The periodic table. You see it everywhere, but what the heck does it all mean? Take a look at it for a moment. It's arranged by atomic number, which is the number of protons in an atom's nucleus. Let's meet the atom!
When we look at the periodic table of elements, we're looking at the organization of atoms - carbon, oxygen, helium, uranium and so on. There are three parts of an atom. The proton, the neutron, and the electron.
The neutron is found in the nucleus of the atom and is neutrally charged. Change the number of neutrons, and you have an isotope! Normal, everyday carbon-12 has 6 protons and 6 neutrons - carbon-14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons, giving us a radioactive isotope. (That's why they use it in carbon dating! It decays at a predictable rate, so we can measure the decay and figure out the age of something!) Carbon will always have 6 protons - that's what makes it carbon - but the number of neutrons can change slightly (in carbon it might be 8, it's never going to be 42!). When you hear about elements like uranium-238 or uranium-235, we're talking about isotopes, which are elements that have the same number of protons but different neutrons.
Orbitals are represented in this picture by those blue lines, the electrons by the red dots!
If you like the periodic table as much as I do, download this periodic table and play periodic table Scrabble! I can't spell my name (Susan - Sulphur-uranium-sulphur-there's no A on its own!) but I can spell my best friend's husband's name - Cameron (Carbon-Americum-Erbium-Oxygen-Nitrogen) and genius (Germanium-Nitrogen-Iodine-Uranium-Sulphur). My last name is easy to create - it's just Ni2! This is a great way to learn where the elements are on the table and their abbreviations!
Join me later this week for a little more chemistry fun!