Periodic Table Gifts: All I Want For Christmas Is…Uranium?

By Nina Bai | December 15, 2008 3:48 pm

goldFor the science-inclined, there is something very sexy about the periodic table and how, by a simple accounting of protons in atomic nuclei, its neat rows and columns reveal the peculiar behaviors of elements—the irreducible components of our world. Anyone who has taken time to ponder the periodic table has his or her favorites, whether it’s based on their explosive properties (potassium), their illustrious namesakes (curium, named after the Curies), or their silly abbreviations (Uup, Uuh).

An amazing team at the University of Nottingham has been sharing its love of the periodic table by making short Youtube videos of all 118 elements, from helium to ununoctium. The team goes to great lengths to showcase the elements, including handling vials of highly toxic arsenic and traveling to frosty Ytterby, Sweden (the birthplace of yttrium, ytterbium, terbium, and erbium). Check out the entire Periodic Table of Videos.

Their latest video is called “What Element Would You Like for Christmas?” in which they pose that question to researchers, all of whom seem to have a ready answer. One researcher selects neodymium, for its Christmas-y colors; more than one picks platinum, the most expensive element. What would you pick?

The Nottingham researchers aren’t the only ones obsessive about the periodic table. This guy even got it tattooed in his arm. Theodore Gray has spent the last five years collecting and photographing every single element. You can even purchase posters of his work. In his office, Gray stores his precious specimens in a literal Periodic Table, a wooden four-legged table with 118 cubbies.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Physicists Extend the Periodic Table
DISCOVER: Top Ten Science Gifts
The Loom: Periodic Table Tattoo

Image: flickr / Tator1982

  • jdporter

    It’s funny how someone can mention protons and nuclei and then in the same sentence refer to elements as “irreducible components”.

    It’s also pretty silly to call platinum “the most expensive element” when virtually every element below it on the periodic table is far rarer and more costly.

  • Jalopy

    when virtually every element below it on the periodic table is far rarer and more costly.

    Oh,really, let’s see the first 5 elemnets after Platinum: they are gold, Mercury,Thallium, Lead and bismuth, none of them are more expansive then Platinum. Rhodium was priced $6200 per ounce and sometimes considered as the most expansive metal, it is before Platinum in the periodic table.

  • LarianLeQuella

    My 12 year old daughter just asked for a Periodic Table of Elements poster and book for Festivus. I can’t help but oblige! She is quite the little scientist, and daddy is soooo proud! :)

  • jdporter

    Thanks, Jalopy. You have both failed to undermine my point and provided concrete substance for it.

  • Jalopy

    jdporter,if you want show that Platinum is not the most expansive element, one example is enough (e.g. Rh, if you knew that),but the statement” virtually every element below it on the periodic table is far rarer and more costly.” is clearly wrong. It is pretty silly trying to prove someone was wrong by using a wrong augument.
    Actually, saying one element is more expansive than the other can not be a well defined statement. for example, how expansive the element C is depends on if it in a diamond or in graphite. By saying that I am not trying to
    depreciate the above article, which shows that people are doing some interesting things about the periodic table, and was not trying to teach particle physics there. But anyway, the elements are the irreducible components of our world in the sense that one can not make a diamond with 6.02*10^23 plus 0.5 Carbons.

  • clive mcnally

    my name is clive mcnally i inervated the i phone and i know howto write the periodic table from hydrogen through to hydrogen = h2 h4/2 be4/2 c6/12 o8/16 ne10/20 mg12/24 si14/28 s16/32 ar18/36 ca20/40 ti22/44 cr24/48 fe26/52 ni28/56 zn30/60 ge32/64 se34/68 kr36/72 sr38/76 zr40/80 mo42/84 ru44/88 pd46/92 cd48/96 sn50/100 te52/104 xe54/108 ba56/112 ce58/116 nd60/120 sm62/124 gd64/128 dy66/132 er68/136 yb70/140 hf72/144 w74/148 os76/152 pt78/156 hg80/160 pb82/164 pd84/168 rn86/172 ra88/176th90/180 u92/184 pu94/188 cm96/192 cr98/196 pm100/200 nd102/204 rf104/208 sg106/212 hs108/216 _110/220 _112/224_114/228 _+_115/230 _113/226 _111/222 mt109/218 bh107/214db105/210lr103/206md101/202es99/198bk97/194am95/190np93/186 pa91/182 ac89/178 fr87/174 at85/170 bi83/166 ti81/162 au 79/158 ir77/154 re75/150 ta73/146 lu71/142 tm69/138ho67/134 tb65/130 ev63/126 pm61/122 pr59/118 la57/114 os55/110 i53/106 sb51/102 in49/98 ag47/94 rh45/90 tc43/86nb41/82 y39/78 rb37/74 br35/70 as33/66 ga31/62 cu29/58 co27/54 mn25/50 v23/46 sc21/42 k19/38 cl17/34 p15/30al13/26 na11/22 f9/18 n7/14 b5/10 li3/6 h20


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar