06 December 2005

Periodic Table

Scientist though I may be, I probably know less of the periodic table than you do. Give this online test-your-memory version a whirl.

I am proud to say that despite the astronomy quips of "there's Hydrogen, Helium, and everything else," "we have three elements: X, Y, and Z," and "everything other than Hydrogen and Helium is a metal," I managed to get 7 right on my first try. I knew where Berylium was (it and Lithium are important in cosmology), but forgot the "e" in Be. The others were CNO, useful in fusion in massive stars, and in general science classes. Another couple attempts saw me place Argon and Xenon, but I didn't have the patience to narrow down where the 8 or so others whose names I know would be located. Sadly I don't know where Iron (Fe - last thing that everything fuses to naturally in massive stars) or Uranium (I have a nice talk on nuclear powerplants that will see Homeland Security drag me away someday) are located.

My personal lack of memorization skills is one of the reasons I try not to require too much memorizing from my own students (understanding concepts is more important to me). If you give the periodic table quiz a shot, along with telling me your score, please tell me your college major or current occupation so I don't feel so bad. :-P And expect a post in the next few days explaining those astrojokes above. I'm not saying you'll get one, but you're free to expect whatever you want. :)

11 comments:

Thomas Siefert said...

I'm a 'look-it-up' kinda guy. I tried to fill in a few and scored zero. Are you happy now?
Occupation: Building Management Systems (BMS) Commissioning Engineer.

utenzi said...

I did crappy also, ZP. It's a matter of not needing to know the atomic number for most things. As a result I got right the ones I need to know for radioactivity (C, P, O, I, H, and S), conductivity (Cu, Ag, Au) and then the noble gases. Other than that I got zip. A score of 12 since I didn't get Xenon or above.

Eric said...

i was referred here by someone else, but i got 32 right and 6 wrong and left the rest blank. however i have a slight advantage, as i'm currently enrolled in chemistry classes in school. but knowing me, i'll probably sit down one weekend and try to memorize it now. :)

Samit said...

Why do you need to memorize the periodic table? Knowing the atomic numbers & masses will suffice. Understanding the subject is far more important than memorizing.
Occupation : Student (Class-12)

zandperl said...

Samit:
If you have the atomic numbers and masses memorized, then you have the periodic table memorized. (Presuming you can count.) I personally don't feel a need to memorize any of those as I don't deal with all the chemicals on a daily basis. If I were a chemist, you'd bet I'd have them memorized!

But I agree, understanding the concept that an atom is identified by its number of protons, and electrons control how they interact, etc., is more important than remembering which one has 15 protons and what it's called when it loses one electron.

Samit said...

I meant, memorizing the atomic numbers and masses of only those elements which are required for calculations. I dont think there is a need to remember the atomic numbers and masses of each and every element because there is no sense in it unless you are a chemist...

Thomas Siefert said...

I got the color code of resistors imprinted in my brain.
A few years back I was working on an electrical switchboard and noticed the electrician working next to me was putting small wire markers on the wires. Each marker had a digit printed on it and the marker itself had the color of the corresponding code for resistors. Of course this was a very exciting discovery for me and I had to share it with the electrician. His response was: "Oh that's why they are different colors, I had been wondering about that".
I don't think he had thought that much about it and I don't he really cared in the first place.
What can I say? Nerds have more fun :-)

Allison said...

I'm sad to say that with an MSc in molecular biology... I sucked :( I only got the noble gases, a few light metals and the single-digit atomic numbers... and Technetium (though I had to find its location by guesswork). Element numbers on the table would have helped for the larger ones, I think...

Incidentally, a cool but simple substitution cipher is to use the element symbols to roughly spell out words, then translate that into the atomic numbers. This is how I remember that Einsteinium is element #99 :) It's harder to crack if you spell words "creatively" and vary your use of certain elements for certain letter combos. Alas the "enemy" only needs to crack it once...

zandperl said...

Thomas:
I never had to memorize those, but I got most of them on my own - it's the six colors of the rainbow plus a couple on each side. There's a nice sexist mnemonic device I've heard for remembering the order, but I thankfully have forgotten it. :)

Allison:
Ooh, neat, I'll have to play with that a bit.

Thomas Siefert said...

Yeah I found 'that' mnemonic device when I was looking for the one I used when I learnt the resistor colors. I just found it plain rude.
Not as nice as the one for the colors of stars: "Oh Be a Fine Girl Kiss Me", which, by the way, was used in a clever way in one of Fred Sabberhagens Beserker books.

zandperl said...

And if you want to be even more (ridiculously) PC about it, you could say "Girl/Guy". ;)