Questions for ‘Chemistry’s ever-useful periodic table celebrates a big birthday’


This “twin tower” periodic table is everywhere — in classrooms and museums, even on T-shirts and coffee mugs. Chemists everywhere consult it to understand chemical relationships, to look for data and to plan experiments.

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To accompany feature “Chemistry’s ever-useful periodic table celebrates a big birthday


Before Reading

1.  What elements do you know about? Where are they found and what characteristic traits do they have?

2.  If someone gave you a long list of all the elements, what do you think would be a good way to organize them? Why?        

During Reading

1.  What is an element?  

2.  What is the periodic law?  

3.  Why is it useful to have different forms of the periodic table, according to Carmen Giunta?    

4.  What two elements made up the universe immediately after the Big Bang? In what two other general ways did heavier elements form?

5.  How did Dmitri Mendeleev get the idea for his 1869 periodic table? How are the elements arranged in this table?    

6.  What happens as elements get larger (more massive)? How does that relate to how periodic tables are arranged?

7.  What does the number at the top left corner of each box on the periodic table represent? What about the number at the bottom?  

8.  What is the name of the most common periodic table in use today? Why is it called that? What is another important characteristic of this table?

9.  What are two examples of other variations of the periodic table? How do they differ from the most common one, and what is the reason for each of those differences? 

10. What is the motivation behind the periodic table produced by the European Chemical Society?

After Reading

1.  According to the article, people have thought up numerous types of periodic tables. If you were assigned to devise another one, what form might it take? Why?

2.  Imagine that you traveled to an alien planet and discovered 12 new elements there — elements that don’t exist on Earth. What would you want to learn about those elements in order to understand that planet better? What clues might you look for to help you understand how the elements relate to one another?