Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Elements

I've been writing little stories about the elements in the Periodic Table. Most people are familiar with the chart (left), but if you're like me, you don't know much about most of the chemicals listed on it. So I've been doing some reading. If you find this boring, skip ahead to the Eye Candy. If you find it interesting, check out Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements by John Emsley.
Here's the next installment...

Atomic Number: 4
Atomic Symbol: Be
Beryllium was to play a historic role in advancing our knowledge of atomic theory, since it helped uncover the fundamental particle, the neutron. Beryllium has been known since antiquity in some forms: beryl crystals include rubies and emeralds, which were known to the ancient Egyptians, Jews, and Romans. This element is toxic to humans, causing chronic inflammation of the lungs and shortness of breath. It is also used in nuclear bombs and the nuclear energy industry.

Atomic Number: 5
Atomic Symbol: B
Boron's very existence is a mystery, because there appears to be no way in which it can have been created within stars, the source of all matter in the universe. Referred to as "borax", a salt of this element appears in writings from ancient Babylon and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Boron compounds are important in many industries such as agriculture, making detergents, and glass. Pyrex glass is tough and heat resistant because it contains boric oxide. Boron nitride is a remarkable material, used to manufacture fake diamonds.

Atomic Number: 6
Atomic Symbol: C
Carbon is an important element because it's so versatile: it can connect to one, two, three, or four other atoms. It can also connect to other carbon atoms. Scientists agree that a planet must be rich in carbon to produce the large and complicated molecules necessary for life. Most of what we eat: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, is made of compounds of carbon, giving us a total carbon intake of 300 grams a day. Carbon is one of the major elements in the interstellar void, and is given off by dying stars.

Earlier posts on the Elements here.


Andy said...

Atomic Number: 4

Hansisgreat said...

Oops! Thanks, Andy!