Posts Tagged ‘Periodic Table’

Elements of Life, simplified

November 5, 2011

Hydrogen initiates life; oxygen proliferates it; carbon gives life something to hold onto.
While helium laughs at the universe, nitrogen fertilizes it.

Sodium makes living things interact; calcium lends them some structure.
Neon, colorful and spritely, excites life, while cousin chlorine cleans up the messes.

Iron puts life to work; silicon makes it smart.
Nickel enables commerce; silver makes the life shine; gold makes it rich.

Uranium steps up the power exponentially, but then it requires maintenance in perpetuity.

Heat it up, and the whole life experiment becomes volatile; anything can happen, and probably will.
Drop in a little arsenic, and life bites the dust. Pay attention.

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Salt of the earth and hoi polloi gas

January 8, 2011

In the world of basic Earth elements, 8 is a kind of ideal number. Atoms (we could generally say) strive to achieve 8 electrons in their outer (reactive) shells, and when they do attain that status, they become relatively stable.

Those elements that manifest this condition of stability, aka inertness,  are a certain class of gases that have been named the “noble” gases, because they exist in their self-sufficiency; they disdain associations with the readily-reactive “salt of the earth” types.
Similarly, in the world of societies, as in the world of elements, we see that the nobility and  the salt of the earth tend to seek their own, instead of mingling with each other. In both systems  the natural world exhibits a diverse range of interactive predispositions, between these two polar ends.

Any particular atom of any element has a degree of reactivity which is determined by the number of electrons in its outer (valence) shell. Scientists have arranged a data table which indicates any particular element’s affinity for reacting with other atoms. On that data table, which is called the Periodic Table, earth’s elements are arranged from left to right according to the number of electrons in their outer shells , 1 through 8.
Having only one electron in its outer shell,  sodium (represented as Na on the Periodic Table of Elements) takes its assigned place  on the left side of the Table. Accordingly,  a sodium atom is found to be unstable, and therefore prone to react with some other element in order  to establish the ideal 8-electron  stability.

Well, along comes a Chlorine (Cl) atom, which, being from the other end of the lineup, has seven electrons in its outer shell–not the sought-after 8 status, mind you, but closer to it. They’re both a little wobbly so they share resources, which in this case is outer electrons; groping for stability, they get hitched together. Lo and behold, they become in the process something totally different from what they were as separate entities–salt, chemically named NaCl. In  sacrificing individual identities (a la Confucius or Plato) the two elements become a new compound,  and thus yield a common mineral which is a universally useful resource: the salt of the earth.

Salt, which helps your food taste better.
Men and women have used the stuff since the dawn of civilization to flavor food, and also for another valuable use–preserving food so you can store it for a longer time before eating it.

Meanwhile, back on the other end of nature’s arrangement of elements, floats the “noble” (gas) class–the hoi poloi whom some enviously call the richest 1% or whatever; they exist independently in a rarified condition of invested self-assurance and ease, while the salt of the earth legions mingle amicably among themselves and s0 dutifully among the other strata along the highways and byways.

We see that the elemental world is somewhat like the social world.
The world of Adam reflects somewhat the world of atoms. But take heart, we are on the Eve of some wonderfully interactive phenomena.

Glass Chimera