The Periodic Table


“The periodic table,” begins Theodore Gray’s wonderful book The Elements, “is the universal catalog of everything you can drop on your foot.” It’s also been called “nature’s Rosetta Stone” and “the most recognizable icon in science” It’s also cool. See below for books, games, projects, the world’s best chemistry song, and the Periodic Tables of Comic Books, Elephants, and Cupcakes.



 imgres By Simon Basher and Adrian Dingle, The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! (Kingfisher, 2007) is a clever, funny, informational, and personalized tour of the elements in 128 creatively illustrated pages. Cesium, for example: “Soft and golden, I’m way more exciting than gold. When provoked, I give off a sky blue light.” For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-1 Dan Green’s 100+-page The Elements (Scholastic, 2012) in the Scholastic Discover More series is a real eye-catcher, filled with information, startling factoids (find out how many atoms are in the period at the end of a sentence), fantastic color photographs, and great graphics. And there’s more: the book comes with a code that can be used to download a companion digital book. For ages 10 and up.
imgres Theodore Gray’s The Elements (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2009) is a spectacularly illustrated “Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe.” A gem of a book for all ages.
 imgres-1 In the Very Short Introduction series from Oxford University Press, Philip Ball’s The Elements (2004) and Eric Scerri’s The Periodic Table (2012) are short (150-200 pages long) as well as historical, scientific, reader-friendly, and entertaining. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-3 Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon (Back Bay Books, 2011) is a fascinating account of the elements of the Periodic Table and the chemists who discovered and studied them, crammed with addictive anecdotes. (The disappearing spoon is made of gallium which looks like aluminum but melts at body temperature; gallium spoons at tea parties disappear when dunked in tea.) For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-4 By Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Periodic Tales (Ecco, 2012) – subtitled “A Cultural History of the Elements from Arsenic to Zinc” – is a chatty and interesting account. On the topic of gold, for example, the author discusses a solid-gold statue of model Kate Moss, King Croesus’s gold coins, the search for El Dorado, gold rushes, and attempts to extract gold from seawater. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-5 By John Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements (Oxford University Press, 2011) is not only a superb resource book, but a delightful read. For each element, covered in alphabetical order, there are sections on its aspects as a Human Element (what does it do in the human body?), Medical Element, Food Element, Historical Element, Element of War, Economic Element, Environmental Element, and Element of Surprise. Thoroughly fascinating, all 500+ pages of it.
 images From PBS’s NOVA, Hunting the Elements is a two-hour special on the elements, rare, common, deadly, and weird. Click on Education and Outreach Resources at the site for a printable periodic table, video clips, interactive activities, and lesson plans to accompany the program.
images-1 From Chemical & Engineering News, at It’s Elemental: The Periodic Table, click on an element for an illustrated informative essay.
 images-1 The Periodic Table, says Discover magazine, is a giant cheat sheet. Find out why and more at 20 Things You Didn’t Know About the Periodic Table.


 images-2 Theodore Gray, co-founder of Wolfram Research, Inc. (the people who brought us Mathematica) is famous for having built a Periodic Table. By which I mean a Periodic table: it’s wooden, it’s table-sized, it has legs, and it contains actual samples of as many elements as Gray could manage to collect. His website, Theodore Gray’s Periodic Table, is illustrated with gorgeous photographs of the elements and their discoverers. Click on an element for a long photo-illustrated list of its uses with interesting explanations. (Click on the element boron, for example, and you’ll find that silly putty contains 4% boric acid, which is crucially important for bounce.) Terrific.
 imgres-6 At The Periodic Table of Videos from Britain’s University of Nottingham, click on an element – any element – of the Periodic Table for a short, clever, informative (and often hilarious) video, with explanations and demonstrations. Watchers learn about hydrogen while watching the detonation of a hydrogen-filled balloon; about oxygen – which, in liquid form, is blue – while explosively torching cotton wool; and about roentgenium with a quick tour of a linear accelerator. These chemists are obviously having a great time, and it’s contagious.
 images-3 From Annenberg Learner, The Periodic Table is an interactive overview of the Table, beginning with the structure of the atom and ending with a Test Your Skills quiz.
From How Stuff Works, also see How the Periodic Table Works.
 imgres-7 At Scientific American’s Interactive Periodic Table, click on an element for an interesting fun fact. (Fluorine, the “tiger of chemistry,” is found in Teflon. Beryllium puts the green in emeralds.)
 periodic-table-1 At WebElements, click on an element of the periodic table for basic background information, history, the name of the element in several foreign languages, uses of the element in everyday life, physical and chemical properties of the element, and more. Similar sites with clickable Periodic Tables include Ptable  and Chemicool.
 images-4 The Chem4Kids page on the Periodic Table has an explanation of the organization of the table with color-coded diagrams showing periods and groups. Included are quizzes on the elements and on the Table itself.
The K12 Periodic Table of Elements is an iPhone, iPad, or iPod app.
 imgres-8 Tom Lehrer’s The Elements is the best chemistry song ever. Trust me.
NeoK12’s Periodic Table is a collection of short educational videos on the Periodic Table and the elements.


