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It's here we find elements at their most elemental, because every nucleus contains protons, and it's the number of protons that determines what kind of element the atom is. Every high school student has seen the elements chart, but author Theo Gray's version is unique: handmade, with each element's identity card meticulously carved into the wood.
One proton is hydrogen; two protons, helium; three protons, lithium; four protons, beryllium; all the way up to element 118, with 118 protons. But, I have to say, I've never completely gotten it right. And if you think about it, the name of each element is the least important piece of information you could possibly have.
The crack could have been caused by the way the atoms were arranged within the metal. If the metal is allowed to cool, flaws could develop, ruining the bell.
They're the hidden ingredients of everything in our world, from the carbon in our bodies to the metals in our smartphones. The good news is that we haven't finished; there may be still gold hiding in the mix. And, today, it's one of the most widely bought and sold metals in the world. Copper is in wire, electronics and computer chips, plumbing and other building materials. These guys can trade their copper futures; I've got to unload my copper today. In pure metals, the atoms are arranged in orderly rows and columns.The number of protons is called the atomic number and it's the fundamental organizing principle of every table of the elements, including this one. They're filled with stats and figures that don't make any sense to the ordinary person. What matters about elements is that they are real physical substances with properties and things you can do with them. I have to say many of these elements look the way you would think—gold looks like gold, silver looks like silver—but not all of them.Theo makes the point by putting me in touch with the real deal. To make the entire table less abstract, he invites me to lay out the rest of his collection of pure elements. This is a visual representation of every single element that makes up this entire planet and everything on it. As we can clearly see, more than 70 percent of the elements on the table are metals, shiny, malleable materials that conduct electricity. Everything from here on over, including the bottom part, is all metals. And down the middle are these, kind of, halfway in between things, which include, for example, semiconductors, like silicon. The one I was looking at, in particular, was calcium. This is when Theo's collection starts to get really interesting, when he pairs the pure elements with their more familiar forms.He's offered to show me how the atoms in our bronze stack up, literally. David tells me that when we reach full magnification, we will have images of the actual atoms in the bronze, something few people have ever seen. Zooming in a hundred million times would allow me to pick out, not just a car, but a bug, crawling in the grass next to it. And the brighter colors are things that contain more tin, and the things with less tin are the things that are slightly darker. The microscopic structure of metals is not uniform. Boundaries between grains are actually defects in the orderly arrangement of the atoms. We only have to shake things by an atom for the image to vanish. The actual bronze chip itself is about a hundredth the thickness of a human hair.I brought you a couple of hunks of bronze, uh, one of which was knocked off of a bell when it was done and one of which is un-poured. I need an area about the size of a farm, and you've given me the whole of the United States. It's too small for us to see, so we have to mount it on a carrier grid, so we can handle it. Like, like, for one thing, I notice they're really, really grid-like.