Friday, May 15, 2015

TED-Ed Brings the Periodic Table to Life

Working with Dmitri Mendeleev's brilliant periodic table of elements, first published in 1864, has become a groan-inducing task for many students today. The organization of elements into a succinct and useful table was ground-breaking, and even more impressive was Mendeleev 's foresight: He left blank spaces on the table where he imagined elements would go when they were eventually discovered (and he was right!). However, the fascinating history of the table is often lost on frustrated students who find studying it boring and memorizing the properties of all those elements next to impossible.

Rather than memorizing, we suggest that students endeavor to understand the properties of the elements instead. And thanks to a partnership between TED-Ed and Periodic Videos, it's easy to do just that.

Periodic Videos is a series made by a team from the University of Nottingham. It is led by the star of the videos, an eccentric, bespectacled professor with a huge mane of white hair named Dr. Martyn Poliakoff. Actually, as of December 2014, he is Sir Martyn Poliakoff, having been knighted for his contributions to the field of inorganic chemistry. In collaboration with TED-Ed, Periodic Videos has made a short video lesson for each element in the periodic table). Some, like the video for krypton, are just over a minute long.

Others, like the video for scandium, take more than seven minutes. The lessons intersperse informational tidbits shared by Sir Poliakoff with experiments by his team that illustrate the elements' properties, bringing the periodic table to life. High school and college students and even chemistry-minded, precocious middle school students will enjoy this fascinating and helpful resource.

We would be remiss not to spread the word about the Periodic Videos YouTube channel  as well. If hydrogen bubbles that burst into fireballs or videos with titles like "Chicken in Acid Conclusion" (in which Sir Poliakoff discusses the results of an experiment in which chicken legs were dipped in hydrochloric and sulfuric acid) don't pique your interest, we're not sure what will.


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