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Name that element! Phew, this element stinks! Known for its sickening smell, it can chew through your clothes and eat away at the environment. Can you name that element? Grab a periodic table (flip the page) and follow these eight clues. Then test your "element IQ.".

Clue 1

FOOL'S GOLD

In pure form, this nonmetal element is a lemon yellow, odorless solid. But in nature it's found only in combination with other elements. Example: Along with iron, the mystery element forms the mineral pyrite--also called "fool's gold." The element gives pyrite its gleaming golden tint, which tricks people into thinking it's the real deal.

GOT IT ALREADY? SCORE 100 POINTS. IF NOT, READ CLUE #2.

CLUE 2

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

Diamonds symbolize love, beauty, and wealth. But they also hold secrets to the chemistry of Earth's atmosphere three billion years ago. The jewels are natural time capsules that locked in traces of air when they formed during Earth's early history. The mystery element cycled from the air to deep underground, then combined with the element carbon to form the priceless gems. (Hint: Carbon, part of the same group as the mystery element, shares similar chemical properties.)

NABBED THE ANSWER? SCORE 80 POINTS. STILL GUESSING? TAKE THE NEXT CLUE.

CLUE 3

BURN, BABY, BURN!

Careful! When combined with hydrogen and oxygen, this element turns into battery acid. The oily, colorless liquid chews through your clothes and attacks your skin, leaving blisters and burns no matter how fast you wash it off. That's because water in your skin strips the acid of hydrogen atoms, producing enough heat to burn. The reaction leaves the mystery element attached to oxygen--a neighbor on the periodic table.

GAME OVER ALREADY? SCORE 60 POINTS. STILL PLAYING? CHECK OUT CLUE #4

CLUE 4

MOLD PATROL

You eat this element as a preservative in foods like dried fruit, pickles, and baked goods. A preservative keeps munchies fresher longer. "Without it, grapes would go moldy during transportation," says Joseph Hotchkiss, professor of food science at Cornell University. "The mystery element kills bacteria, yeast, and molds--it forms an acid that disrupts the microorganisms' cells."

NAME IT NOW, SCORE 40 POINTS.

CLUE 5

TOXIC POLLUTER

Cars and factories burn fossil fuels, like coal and oil, to produce power. In the process, they release this element's dioxide form (element bonded to two oxygen atoms). This gas reacts with water and oxygen in the atmosphere to form an acid that falls back to the ground as rain and snow. Acid rain harms trees and plants, and turns lakes and rivers more acidic--killing fish and other aquatic creatures. Acid rain also eats away at buildings, bridges, and monuments.

HIT ON THE ANSWER? SCORE 20 POINTS. IF NOT, KEEP TRYING!

CLUE 6

HOLD THE MUSTARD

This element is a main component of mustard gas, so called because the gas or yellowish-brown liquid smells like mustard. Armies used mustard gas as a chemical weapon during World War I and II, to make enemies cough, shed tears, and develop skin blisters. In large amounts, the gas can even kill. No longer produced in the U.S., except for research, all mustard-gas stock will soon be destroyed.

SCORE 10 POINTS IF YOU NAME THE ELEMENT WITH THE HELP OF SIX CLUES: STILL GUESSING? READ ON.

CLUE 7

COLOR CRAZY

This chameleon colors Jupiter's moon to (EYE-oh). The mystery element spews from the moon's volcanoes and blankets its surface. "Most of Io's reds, greens, browns, and even blacks are all due to different forms of this element," says scientist Moses Milazzo of the University of Arizona's Planetary Image Research Laboratory. The mystery element comes in an array of allotropes--or chemical forms--each a different hue. (Hint: On our periodic table, the element is blue-green.)

GUESS THE ELEMENT? SCORE 5 POINTS. IF NOT, TRY YOUR LAST CLUE.

CLUE 8

STINK BOMB

What's four feet wide, eight feet tall, and stinks like a garbage dump? It's the "corpse flower." The plant heats the mystery element in its flower stalk, then belches the rotten-egg odor to attract insects. The element's stink is a dead giveaway for detecting its presence. Final hint: The element has 16 electrons.

