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September 1, 2011

Periodic Table Table

Screen Shot 2011-08-31 at 11.24.05 AM

Wrote reader Evan Lazer,

You really missed the boat on this one, check out The Periodic Table Table: http://theodoregray.com/periodictable

Amazingly interesting element collection, with thousands of samples all in high-res, plus videos and stories of how some of the samples were acquired — there goes the... week.

Seriously, when I found this site ~5 years ago I think I wasted a whole week at my internship reading this site.

I would take issue with Evan's use of the word "wasted": rather, it may well have been the highest and best use possible of that internship week.

From the Periodic Table website:

What is this thing anyway?

This website documents, in great depth, a large collection of chemical elements and examples of their applications, common and uncommon. Click any element tile and you will find probably more than you ever wanted to know about that element. All these samples (well, at least the ones that fit) are stored in a wooden periodic table, by which I mean a physical table you can actually sit at, in my office at Wolfram Research.

I decided to build this table by accident in early 2002, as a result of a misunderstanding while reading "Uncle Tungsten" by Oliver Sacks. I won't bore you with the details here but once it was finished I felt obligated to start finding elements to go in it (because under the name of each element in my table there is a sample area).

Then I started building a website to document all my samples, and that's when things really got out of hand. A few months later my little table won the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry, clearly the highest honor for which it is eligible.

Sensing an audience, I began to take the website more seriously, which led to my being asked to write a monthly column for Popular Science magazine, which I've now been doing continuously since the July 2003 issue.

Later I formed a most satisfying partnership with Max Whitby building high-end museum displays, selling element samples and sets, and filming video demonstrations of the chemical properties of the elements.

This website now contains the largest, most complete library of stock photographs of the elements and their applications available anywhere, as well as a large and growing collection of 3-D images documenting hundreds of samples rotated through 360°. Try clicking on some elements in the table: I think you'll be surprised what's lurking behind those little tiles.

Fair warning, from both  Evan and myself.

September 1, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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I am really enjoying this site, thanks!

Posted by: Joe Peach | Sep 1, 2011 1:02:46 PM

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