Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Periodic Problems


The Periodic table, in which orders all the elements by atomic number, and groups them in families with similar properties. However, this table is undergoing a revolution. Recently CNN published an article describing the changes that will occur next year. Essentially the weights of 10 elements will be altered; this is because they need to be expressed as a range rather than an exact number, in order to me more accurate. This may not seem like a very big change, but the current table has been used in this form since 1985. However, the first periodic table was developed in 1789 and has undergone numerous changes since then, so changing the current table in order to make it more accurate would actually be far more beneficial to scientific procedures, which would outweigh the hindrance of updating the table in every laboratory. Something like the periodic table needs to be accurate in order to be useful, and so as new discoveries are made then it will need to be updates and changed to reflect this. But this in turn will help other scientific experiments become more accurate, and so we should not be so precious about changes occurring to the current periodic table, even though it seems so familiar, because it is simply a tool to be applied to equations and experiments, and not blindly memorized because then it has no value, because it would no longer be open to change and update with new discoveries.

The periodic table has not always been the same shape and can be interoperated in a variety of ways; the New York Times published a wonderful poster showing an alternative version of the table, in the form of a spiral. The most important consideration in the designing of a periodic table is the needs to represent the information in an easily accessible way,  grouping the elements in some sort of order and for it to be accurate. A wonderful variety of tables and diagrams have been produces over the years, but the basic table format seems to have endured the test of time, if for no reason more than ease of use.   

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