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When I was at High School (Secondary School), Australia, one of my favourite subjects was Biology. Science and English followed closely. I loved the Periodic Table because I am very data oriented and love to pay attention to detail (according to Western Astrology, I am a quadruple Virgo); AND I was and am fascinated by the “stuff” that makes up all matter, for example, an element is a substance that is made entirely from one type of atom.
So what is the Periodic Table?
The periodic table is a structured table of chemical elements in which the elements are arranged according to atomic number so that the properties of particular chemical groups of elements are displayed or arranged together. There are currently 118 elements in the Periodic Table.
What is the Atomic Number?
The Atomic Number is the number of protons in an atom’s nucleus.
Atoms are of course, the basic building block of all matter, living and non-living. Positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons circle perpetually around a central nucleus, along with neutrally charged particles called neutrons. If there are more protons than electrons, the atom is said to be positively charged. Atomic Mass or Atomic Weight tells you the average weighted mass of an atom, including the weight of the protons.
In the 18th century, actual masses of atoms could not be measured, so atoms were compared against the mass of hydrogen (the lightest). John Newlands was the first scientist to arrange the known elements in order of their relative atomic masses. Dmitri Mendeleev put the known elements in order of relative atomic mass but left gaps for undiscovered elements. He also predicted what the properties of these undiscovered elements might be.
The Periodic Table is divided into horizontal rows and vertical columns. The first row of the main Table has only two elements: hydrogen and helium. The next row has eight elements, lithium to neon. Across each row, the elements on the left are metals, while those on the right are non-metals, with post-transitional metals under the column headed by Boron.
The Dynamic Table below is great because you can hover your mouse over certain descriptions to high-light groups of elements, such as the Metals. You can also click on the words or symbols in the Table, or on the Column numbers, etc. to get more information !!
The colours in the Periodic Table show particular groups, which you can view at the dynamic table below. Slide the slider on the page to 55K or type 55 into the yellow box to show 55Kelvin for the temperature that Oxygen melts at, and you will see that at this temp Oxygen becomes a liquid.
If you move your mouse right to the top or bottom of your screen when looking at the “Ptable” you will see the Legend (code) for the State of the elements, e.g. a Letter symbol in red indicates a gas. Depending upon the colour/setting of your monitor, you may need to look closely to see the colours of some of the Letters.
Remember, that the “state” of the elements is dependent upon ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE and upon the TEMPERATURE.
There is a “slider button” and the number 0 ( or zero ) to the right next to the Helium symbol which shows the temperature in Kelvin. When you first go to the ptable it reflects the elements at zero degrees Kelvin.
Oxygen, carbon and some others are called “non metals” rather than gases, because their states are different at different temperatures and they are not metals. For example, at room temperature Oxygen is a gas.
Click on the slider button and hold it down to see the comparative temperatures, and the Chart reflects the state of the elements
27 degrees Celsius
80 degrees Fahrenheit
If you look at an element in the ptable website, you will see besides the Atomic Number and the Atomic Weight on the left some other numbers, such as 2 8 2 for Magnesium.
These numbers, in a column on the right of the element box, refer to the electron shell configuration of the element. See links below for more explanation if you like.
Each Column in the Table lists elements belonging to a certain group or “family“, which is numbered across the Table, from 1 to 18. Elements within the same group or “family” have the same number of electrons in their outer electron shell.
The fact that different schemes of the Periodical Table (as referred to in this post) have got different numbering systems of the “Families”, including Roman Numerals and As and Bs can make it confusing when examining the Families.
The ptable page is very helpful because it does away with the confusing VI A and the like, and instead simply has numbered Columns. You can click on any Column to reveal good information about the elements in that group or Family.
In the Periodical Table each horizontal row is called a period. Unlike elements in a family, elements in a period are not as alike in properties, as are elements in a Family.
There are 7 periods of elements in the main Table. Again, you can go to the marvellous ptable link and click on a Row Number to see what is says about a particular Period. The 2 rows that have been separated out of the main table are rare-earth elements. Apparently, according to my research, the “rare elements” are not necessarily rare in their occurrence. If you would like to have a look at pictures of them, please go to this page right HERE.
Another resource to look at to investigate the properties of the Families in the Periodic Table other than the Transitional Metals, can be found HERE ( and please note that the diagram does not show the Transitional Metals which fall into the middle of the Table).
It is fascinating to me how the Periodic Table works and I can well remember when I was at High School having to memorise the Periodic Table and doing quite well at that. The letter symbols in the Table mainly come from Latin or Greek words. Did you know that the letters symbol for “lead”- Pb – means plumbum? This page HERE lists the origins of the letter symbols for 112 of the elements.
The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring (periodic) trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour begins to repeat, meaning that elements with similar behaviour fall into the same vertical columns.
A bit of trivia now. Did you know that Iron or Fe or Ferrum is the most common element (by mass) forming much of Earth’s core?
What is the Use of the Periodic Table?
Besides looking pretty and interesting, at least to someone like me, because there are patterns in the way the elements are arranged in the Periodic Table, it can be used to predict the properties of other elements that are discovered, and it can be used to interpret data (physical and chemical properties) about elements.
So now you know something about the Periodic Table. Hope you got some benefit from this article. Please leave a comment if you did. You can sign up for a free WordPress User name to comment, and can even start your own free Blog if you like! I have chosen to enable commenting using a sign-in method because otherwise this blog gets alot of spam. Thank you for your understanding.
Above are scans of my double-sided Periodic Table which I have kept from High School !!
If you zoom in, you will see each square has more info than nowadays,
but only 106 elements (back in 1979)
NOTE: The Table shows the States of the elements at room temperature