Holy crap, yesterday was a good day.
Firstly, one of the blog pictures (from here) gets included in the very awesome photoblog “Things Organised Neatly“. As you see here, it was reposted around the place with comments like “I miss using micropipettes @.@“, “ahh brings me back to my 10th grade genetics class…fuck“, and (for some reason) “Is it odd that this is sexy to me?“
Secondly, I won second place in an open science haiku competition! The Royal Institution (in conjunction with the Friendly Street Poets) organised the second annual Sci-ku competition earlier this year with the themes being International Year of the Forest and Year of Chemistry. I was picked for second place for this:
Frenzied matter zoo
Then, Mendeleev’s table
The world ranked and filed
I’ll explain this poem a little bit. Before the periodic table, elements were all over the place. Their properties, their weights, their valencies (how many electrons they could give or take away) seemed to be picked almost arbitrarily. Chemists and physicists of the day had to memorise it with no guiding framework. In 1869, Professor Dmitri Medeleev saw that if he arrange elements by their increasing molecular weights, then the chemical properties and valencies came up at regular intervals, i.e. they had a period.
After fussing with different designs (one including a spiral design, which apparently was spurred by a dream of a snake eating its own tail), he came up with a table similar to what we now know as the periodic table of elements. What he noticed was that some elements were missing. With this, he predicted that there were elements within a specific weight range with specific chemical properties that were left to discover. Every prediction ended up being beautifully on target with all the 118 elements so far. Indeed, all the chemicals that make up pretty much every material in our world were now truly and beautifully ordered in a simple table. Perhaps it is also a candidate for “Things Organised Neatly”.
Mendeleev ended up getting a Nobel prize for his work and an element named after him (Element 101 – Mendeleevium). Presently, the periodic table of elements is the central tenet of chemistry, just as the theory of evolution is central to biology and the atomic theory to physis.
In the following weeks, I’ll go through my other (losing) entries and give some analysis of those.