What is this thing anyway?


This website came about because in early 2002, as a result of a misunderstanding while reading Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks , I accidentally decided to build a Periodic Table. I won't bore you with the details here (see the Complete Pictorial History of the Wooden Periodic Table Table ), 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).

After Ed Pegg Jr featured it on his puzzle website, there was a brief but spirited slashdot discussion, and a few people started offering to help me out with samples. To acknowledge their contributions and let them know how things were going, I decided to make a web site with pictures of all the samples they had sent and those I'd collected myself. The website eventually began to take on greater depth. Here's why.

This led to an NPR Radio Interview on 7/19/2002., which led to more element donations.

Ed's site and the slashdot discussion also led to my winning the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry, clearly the highest honor for which this table is eligible. That led to many brief mentions in publications around the world, and to a particularly nice article in my home-town newspaper.

Since I believe that if you're going to do something, you might as well overdo it, the website started getting a little out of hand. Fortunately I have Mathematica to automate most of the generation of the web pages.

People ask me how I got all my samples. Most of the ones I paid for came from eBay or from local stores, but an even larger number were donated by people or companies. I think a lot of people just thought it would be fun to see their element displayed on my website: What else are you going to do with an element anyway? And I have to admit that I have started gently suggesting to people who sell elements on eBay and elsewhere that my showing a picture and providing a link to them or their eBay auctions might lead to some sales. But mostly people have just been very generous and supportive because they think the website is fun.

If you'd like to put together your own element collection, I have a special page about the various ways of doing this.

A note on accuracy: If you should happen to find an error on this website, please report it to theodore@wolfram.com. If it's a number wrong in the engraved tiles, be aware that it's more likely to be a disagreement between sources than an outright error (for example, my source might be the melting point of a different allotrope). If you're really absolutely sure your number is better than my number, tell me why you think yours is better. If you acted on any information in this website and got a D on your assignment, please refer to this article for a cautionary tale about believing anything you read on the internet.


Copyright Notice Everything on this site including the text, images, and sounds is Copyright (c) 2003 by Theodore W. Gray (except where specifically indicated otherwise).
The Wooden Periodic Table Table itself is an original work of art protected by Copyright and images of it may not be reproduced in any form without permission. I will consider as fair use any use of images of the table on the web provided the image is a link to http://theodoregray.com/PeriodicTable or there is such a link nearby. Permission for other uses will generally be granted without a fuss.