Gearing up for Conversations…

One of my goals for celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table was to put on a play. Yeah, ambitious. I’m now calling it a lecture in costume to keep from stressing out too much. In any case, I am 12 days away from the premier of Conversations on Victorian Chemistry. More to come.

The Victorian era was rich with chemical discoveries, not least of which was the development of the iconic periodic table. In this program, we will hear from Dimitri Mendeleev, the chemist recognized as the father of periodic law, and Marie Curie, who discovered two new elements and devoted her life to the study of radioactivity, a concept wholeheartedly rejected by Mendeleev. Conversations on Victorian Chemistry is presented in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the periodic table.  In addition to chemistry-themed refreshments, we will showcase some 21st-century activities that demonstrate the tools used by these Victorian scientists.

Happy Birthday Ramsay

Today is the 167th anniversary of the birth of William Ramsay, the scientist who is credited with discovering the noble gases. Google recognized the event with a doodle on 10/2/2019

When the noble gases were being discovered (Argon was the first in 1894, helium closely thereafter in 1895), Mendeleev was very doubtful they were elements. These new species did not fit within his periodic table. Additionally, they didn’t do anything like other elements (make oxides and hydrides, for example). It wasn’t until 1898, when neon, xenon and krypton were also discovered that it occurred to scientists that a new row of the periodic table had been discovered.

In 1900, the radioactive radon was discovered (although the ideas of radioactivity were still being fleshed out at that time by Marie Curie). The last noble gas to be discovered was oganesson, which happened in 2006.

t-shirt chemistry

Tomorrow starts the new semester for me, and I finished my course prep (well, tomorrow’s activities anyway) so I figured I would celebrate with a little creativity. Not too long ago, I came across the activity where you can make a t-shirt iron on by drawing on sandpaper. I have sandpaper, some old t-shirts and I splurged on an 8-pack of crayons ($0.67 at Walmart) so I figured I would give it a go.

This year is all about the periodic table, so I wanted a periodic table design. One trend that I particularly like is the number of stable isotopes, which very clearly shows off my favorite element – technetium – because it is the lightest element without any stable isotopes. Technetium’s claim to fame is that it’s the first element to have been synthesized (in 1937) and therefore it is, in my opinion, the element of makers.

My first crayon iron t-shirt!
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(Periodic) New Year’s Resolutions

Certainly, I am not the only person who makes resolutions in the new year, only to break them in the bleak cold winter and have them pop up periodically throughout throughout spring, possibly summer, only to be completely forgotten in the fall. It is a trend that I have repeated for many years. This year will be no different, and yet it will be quite different. There will be trends, and periodicity in this year’s resolutions, but all of them will be intentional. (Ok, have I drained this ridiculous chemistry pun of what little humor it once had?)

This year, I’m making New Year’s resolutions in honor of 2019 being the International Year of the Periodic Table. I’ve been thinking about this event since it was announced early last year and have come up with a number of projects and activities that I’d like to complete. Usually, I keep my resolutions private, so that if (uhhh when) I break them, I can pretend they never existed. (If a resolution falls in the woods, and there’s no one there to hear my thoughts….) However, this year’s resolutions are more important than my fruitless desires to lose weight or kill off bad habits. I plan to better myself through chemistry (periodically). Ok, I’m done with that. Here’s my list of resolutions for 2019:

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Restoring the periodic table

I came across this video on the interweb; it’s an interesting overview of paper-restoration process applied to an historical periodic table from Germany. There is at least one error in the dialog; perhaps you can spot it?

The chemistry involved in restoring a print of the periodic table

There are some neat lesson-plan hooks in this video, if that’s your thing. What chemical property is the conservationist trying to adjust? What chemical(s) are used to do this? What two elements play an important role in paper restoration? Additionally, where do these elements appear on the (current) periodic table? Does that surprise you? Can you propose a chemical reaction that is happening during the restoration process?