Last week this quote fell into my inbox:
There is a beauty in discovery. There is mathematics in music, a kinship of science and poetry in the description of nature, and exquisite form in a molecule. Attempts to place different disciplines in different camps are revealed as artificial in the face of the unity of knowledge. All literate men are sustained by the philosopher, the historian, the political analyst, the economist, the scientist, the poet, the artisan and the musician.–Glenn T. Seaborg, scientist, Nobel laureate (19 Apr 1912-25 February 1999)
It fell into my inbox as part of Anu Garg’s A Word A Day, a daily email that gives a word, its definition, and then closes with a quote from a famous person who was born on that particular day. Seaborg’s quote didn’t have anything to do with the day’s word, lilac, so there was no mention that he was the first person to have an element named after him in his lifetime–no.106 is Seaborgium. The other is Yuri Oganessian with Oganesson, no.118.
As a kid I had a chemistry set. I started out with it doing some of the more “educational” experiments, trying to learn serious stuff about chemistry, but then I realized I was only interested in making cool looking crystals or colors or blowing stuff up–which is why I added potassium permanganate and glycerin to my collection of chemicals. By the way, if you don’t know what potassium permanganate and glycerin do when mixed together and you have young children, go to the drugstore and buy some of each. Then take some modeling clay and form it into a volcano and put about a tablespoon of potassium permanganate crystals in it. Pour some glycerin on top of that, then stand back. It’s best if you do this experiment outside. There will be plenty of smoke.
In addition to attempting to burn down my parents’ house I also tried collecting as many elements in their pure (or almost pure) state as I could. I remember having samples of sulfur, lead, a small bottle of mercury I tried to freeze (unfortunately the freezer wouldn’t go down to -40), some zinc, and maybe a few others. I never did my hands on the ones I really wanted–selenium, bismuth, bromine, thorium, or arsenic. I didn’t want these elements because they were dangerous–I just wanted them because they were unusual and interesting.
Yeah, I also kind of wanted them because they were dangerous.
Now there’s the internet with this interactive periodic table with all kinds of cool stuff, like amazing pictures of bismuth and a radioactive toy that came in cereal boxes that kids could put up to their eye.
I don’t know if that caused any smoke.
Also there’s a law that any mention of the periodic table must be accompanied by this song. Or at least there should be.