STILL NO ANSWER? TURN TO PAGE 16.

ANATOMY OF AN ELEMENT

Key definitions:

ATOMIC NUMBER equals the number of protons (positively charged particles) in an atom's nucleus, or center. Every element contains a different number of protons, and hence has a unique atomic number.

ATOMIC MASS equals the number of protons plus the number of neutrons found in a single atom of an element. The weight of an atom resides in its nucleus, which houses both protons and neutrons.

THE PERIODIC TABLE

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The periodic table is a systematic way to organize Earth's elements, substances that consist of atoms of only one kind. Today, there are 112 known and named chemical elements. Elements are arranged according to their increasing atomic number. Hydrogen (H), for example, has an atomic number of 1 and is lightest known natural element on Earth. Scientists have created elements with atomic numbers greater than 92--but they don't exist naturally.

IT'S YOUR CHOICE

Test your chemistry IQ! Answer the following questions about elements and the periodic table.

1. Name the mystery element! --

2. Which of the fallowing elements borders iron on the periodic table?

A Carbon (C)

B Rhodium (Rh)

C Tantalum (Ta)

D Tellurium (Te)

3. Which element has 79 electrons orbiting its nucleus?

A Gold (Au)

B Tin (Sn)

C Bromine (Br)

D Cadmium (Cd)

4. Which element is not a metal?

A Copper (Cu)

B Niobium (Nb)

C Mercury (Hg)

D Astatine (At)

5. Horizontal rows in a periodic table are called:

A periods

B inner transition metals

C columns

D tables

6. Which of the following is nut a property of the mystery element's pure form?

A forms an acid with oxygen and hydrogen

B nonmetal

C liquid

D found on the right-hand side of the table

CLOSE UP: In its solid form, atoms of the mystery element are arranged in a bent ring pattern, which stack to form a crystal.

Did You Know?

* Known since ancient times, sulfur is referred to as brimstone in the Bible.

* The U.S. produces 40 million tons of sulfuric acid annually, making it the number-one chemical produced in terms of mass. Sulfuric acid is so important in industrial processes that its level of production is an indicator of a nation's industrial power.

* The most prevalent chemical dissolved in hydrothermal vents on the seafloor is hydrogen sulfide--the same chemical found in the corpse flower that smells like rotten eggs. Bacteria around the vent convert hydrogen sulfide into energy through a process called chemosynthesis, similar to photosynthesis (converting light into energy).

* The snow-like matter on the surface of Jupiter's moon Io is made of sulfur dioxide, though the only qualities that make it seem like snow are its white color and fluffy consistency. Volcanoes on Io blast the material up to 300 km (186 mi) high.

Cross-Curricular Connection

Language Arts: Chemistry students often invent mnemonic devises in order to remember the elements of the periodic table. As a class, divide the periodic table into groups, such as the alkali metals, and write a poem, song, or riddle to help you remember the names of the elements in that group.

Critical Thinking: Research and list 10 things anyone can do to help prevent acid rain.

Resources

The Environmental Protection Agency features an informational site on acid rain that includes a diagram and lesson plans: www.epa.gov/airmakets/acidrain/index.html

For a fun, student-friendly presentation of pH, visit www.brainpop.com/science/matter/ph/

For more on the corpse flower, visit www.huntington.org/BotanicalDiv/Titan2002/TitanBloom2002.html

Download Tom Lehrer's periodic-table song, take a quiz, search the table for chemical properties, or create charts and graphs of the elements at chemlab.pc.zmaricopa.edu/periodic/periodic.html

This high school textbook helped provide valuable information on sulfur, sulfuric acid, and general chemistry principles: Chemistry: Concepts and Applications (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2002).

ANSWERS

1. sulfur 2. b 3. a 4. d 5. a 6. c
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Title Annotation:Our Popular Mystery Returns!
Author:Hoffman, Gretchen
Publication:Science World
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:1303
Previous Article:Storm chaser.
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