The Disappearing Spoon

Chapter 1: Geography Is Destiny

Prairie Dalton

Chapter 1: Geography Is Destiny

Prairie Dalton


Synopsis:


In the first chapter of The Disappearing Spoon we take a look at the periodic table. The table includes seemingly endless amounts of information, but is less than easy to decipher. The blocks that make up the table, which in turn makes everything, are not interchangeable (Chapter 1, page 11). Everything exists so perfectly and works together so cleanly, we are able to categorize existence. In this chapter, Helium, Boron, Antimony, Thulium, Oxygen, and Holmium are discussed. These elements with their history and characteristics are but a few on the table. With enough knowledge, reading, understanding, and using the periodic table is possible and fascinating.





Helium

Atomic Number: 2

Mass: 4.003

Period: 1

Group: 18

Electron Configuration: 1s2

Class: noble gases

Located: While it is one of the most abundant in the universe, it is not as common on Earth. Here, Helium is extracted in gas form out of the ground in places such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Helium is used for inflation, to operate electron accelerators, and to pressurize fuel tanks of rockets. Helium also makes up about 25% of the mass of the universe. (RSC, 2015)

Importance: Helium is a perfect element. It cannot be broken down or altered by chemical means.

Discovered by: Pierre-Jules-César Janssen and Sir Norman Lockyer while observing the sun’s spectrum in a solar eclipse and noticing a yellow line that had a wavelength of no other element. Lockyer named the unknown element Helium after Helios the Greek god of the sun. (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015)

Unique Characteristics:

  • Discovered on the sun before it was discovered on Earth.

  • Has never reacted with another substance

  • Pure because it has the exact number of electrons to fill its only level (Chapter 1, page 12)


Boron

Atomic Number: 5

Mass: 10.81

Period: 2

Group: 13

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p

Class: metalloids

Located: Boron is not present in nature by itself. It is found in borax, boric acid and borates. These compounds can be found in the U.S., Chile, Tibet and Turkey (Pappas, Stephanie. 2014).

Importance: Boron is important for the growth of plants and to the human body. Our brains, bones, and immune system all use it to function properly.

Discovered by: Louis-Josef Gay-Lussac and Louis-Jacques Thénard in Paris, France in 1808. They were able to mostly (not purely) isolate the element by comping borac acid with potassium. Boron was named after the Arabic word for Borax, “Buraq”. (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015)

Unique Characteristics: The element wasn't able to be isolated purely until 1909. Up until then it was mostly only found in borax and other compounds. (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015)





Antimony


Atomic Number: 51

Mass: 121.76

Period: 5

Group: 15

Electron Configuration: 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p64d105s25p3

Class: metalloids

Located: Now is primarily found in China, in the form of the compound Stibnite. Stibnite is made of 72% Antimony and 28% Sulfur (MEC, 2013).

Discovered: Was a known and used throughout history. Nebuchadnezzar painted his walls with paint made of the mineral (and soon went crazy). Egyptian women used it as a makeup that would also grant them witch-like superpowers. It was also widely used as laxatives and was the cause of Mozart’s death (Chapter 1, page 15).

Importance: Found in many minerals. Also used in the making of batteries, fireworks, and rubber

Unique Characteristics: Easily combines with other elements to make more than 100 minerals. (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015)



Thulium


Atomic Number: 69

Mass: 168.93

Period: 8

Group: 16

Electron Configuration: 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p64d105s25p64f135d06s2

Class: Transition metals

Located: Found in an ion exchange process with monazite sand, which is found in India and Africa (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015).

Discovered: Per Theodor Cleve (Swedish chemist) in 1879. He found Thulium by looking for impurities in the oxides of rare earth elements. He used the oxide of Erbium and extracted a green and brown element, and named the green one thulia (Thulium).

Importance: Can be used in lasers and x-ray technology.

Unique Characteristics: Least abundant of naturally occurring rare earth elements (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015).


Oxygen

Atomic Number: 8

Mass: 15.999

Period: 2

Group: 16

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p4

Class: other non-metals

Located: Most abundant element in Earth’s atmosphere. Extracted in large amounts are extracted through liquid air in a process called fractional distillation (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015).

Discovered: Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen in 1774. He originally called the gas produced dephlogisticated air, and the name was later changed to “Oxygen” by fellow scientist Antoine Lavoisier (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015).

Importance: Essential for life. Plant life, animal life, human life, etc. It is highly reactive and can bond with the majority of elements.

Unique Characteristics: Oxygen is abundant because of it’s incredible stability. it’s eight protons and eight neutrons, along with being a totally pure element make it one of, if not the, most stable elements (Chapter 1, page 12).


Holmium



Atomic Number: 67

Mass: 164.93

Period: 8

Group: 14

Electron Configuration: 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p64d105s25p64f115d06s2

Class: Transition metals

Located: Found in an ion exchange process with monazite sand, which is found in India and Africa.

Discovered: Per Theodor Cleve (Swedish chemist) in 1879. He found Thulium by looking for impurities in the oxides of rare earth elements. He used the oxide of Erbium and extracted a green and brown element, and named the brown one holmia (Holmium.)

Importance: No commercial uses, but significant magnetic properties that could be utilized in the future. (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015)

Unique Characteristics: Has a neutron free form with what is called a “football nucleus”. This nucleus is misshapen, wobbly, and cannot survive and usually disintegrates quickly (Chapter 1, page 13).




Elements Summary:


The periodic table works akin to a map or book, with different sections meaning different things. At the far right is helium, a noble gas and perfect element. It does not share or steal electrons as many have to do in order to exist (Chapter 1, page 12). Boron is another element slightly to the left of Helium. Boron belongs to the metalloids, and without it our bodies could not function (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015). Antimony, another metalloid, is an element with a rich history (Chapter 1, page 15). There is Thulium and Holmium, which belong to the Transition Metals in the middle of the table. This family of elements contains tricky chemistry and flexible atoms, different than anything surrounding it (Chapter 1, page 16).. Finally, oxygen. Another element essential to our living, and the most abundant on Earth (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, 2015).




References


RSC. (2015). Chemistry In It’s Element - Helium. Retrieved from http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/podcast/Interactive_Periodic_Table_Transcripts/Helium.asp


Pappas, Stephanie. November 4, 2014. Facts About Boron. Retrieved from

http://m.livescience.com/28674-boron.html


MEC. 2013. Antimony. Retrieved from https://www.mineralseducationcoalition.org/minerals/antimony


Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education. (2015) The Element Helium. Retrieved from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele002.html


Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education. (2015) The Element Boron. Retrieved from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele005.html


Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education. (2015) The Element Antimony. Retrieved from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele051.html


Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education. (2015) The Element Oxygen. Retrieved from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele008.html


Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education. (2015) The Element Holmium. Retrieved from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele067.html


Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education. (2015) The Element Thulium. Retrieved from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele069.html