Poet of a classical Japanese style
Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night and feel them. Why do poets not speak of science? paraphrased from Richard Feynman
These poets do! Science isn’t the realm of robots, but of vibrant human beings, and therefore, of poets.
Celebrate The International Year of the Periodic Table with a poem about all 118 chemical elements (entitled ‘The Chemist’s Couplets’). It got an honorable mention from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s (RACI’s) Stories from the Periodic Table Competition. Today it’s part of an audience poll to determine the people’s favorite elemental story.
Read ‘The Chemist’s Couplets’ by my friend-in-poetry, Michael Leach, and find more science poetry at surveymonkey.com/r/stories3 (The links are in the survey.)
Be sure to vote for your favorite.
Shape of electron shells as designated on the Periodic Table
Why is the periodic table worth a celebration? Because it’s laid out to show you how atoms are structured, how the shape of electrons’ probabilities lets you predict how chemistry will happen! When I realized this chemistry-stuff wasn’t just rules some grumpy, old teacher insisted I memorize – it was the shape and structure of reality – that’s the moment I groked chemistry. I hope you do, too.
UPDATE: the votes are in and ‘The Chemist’s Couplets’ won first runner-up. View the results with links to the winners here.
I just ran into this site and have to share. If you love science-inspired poetry, you’ll get a kick out of this.
A review of the Periodic Table composed of 119 science haiku, one for each element, plus a closing haiku for element 119 (not yet synthesized). The haiku encompass astronomy, biology, chemistry, history, physics, and a bit of whimsical flair. Click or hover over an element on the Periodic Table to read the haiku. Share these poems and add your own on Twitter with hashtag #ChemHaiku. From Mary Soon Lee
One of the cool things about the Periodic Table is that it organizes elements by their physical structure
Check out this site and then write your own poems.
Me! At the Atomic Museum of Albuquerque
This year marks the 150th for the Periodic Table of the Elements! I was so excited when I learned that the table isn’t just a list and that chemistry isn’t abstract at all. Not some silly thing my teacher wanted me to memorize. The periodic table explains how things work and why things work that way.
Atoms and molecules do what they do because of the shapes of their electron orbitals. The table shows the relationships among elements and reflects their actual physical shapes and energy levels. Electron configurations show recurring patterns and periodicity. It really, truly is understandable.
The organization of the periodic table can be used to derive relationships between the various element properties, and also to predict chemical properties and behaviours of undiscovered or newly synthesized elements. Wikipedia
Yes – early chemists left gaps in the table where it seemed that elements should exist, and sure enough! Those elements were later identified.
Exactly how a single anniversary is determined is debatable. Nascent scientists played around with how to display their growing knowledge of chemistry throughout the late 1800s, but Russian chemistry professor Dmitri Mendeleev came up with the best version and published in 1869.
Since then, the periodic table has been displayed in different manners with various amounts of data added to each element’s box. I once read a book that proposed a 3D representation like a mountain range. Shoot, now I can’t find the book. But the table endurs and will continue to be used because it’s a map to how reality works. Congrats Dmitri, and Thank You.
Victorians loved chemistry
A gorgeous pigment,
Made dresses sparkle
Bonnets to display with pride
The fanciest paper
On the wall,
To grace a baby’s nursery,
Or a parlor
Kept for guests,
Brought pain and death,
But no mercy.
My comfort close,
Collected in old libraries,
Can curse a modern reader still,
As they did to their
Arsenic makes that glowing green
Its compounds deadlier than sin
Their poison touch
The Victorians knew villains used arsenic, but somehow missed understanding that not all victims were killed by a human murderer. Unless you count the manufacturers of these dreadfully beautiful pigments. Interested in the grisly details of death by arsenic poisoning? Read here.
Firefly beetle looks unimpressive in daylight
As a kid, I loved fireflies – or lightning bugs. On humid summer evenings, as twilight deepened to dark, they rose from the marshy field across the road, making mosquitoes which flew with them bearable. I swept up the slow-flying bugs with a net or even my hands and the poor beetles spent the night in a jar at my bedside. I always released them the next morning, and most survived a brief captivity.
Now science has figured out how the firefly manufactures that magical blinking glow.
I love Jason Bittel‘s concept of the firefly as a black box. You put in enzymes and proteins, oxygen, calcium, magnesium, and the wonderfully-named chemical luciferin. You get out photons – the cold, pale light of the firefly.
Previous hypotheses didn’t fully explain the chemistry, and now a scientist has shown the bug produces a special form of molecular oxygen that contains an extra electron. Electrons can release photons when they move from one atomic orbit (or quantum state) to another. Chemistry, after all, is physics made useful.
Firefly luciferin is already proving to be a useful tool in imaging human tumors and developing cancer-fighting drugs, says lead author [Bruce] Branchini.”
But I just think it’s cool to know the little beetle is a savvy chemist.
Thanks to nationalgeographic.com for covering this Journal of the American Chemical Society paper.