Remember the Chemists' Periodic Table? That aging chart hanging on every school chemistry lab wall?
It's just a dusty table that was invented by a 19th-century Russian chemist, right?
"Not so!" says Dr. Rayner-Canham, honorary research professor of chemistry, Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, in Corner Brook. "The Periodic Table is as exciting today as it was back then – maybe even more so!"
In Dr. Rayner-Canham's new book: The Periodic Table: Past, Present, and Future, he shows that discoveries in recent years by some inorganic and theoretical chemists (including himself) are providing new insights into unusual relationships between elements. Among the many oddities in the book – some controversial to this day – are: "Is aluminum in the wrong place in the table?" and "Why is precious metal osmium chemically like gaseous xenon?"
Always interested in the background story, Dr. Rayner-Canham also researched back into the literature as early as the 1850s to show that, in fact, some of these unusual relationships were noted even back then – but long since forgotten.
One relationship not identified until the beginning of this century was that between an element and the element one row down and two columns across. This had been named the "knight's move" relationship as a result of its resemblance to the chess move. Dr. Rayner-Canham's favourite book Alice Through the Looking Glass included the White Knight, whose attributes were modelled upon those of an actual Oxford University chemistry Professor.
Following from this, Dr. Rayner-Canham chose characters in the Alice book to illustrate other aspects of the new world of periodic relationships. Humpty Dumpty was used to illustrate the fact that chemists often cannot agree on definitions of terms, while the White Queen provides an illustration that many things once thought impossible about the chemical elements are now known to be true.
To provide a suitable introduction to the new dimensions of periodicity, Dr. Rayner-Canham's book opens with a Chapter 0, quoting the Walrus and the Carpenter: "The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things ..." and here in this book, there are indeed fantastical things of equal to those of Alice's Adventures – but these are actually of reality.
More information about The Periodic Table: Past, Present, and Future can be found on the publisher's website: https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/11775