American in Spain

Elementary Fun

December 26, 2011

This afternoon I was succumbing to a risky vice of mine, surfing the product pages over at ThinkGeek, when I came across this t-shirt where they had used chemical symbols for elements to write a dirty word. Silly, yes, but also kind of fun as a tool to separate people who know a lot of science from those that don't, which seems to be the primary goal of the t-shirts at ThinkGeek. For instance, I always get a chuckle out of the one that says, "There are 10 kinds of people in the world: Those who understand binary and those who don't." Is that kind of elitist behavior rude? Yes, but it's a social defense mechanism, creating an "us vs. them" mentality that is ubiquitous in our species. Anyway, I got to thinking what all I could write with the fewest chemical symbols. My first name, Erbium-Iodine-Potassium sprung immediately to mind. Then I realized I could do my daughter's name in only two symbols (I can't believe this wasn't a criterion in choosing her name!), Nobelium-Radium. My wife's name can't be done, unfortunately, since there's no element with the symbol M or Ma.

After realizing that M was a showstopper, imagine my surprise when I figured out that I could write my last name, too! Radium-Samarium-Uranium-Sulfur-Selenium-Nitrogen!

At this point, I had come too far not to make little periodic table boxes with the atomic number and weight of each element to line up like Scrabble pieces. But what format to use? Periodic table boxes vary wildly, with different fonts, text alignment, and which values are included. has a very impressive dynamic HTML periodic table, with various facts as you hover. went with pictures of each element. Pure substances are shiny!

Eventually I found this list of periodic table PDFs available for downloading and printing. The first one on that page is the standard one for the California Standardized Test. As soon as I saw it, I was immediately thrust back to my lab bench in Chemistry class calculating moles and reaction yields. I had my format!

So here we go…


And finally, in her highly radioactive two element glory...


I might have to make some t-shirts of my own...