 imgres-9 At the Periodic Table of Comic Books, click on an element for a list of comic book pages featuring that element. (Vintage pages that are a bit behind the times include editorial comment to bring them up to date.)
 images-5 The Periodic Table of Elephants was designed by a Washington, DC, high school class. A downloadable reference list for each elephant is available at the American Chemistry Society website.
 chart For Tolkien fans, check out the Periodic Table of Middle-Earth.
 imgres-10 The Periodic Table Printmaking Project, a collaboration of 97 printmakers from seven different countries, is a gorgeously and creatively illustrated Table. Try making one of your own – a terrific group project!
 imgres-11 The Atlantic’s Table of Rejected Elements includes moron, gummi, and vinyl.
 imgres-12 From Clarkson University, see the Periodic Table of Pumpkins.
 imgres-13 From Simon Fraser University, this Periodic Table Quilt was a joint project of the chemistry instructors. Click on the element to see its quilt block.
 imgres-14 A Lego Periodic Table! Click on a brick.
The Periodic Table of Cupcakes. Click on an “element” to get a recipe.
 imgres-15 Or check out a REAL Periodic Table in cupcakes.


 imgres-17 In The Periodic Table Project, students are challenged to construct their own creative and unusual Periodic Tables. Sounds fun.
 imgres-18 By Theodore Gray, the Photographic Card Deck of the Elements is a gorgeously illustrated pack of 126 five-inch-square cards, one for each of the 118 elements of the Periodic Table, plus an additional eight that explain the arrangement of the Table and suggest activities to accompany the cards. (For one thing, if you can manage not to step on them, they can be arranged on the living room floor to form a 7.5-foot Periodic Table.)Each card has a color photograph of the featured element on one side; the reverse lists physical constants (atomic weight, density, melting and boiling points, and valence); the percentage of the element found in the universe, the Earth’s crust, the Earth’s oceans, and in people; the date and place of the element’s discovery; and a fascinating, unusual, or at least interesting fact about the element. These have to be the coolest flash cards ever.
The Elements Puzzle is a 1000-piece jigsaw of Gray’s photo-illustrated Periodic Table. (Finished size 36” x 16”.)Think rainy-day family project.
 images-6 In the Elementeo Chemistry Card Game, the elements come to life. There’s the Chlorine Troll, the Sodium Dragon, the Iodine Mermaid, Oxygen Life-Giver, and the Molybdenum Minotaur. The game is played with a beautifully illustrated series of cards (50 elements, 25 compounds, and 25 alchemy cards – plus a few blanks that can be used to create your own). There are five different levels of play, in which players attempt to cross a field and nab their opponent’s electrons. For ages 8 and up.
 images-7 With this set of Connecting Color Tiles, kids can build their own Periodic Tables.
 imgres-19 From Funbrain, try the Periodic Table Game with Proton Don, a mouse in a top hat.  Players can take a tutorial and then play the game, which involves identifying chemical symbols and naming elements. At three levels, easy, medium, and hard.
 chemistry_elements Chemistry Games is a collection of eight games at increasing levels of difficulty on the elements, their chemical symbols, and their properties.


 images-8 How about a Periodic Table shower curtain? (Learn in the bath.)
Or a Periodic Table placemat? (Learn at lunch.)
 DSC07781-300x225 Make your own Periodic Tablecloth!
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