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Vol. 34 No. 5
September-October 2012

Internet Connection | Providing brief overviews of helpful chemistry resources on the Web.

Periodic Tables on the World Wide Web

The Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements (to give it its full title) is the principal organizational feature of Chemistry. It initially found its rightful place through its brilliant use as a predictive tool by Dmitri Mendeleev (Дми́трий Ива́нович Менделе́ев) (1869) and was brought to its present scientific condition as a sequence in atomic number (rather than the earlier choice of atomic mass) through the spectroscopic investigations of Henry Moseley (1913). A currently developing (almost weekly) and entertaining blog of the Periodic Table can be found at the otherwise untitled http://scicommstudios.wordpress.com. Books about the Periodic Table abound. The Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodic_table) mentions a few of the more recent ones. But pride of place should go to Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table (1984) which contains a series of short essays, each titled with the name of a chemical element, based on incidents in Levi’s tragic life (briefly reviewed in http://dannyreviews.com/h/Periodic_Table.html).

However, the main concern in this brief review is to present a number of the more interesting interactive or unusual periodic tables that are available for inspection on the web. A very informative example of a straight-forward presentation that was early in the field and yet remains current, with much additional information, such as the Chemdex “directory of chemistry” which links to chemical sites around the world, is Web Elements <www.webelements.com> from the University of Sheffield and Mark Winter. The major chemical societies have their own sites, of course. The American Chemical Society has a table in a half-dozen or so languages (http://acswebcontent.acs.org/games/pt.html) while the UK Royal Society of Chemistry features the interactive Visual Elements Periodic Table <www.rsc.org/periodic-table> with an artistic representation of each element. For the 2011 International Year of Chemistry, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute produced an artistic “Periodic Table on Show” <www.raci.org.au/periodic-table-on-show> developed by a number of local printmakers. The authoritative IUPAC version includes current values of atomic masses <www.iupac.org/reports/periodic_table>. A beautiful version is the “Photographic Periodic Table of the Elements” <periodictable.com> which displays photographs of samples of the elements. An unusual Periodic Table <www.colorado.edu/physics/2000/applets/a2.html> shows the atomic emission spectra of many of the elements together with the associated filling of the energy levels (but don’t read too much into the pictures of the “whizzing” electrons and nuclei!)

Daniel Radcliffe sings “The Elements” on The Graham Norton Show, series 8, episode 4, BBC One.

Among the more entertaining versions is the song by Tom Lehrer listing the chemical elements set to music, with a clever cartoon version www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmwlzwGMMwc&feature=related> and a very creditable version by Daniel Radcliffe (the “Harry Potter” star) <www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSAaiYKF0cs&feature=related>. Every chemist should be familiar with the quite exceptional Periodic Table of Videos <www.periodicvideos.com> from the University of Nottingham, which has short videos related to each of the chemical elements—and much, much more. The videos are often narrated by the engaging Prof. Martyn Poliakoff, FRS. See also an essay in <www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6033/1046.full>.

The Periodic Table is a living entity, and two elements have just (30 May 2012) been accepted for inclusion: flerovium, 114Fl, and livermorium, 116Lv <www.iupac.org/news>.

Martyn Poliakoff, the University of Nottingham, in his video discussion of flerovium, one of two new elements.

Many have recognized that the Periodic Table provides an excellent organizing principle which can be applied well beyond chemistry. For instance, the website web.mit.edu/dryfoo/www/Info/condiments.html lists a “Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad” (which includes the “useful fact” that Vegemite—number 34—lasts two months after opening!). Mathematicians are reported to be in the process of creating a periodic table of shapes <www.newscientist.com/article/dn20134-atoms-ripple-in-the-periodic-table-of-shapes.html> and <www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/4061/mathematicians-create-periodic-table-shapes>. In order to deal with the complication of these multiple types of periodic tables, there is a “Periodic Table of Periodic Tables” <www.keaggy.com/periodictable> which links to an extensive, and eclectic, set of Periodic Tables.

A striking resource is the Periodic Table in nearly 400 languages, including some that are extinct or have been constructed (In Czech, but quite clear <www.jergym.hiedu.cz/~canovm/vyhledav/chemici2.html>; note that two screens are viewable, with the second providing access to historical information).

Finally, there is Mark Leach’s “Internet Database of Periodic Tables” <www.meta-synthesis.com/webbook/35_pt/pt_database.php?PT_id=286> which currently has more than 450 links to Periodic Tables of various kinds, both chemical and others.

Leslie Glasser <leslieglasser@yahoo.co.uk> is at the Nanochemistry Research Institute of Curtin University in Perth, Australia. He is the former chair of the IUPAC Committee on Printed and Electronic Publications.

An earlier version of this review was published as an editorial in the Australian Journal of Education in Chemistry, issue 71, pp. 3–4, 2011; reproduced with permission; www.raci.org.au/divisions/further-
information-2/ausjec
.

www.iupac.org/publications/ci/2012/3405/ic.html


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