Is the Periodic Table Upside Down?

published on July 9, 2020

Yes well I'm not sure I really need themouseka now I'm at a man with I'm you wedo Brady so let's take this offwhere'd that come from I made it myselfso it's unique I suppose I've alwaysfelt it's quite difficult to do uniquethings with the periodic table I wanted

To tell you about something else that Idid which I thought was unique as wellwith the periodic table one very niceSegway professor it started a long timebefore lockdownperta nearly five years ago I was

Playing on my computer one afternoon anddecided I can't remember why to flip thehorizontal of the periodic table usingPowerPoint so what was pointing upsuddenly pointed down and it was a sortof joke but then when I looked at it I

Was really quite surprised because theperiodic table turned out to looksomething like this of course the firsttime I did it the letters weren't theright way round I thought it was good ifyou thought about the periodic table

Like a graph because when it's a graphif you have the zero here thingsnormally increase in this direction andthat one then the periodic table theyincrease in this direction foreverything like weight and so on

Increases when you go downwards so it'sa bit sort of upside down and this isreally difficult when we talk tochemists to our students about how theelectrons fill up to give you thestructure of the periodic table it's got

A German name it's called the Aufbauprinciple meaning the building upprinciple somehow it doesn't sound goodto the students if you say this meansbuilding up and then you do it downwardsso I got quite excited about this and I

Wrote a little article about how havingthe periodic table the other way upmight be better certainlyfrom the point of view of teaching and Iwrote to an expert on the periodic tableand said had he ever seen one like this

And he said no so I got really excitedperhaps I'd done something new with theperiodic table so I sent it to thejournal and the editor was quite excitedbut then he said hang on a minuteperhaps people will read it like a book

From the left to the right and startingat the top rather than the bottom whereall the interesting elements likehydrogen and helium are and they'llconcentrate too much on the heavyelements at the top so we were stuck and

Then I suddenly remembered that mydaughter who's an experimentalpsychologist who specializes inmeasuring where people look trackingtheir eyes when they look at a pictureand so they could see whether I was

Looking at Brady or the camera orwhatever I decided I would collaboratewith her never collaborated with mydaughter before in the scientificproject so she and her colleague Alexisset up an experiment not a very big one

With 24 subjects so that people weren'tbiased they used a blank periodic tablewith all the squares but not letters andthe results were really quite surprisingwhat they found was that if you look ata no ordinary periodic table you begin

By looking in the middle and then youreyes go to the top where hydrogen andhelium are but with the invertedperiodic tableyou still begin in the middle but youreyes gives downwards to the hydrogen and

Helium so we could prove to the editorthat the way people looked at ourperiodic table was different from a bookwhy is that professor does the paper ordid your daughter conclude why no matterwhere you put those elements hydrogen

And helium and you know the world that'swhere you go I think it's because thepicture well the periodic table isrelatively symmetrical wherethe lanthanides and actinides and heavyelements are but at the bottom or the

Top depending which one you're lookingat we're hydrogen helium are there a bitunsymmetrical and I think your eye isdrawn to things that are unsymmetricaland there was also thought that perhapsthe upside-down periodic table looked a

Bit like an animal with legs but thatwasn't really proved one way or anotherthe numbers were significant but thedifference wasn't huge but it was enoughto convince us and more importantly theeditor and the referees so that it was a

Real effect and if you're interested youcan read all the details in thesupplementary information to the paperthere was then quite a long delaybecause chemistry journal had neverpublished a paper involving human

Subjects and there was a lot of extrapaperwork but it was published and I wasreally excited to have a paper with myname and Ellen's name togetherprofessor be honest because it's justyou me and the periodic videos viewers

Was this bit of like a gimmick or apublicity stunt or what are you tryingto achieve here you're not seriouslytrying to get every periodic table on awall and a textbook in the world flippedupside down a well I wanted to do was to

Make people think differently about theperiodic table I am showered by peoplesending me different sorts of theperiodic tables saying there's is muchbetter than the conventional one and soon

I don't think ours is any better thanany other one but for some purposes likeexplaining the filling of the electronshells could be useful there were somequite exciting things the New York Timesand the London Times wrote little

Articles about it never had my researchin the popular press before andthen it caused quite a sensation inJapan and a museum in Japan included aversion of the periodic table in theirdisplay for the International Year of

The periodic table and best of all forthe closing ceremony of theInternational Year of the periodic tablein Tokyo a special fan was made you cansee it here quite useful on the hot dayhand which has our upside-down periodic

Table on it but the really importantlesson for me was that you cannot reallydo anything very original with theperiodic table and sometime after thepaper was published somebody pointed outto me that the English theoretical

Chemistry stuff along get Higgins hadpublished the paper in 1957 when I was 9years old not quite 10 and had neverheard of the periodic table sayingperhaps it would be better to have theperiodic table the other way round for

Teaching the Aufbau principle in the endI got the fun of publishing a paper bygo quite a solitary lesson that youcannot discover anything new about theperiodic table except if you're Bradywho invented the periodic table of

Videos which I think really was originalif you've ever dreamed of having yourname on the periodic table well I'm notsure there's much we can do to help youwith that that's a very select Clubsome of the great names in science but

What you can do is have your name on ourperiodic table of patrons which lookslike this this is a slightly lessexclusive but equally important club ofpeople that support our project onpatreon we update this table every month

Or two with names of people who'veadopted elements patreon supporters alsoreceive occasional exclusive extrasphotos behind-the-scenes stuff if you'reinterested go to patreoncom/scishowdescription thanks everyone for watching

We'll be back again soon with morestories from the periodic table that onenot the patreon one

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