Morning Musically-Minded, Medically-Minded, Masticators!
(Today’s post is sponsored by the letter “M”)
Over the past 600+ episodes, The Simpsons has taken us on an amazing journey involving music, science, and food to name a few concepts.
And what better way to start your week, than by discussing some of these concepts Monday morning?
So let’s get started this week by talking about a fundamental aspect of chemistry.
In the eighty fourth episode of The Simpsons, Homer Goes to College (Season 05, Episode 03), episode writer Conan O’Brien has inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission come pay a visit to Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Despite Smithers best efforts to hide Homer from the inspectors, Homer is placed in the simulator and causes a meltdown. The inspectors require Homer to go back to college and complete a course in nuclear physics. So Homer is off to Springfield University, burning his High School GED and singing “I am so smart, s-m-r-t!” as the house starts to burn down.
Homer is excited thinking it will like a college comedy movie, a la Animal House. However, SU is nothing like Homer expected as jocks and nerds don’t bully each other, everyone panics when Homer spikes the punch, and students actually get along with Dean Bobby Peterson, who encourages them to call him by his first name.
Homer is put in the same dorm as nerds Benjamin, Doug, and Gary. While Homer tries to help loosen up the nerds, the nerds in turn try to help Homer with his coursework.
Doug: “Come on, Mr. Simpson, you’ll never pass this course if you don’t know the periodic table.”
Homer: “I’ll write it on my hand.”
Doug: “Ho! Including all known lanthinides and actinides? Good luck!” [Benjamin, Doug, and Gary all chuckle]
While Homer’s influence results in Benjamin, Doug, and Gary getting expelled, Homer eventually helps get them back in to college and they in turn help him study and then hack the school computer to change his failing F grade to a passing A grade. But Marge insist Homer is setting a bad example for the kids and has to re-do the course. Homer is excited to go back to college and “Party Down“.
But have you ever wondered what the periodic table is?
Periodic Table of Chemical Elements
The periodic table of chemical elements is a tabular display of the elements that is a graphic formulation of the periodic law, which states that the properties of the chemical elements exhibit a periodic dependence on their atomic numbers. The periodic law, as well as the periodic table, are both credited to Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.
Dmitri Mendeleev (8 February 1834 – 2 February 1907)
In 1817, German physicist Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner began to formulate one of the earliest attempts to classify the elements by placing three similar elements into what he called ‘triads’. Subsequently, in 1864, German chemist Lothar Meyer classified 28 elements into a table of 6 groups based on their valences.
However, the breakthrough came on February 17, 1869, when Dmitri began arranging the elements and comparing them by their atomic weights. He began with a few elements, and over the course of the day his system grew till it encompassed most of the known elements. His printed table, which we now refer to as the periodic table of chemical elements appeared the next month in the journal of the Russian Chemical Society. While there appeared to be some elements missing from the table, he boldly predicted that that meant that the element had yet to be discovered.
The website ptable.com has a lot of information about the various elements and includes the following periodic table:
As you can see, the periodic table divides elements into Alkali Metals, Alkaline Metals, Transition Metals including Lanthanoids and Actinoids, Post-transition Metals, Metalloids, Reactive Nonmetals, and Noble Gases.
All elements within the same group tend to share similar chemical properties. The table can also be used to track/predict trends, such as atomic radius, ionisation energy, electron affinity, electronegativity, and metallicity.
The periodic table continues to evolve with the progress of science. In nature, only elements up to atomic number 94 exist. However, additional elements continue to be synthesized. Today, all of the first 118 elements are known, completing the first seven rows of the table (as seen in the table above). However, chemical characterisation is still needed for the heaviest synthesized elements to confirm that their properties match their positions.
Now that we’ve learned more about the periodic table of elements, be sure to come back next week when we continue our Monday morning musings with the next episode of The Simpsons.
Did you remember the episode? What’s your favourite school episode of The Simpsons? What about your favourite chemistry reference on The Simpsons? What’s your favourite episode written by Conan O’Brien on The Simpsons? Did you remember Homer’s college antics? Did you know the history of the periodic table of elements? How many elements were you familiar with? What’s your favourite element? Sound off in the comments below. You know we love hearing from you.