Currently Reading & Quote: The Periodic Table

Part of the appeal of the periodic table derives from the individual nature of the elements such as their colours or how they feel to the touch. Much interest also lies in their names. The chemist and concentration camp survivor Primo Levi wrote a much-acclaimed book called simply The Periodic Table in which each chapter is named after an element. The book is mostly about his relations and acquaintances, but each anecdote is motivated by Levi’s love of a particular element. The neurologist and author Oliver Sacks wrote a book called Uncle Tungsten in which he tells of his fascination with the elements, with chemistry, and in particular with the periodic table. More recently, two popular books on the elements have been written by Sam Kean and Hugh Aldersey-Williams. I think it is fair to say that the appeal of the elements in the public imagination has now truly arrived.
~chapter 1

The bolding is mine. I would like a show of hands of everyone who thinks about the periodic table or even imagines it?

No one? Really? Yeah, me neither.

Until Jason Bourne or John Wick use the periodic table to kung fu fight their way out of an armoured fortress, I think it is safe to say that that the periodic table HAS NOT entered the public imagination. In all seriousness, where do eggheads like this even come up with ideas like that? They make us Magic the Gathering (former) players seem like well adjusted hunks of burning love.

Considering that is from Chapter One, I have a feeling this is going to be another Out of Touch with Reality and the Common Man book, sigh.

36 thoughts on “Currently Reading & Quote: The Periodic Table

  1. I memorised the periodic table before my Chemistry exam, and was very annoyed when it turns out you all get given a copy to refer to during the exam; what a swizz! I wasted my time! So clearly the periodic table is not quite part of my daily life in 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the bigger issue is WHICH periodic table did you memorize. According to this book, that’s the raging debate among Periodic Table Aficionados of today. I feel like you’re really missing out by not including the PT in your daily life.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. Ohhhh, right. I forgot, you’re a cheap scot 😉

              I wish I knew people who spent money like that. I might be able to sip from that money stream, which would be nice..

              What was up with the random likes I got from you on the “menace of the machine” post? Expanding your repertoire of blogging tricks?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. FFS, yet another racial stereotype and slur on Scots! Full time job dealing with this stuff. So you want to say that my race are cheap? How many £5000 handbags have you bought, Bunty?

                No idea about the likes, liked the conversation on a comment by comment basis, that what you mean?

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Think of it as job security. I’m doing my part to keep you busy 😉
                  I’ve never bought ANY handbags, cheap or expensive. But I did buy a platinum plated bookbag once. 10K. It was totally worth it until I tried to carry it and realized it weighed like 50lbs. So now it sits on my shelf with all the other expensive but useless gadgets I bought late at night. But my ginsu knife collection is to die for! I must have about 200 of the suckers.

                  Yep, that was what I meant. You’ve just never done that before and I was wondering what started it?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. I missed your blog yesterday, and by the time I caught up with it today, there was a long comment stream which I read. I clicked the link button to indicate my approval. Any questions?

                    Is Ginsu Knife like My Little Pony or Strawberry Shortcake, something you collect and show your friends?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. I do have questions. The public wants to know why you missed my blog. I’m pretty keen to hear your excuse too. Ailing grandmother? Dying grandson? Freeing Willy? Robbing a bank?

                      Ginsu knives are EXACTLY like my little pony’s. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors and teach us important life lessons. Like, don’t juggle more than 7 at a time or you’ll pay for it.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Well, I looked in the morning and there was no new content, and then I was busy responding to comments , so I decided to wait until you had published before commenting. I was there, but where were you?

                      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, this “A Very Short Introduction” series, while great in concept (and are short so I get in a lot more non-fiction than usual), the execution is completely random. I went and looked and they are asking $12 a book. I would probably kill someone if I had paid 12 and then read some of the stinkers I’ve gotten :-/

      Liked by 2 people

  2. LOL, love that quote! You must admire that kind of wilful rejection of reality! 😉
    To be fair, though, I do like periodic table; the concept of it was and is pretty brilliant, and I like how it feeds into our understanding of the universe as systematic and ordered – though whether it really is, that’s another problem entirely 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It isn’t that I don’t think individuals like it. It is the assertion that it is part of popular culture.

      I believe it’s ordered. But that’s because I believe in a Creator 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think about the periodic table occasionally, but mostly in a science-fiction concept: what if colonists arrived on a planet that had much more or much less of a certain element? In daily life, I only occasionally think about it, like when I look at a titanium medical implant or a tungsten wedding ring.

    There is a pretty good book called “The Disappearing Spoon” which tells a number of stories from history/science, each related to an element.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was going to get a tungsten wedding band until I found out that emergency responders would have to cut my finger off. Since getting hurt is a real possibility in my work, I decided on white gold 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Are you saying you don’t think about the periodic table on a regular basis? How do you get through life?? jk! I agree that the elements have definitely not entered the public imagination, considering most people aren’t even required to take chemistry or physics in high school – which they should be required to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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