Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lots of Questions - Part 4 - Meet the Elements!

Today we are going to tackle some questions all about the Periodic Table sent in by members of Skooville – the place where children learn to be safe online.  Skooville is a awesome resource which is FREE for NZ schools.

If you have seen our “What’s the Matter?” science show – you’ll know all about the Periodic Table.  This table tells us a lot about the elements found in the universe. An ‘element’ is a material that is made up of only one type of atom.

Here at Science in a Van we love the idea that everything in the universe is made up from stuff on the periodic table. To make something up you will go to the elements on the table to do so. Just like if you want to make a cake you go to your cupboard to get the ingredients. That's why, instead of calling it the Periodic Table we like to call it the “Cupboard to the Universe” J

The Periodic Table as we know it today was first drawn up by a Russian chemist called Dimitri Mendeleev in 1869.  Also a German chap, Julius Lothar Meyer, released a version in 1870.  The weird part about this is that Julius didn’t have a clue that Dmitri was working on something similar and Dmitri had no idea that Julius was working on the same thing!  However, they both came up with similar information but they just presented them a bit differently.  Since this time the Periodic Table has changed and developed as we have learnt more about the world around us.  But if Dmitri and Julius were alive today they would still recognise it from the work they did on it all those years ago. 

We had a few questions about the Periodic Table so here we go with the answers,

Q from Aachal: How many elements are there on the Periodic Table?

A: At this moment in time, most people say that there are 118 confirmed elements on the Periodic Table. But there are new ones being discovered, so some people say that there is more. 

Q from Alexandra: If 92 elements are found naturally on earth, and two of the first 92 elements are synthetic, doesn’t that mean there are only 90 naturally occurring elements on earth?

A: There is some debate about what is naturally occurring and what is synthetic.  Here’s a fun thing to do, in google (or your internet search engine) type in “naturally occurring elements” and see from the search results how many different answers there are!  This is because people cannot agree on what level of human involvement makes something ‘synthetic’.

Q from Viktor: Which element has the most protons?

A: Nobelium (‘No’ on the Periodic Table) has the largest amount of protons with 102. It was first discovered in 1966.

To learn more about the history and the latest up to date stuff about the Periodic Table check out what the fabulous guys at the Royal Society have come up with click here.  They have videos about each element and some fun images to represent each one.

Or you can sing along with the band ‘They Might Be Giants’ as they sing about the elements in their song ‘Meet the Elements’ …  ¯Like a box of paints that are mixed to make every shade, they either combine to make a chemical compound, or stand alone as they are¯  

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