemical compounds.

Pique the Geek 20090927: The Periodic Table Part I

The single most important piece of scientific literature is, in my opinion, the periodic table.  Those who understand what it means, and what it actually implies, have mastered more science than most professors ever will.  This may sound like an exaggeration, but come with me and I think that I can prove it to you.

One thing that scientists like to do is to make order out of what seems to be a myriad of disjointed facts.  The table does just this.  The table did not just appear overnight; it is the product of contributions by hundreds of scientists over decades and finally took a form sort of like what we use today in 1869.  That was the year in which Dmitrii Mendeleev published his table, but he was not alone by far.

Pique the Geek 20090920. Water: You Should Have Never Seen It

Water is a material unlike any other.  I will go on record to say that, whilst a few other substances may have a one or two unusual properties, no other known substance has as many, or as to as great an extent in toto, than does water.  If anyone can think of any other substance that has as many aberrant properties, please let me know.

Because of the unique set of properties, water is usually declared to be essential for life.  I do not know if I would go quite that far, because that sounds more like dogma than science to me.  However, I would agree that any nonaqueous form of life would be extraordinarily bizarre to us, and might not even be recognized as a lifeform.

Water is such a basic part of daily life that the ancients thought that it was a fundamental element.  Whilst they were incorrect, it is so different than anything else that it deserves a place of its own in our understanding of things.