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The Sound of Science - 'The Periodic Table'


KC: Hello listeners! Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ! I’m K.C. Sauer from NIU STEAM. 

HOLLIE: And I’m Hollie. Today we’re answering a question from our listener Emily M. Emily wants to know “What is the Periodic Table?” 

KC: Great question! I know a lot of people remember the periodic table as “that blocky thing” your 7th grade science teacher made you memorize, but it is truly so much more. 

HOLLIE:  The periodic table is in the simplest terms a chart that scientists use to organize the elements, but this chart isn’t sorted alphabetically or numerically. Instead, the Periodic Table organizes elements based on dozens of variables.  

KC: Some of those variables include, the number of electrons an element has, the location of the electrons an element has, the energy an element’s electrons release upon ionization, and more. 

HOLLIE: This level of specificity may be overwhelming at first, but because the Periodic Table is organized so carefully, it has become one of the most powerful tools in Chemistry. 

KC: Just looking at the Periodic Table, tells scientists a lot about an element they are studying in a short amount of time. In the past, the Periodic Table even helped scientists discover new elements because of “gaps” in the table. 

HOLLIE: These gaps were locations where the variable patterns existed based on the elements surrounding the gap, but the element itself had not been discovered. 

KC: This can be a little tricky to understand. Think of the elements like this counting pattern. 2… 4…blank... 8… 10. Because of the 2, 4 and the 8, 10, we’re able to guess that the missing number is 6. So, scientists were able to determine that an element was missing, because the pattern of the Periodic Table was continuing but there was no element to assign that point in the pattern yet. This was how the elements gallium and germanium were discovered. 

HOLLIE: While discovering elements is pretty monumental, perhaps the Periodic Table’s greatest achievement is taking high concept chemistry and breaking it down into an easy, readable chart that young learners around the world can understand. By making science accessible to more people we’re increasing scientific literacy and making for a bigger, brighter future. 

KC: We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of The Sound of Science on WNIJ. 

HOLLIE: Where you learn something new every day. 

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