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Name that element! Which element on the periodic table helps play tricks with birthday candles, colors plants green, and soothes achy stomachs? Follow these eight clues to sleuth the identity of this element. Then, turn the page to test your chemistry IQ.

CLUE 1

FIELD OF GREENS

Like most elements, the mystery element is usually found combined with other elements in a compound. One compound formed by the mystery element is essential to all green plants. The element--a metal--is central to chlorophyll, the compound that plants use to turn carbon dioxide and water into energy and oxygen. Chlorophyll also gives plants their green hue, says Burt Goldberg, a biochemist at New York University.

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

CLUE 2

SCRUB THIS

You can partly blame the mystery element for the soap scum in your shower. The stubborn coating is caused by ions (atoms that have an electric charge) of this element and calcium (Ca), a member of the same group (column) on the periodic table. These elements dissolve in water as it flows underground. The resulting "hard water" runs in many homes in the United States. When hard water mixes with soap, it can form a sticky film on your tub. Happy scrubbing!

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

CLUE 3

POWDER PUFF

Without the mystery element, powdery makeup would lose its power to take the shine out of an oily face. When it combines with oxygen (O), hydrogen (H), and silicon (Si), this element forms the mineral talc. This white mineral is the softest known solid on Earth. That's one reason it's the main ingredient in baby powder and face powder. Talc easily absorbs excess moisture and oil, helping to keep skin dry and shine-free.

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

CLUE 4

LAVA LESSONS

Along with iron (Fe), and silica (compound made of silicon and oxygen), the mystery element is a main component of some types of lava, or erupted molten rock. When this kind of lava erupts from a volcano, it doesn't usually shoot sky-high. That's because the mystery element helps to make the lava runny, so it flows out of a volcano like honey. As the lava runs down the volcano's sides, the molten rock hardens and forms basalt. The Hawaiian Islands are made of this dark volcanic rock.

NAME IT NOW? SCORE 40 POINTS. OTHERWISE, READ ON.

CLUE 5

CANDLE TRICKS

This element is the culprit behind some birthday pranks. It coats the wicks of trick candles that immediately re-light after you blow them out. The mystery element is an alkaline earth metal, or one of a group of elements that is highly reactive in nature. As a result, it can burn, or react with oxygen (O) to create light, when exposed to low heat. When you blow out a trick candle, a hot ember remains on the wick. That heats the mystery element. The candle re-ignites.

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

CLUE 6

SPEEDY CYCLE

Many serious cyclists favor bicycles made of an alloy (mixture of metals, or a metal and nonmetal) of aluminum (Al) and the mystery element. This metal mixture has the sturdiness ness of strong metals like iron (Fe). But the element is much lighter than iron, so it doesn't slow the cyclist's ride to the finish line. Watch out for the steep price tag: "The material is great for bikers who like superior equipment and don't mind paying for it," says Bill Fields, a bike industry analyst.

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

CLUE 7

OCEAN PLENTY

To stock up on the mystery element, scientists turn to the oceans. That's because it's the third most abundant element dissolved in seawater, after chlorine (Cl) and sodium (Na). Both of these elements are members of the same period, or row on the periodic table, as the mystery element. While the oceans provide a never-ending supply of the mystery metal, it isn't easy to extract. Scientists have to use a complex series of chemical reactions to separate the mystery element from seawater.

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

CLUE 8

STOMACH SOOTHER

Antacids use this element to ease bellyaches caused by a buildup of digestive acids. When the mystery element bonds with hydroxide (molecule made up of oxygen and hydrogen), it forms a base. This compound neutralizes stomach acid. "[It reacts with the acid] to form salt and water, which are harmless to the stomach," says Robert McCarron, a doctor at the University of California, Davis.

GAME'S OVER. NOW TURN TO PAGE 20.
Anatomy of an Element

X Atomic number

?? Element symbol

Name Element name

X.XXXX Average atomic mass


KEY DEFINITIONS:

ATDMIC 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 so has a unique atomic number. In a neutral atom, the number of protons and the number of electrons (negatively charged particles) are equal.

ATOMIC MASS equals the number of protons plus the number of neutrons (uncharged particles) found in a single atom of an element. The atom's mass is in its nucleus, which houses both protons and neutrons.

DID YOU KNOW?

* Although magnesium is the eighth-most-abundant element in the universe, it is only the seventh-most-abundant element in Earth's crust.

* Gymnasts and weight lifters regularly dust their hands with a powder made of magnesium carbonate. This compound--made of magnesium, carbon, and oxygen--absorbs sweat. This helps to keep the athletes' palms dry, giving them a better grip of uneven bars or weights.

* In 1618, people discovered that the mineral springs in Epsom, England, had many therapeutic properties. Soaking in the spring waters could help relieve achy muscles and heal skin conditions. Drinking the waters could cure stomach problems. What's in the water? A compound made of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen--or "Epsom salt."

CRITICAL THINKING:

* Magnesium alloys are strong, but lightweight. That's why they are used to make racing bicycles. Name some products that are made of alloys with similar characteristics.

CROSS-CURRICULAR CDNNECTIDNS:

LANGUAGE ARTS: Have students select an element. Then, have them do research to write an acrostic poem about the properties of the chosen element. For an example of an acrostic poem, see: www.holycross.edu/departments/ socant/dhummon/acrostics/acrostics.html

RESOURCES

* For teen-friendly information on magnesium, check out: www.chem4kids.com/files/elements/012_speak.html

* This Web activity will help students memorize chemical symbols: www.funbrain.com/periodic/

It's your choice

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

1. Name that element!

2. What is the atomic number of iron (Fe)?

A 3

B 12

C 26

D 52

3. Alkaline earth metals are.

A inert

B highly reactive in nature

C a type of noble gas

D a liquid metal

4. Which of the following elements is found in the same row of the periodic table as calcium (Ca)?

A Vanadium (V)

B Helium (He)

C Cadmium (Cd)

D Magnesium (Mg)

5. A(n)--can neutralize an acid.

A compound

B alloy

C ion

D base

6. An ion is.

A an atom that has an electric charge

B always found combined with other elements

C an uncharged particle

D a mixture of a metal and a nonmetal

7. How many protons are in an atom of zinc (Zn)?

A 15

B 30

C 42

D 97

ATOMIC FACTS: Each atom of the mystery element has 12 electrons orbiting a nucleus that contains 12 protons and 12 neutrons.

ANSWERS

1. Magnesium 2. c 3. b 4. a 5. d 6. a 7. b

(PAGE 18) NAME THAT ELEMENT!

DIRECTIONS: Defend or dispute the following statements. (Hint: Defend means to explain why a statement is correct. Dispute means to explain why a statement is incorrect.)

1. Face and baby powders contain magnesium.

2. Magnesium only burns when exposed to high heat.

3. Antacid medicines use magnesium to help ease stomachaches.

ANSWERS

1. Defend: Magnesium combines with oxygen, hydrogen, and silicon to form the mineral talc This white mineral is the main ingredient in face and baby powders. That's because talc, the softest known solid on Earth, easily absorbs excess moisture and oil, helping to keep skin dry and shine-free.

2. Dispute: Magnesium, an alkaline earth metal, is highly reactive in nature. It can burn when exposed to low heat That's why magnesium is used to coat the wicks of trick candles. When you blow out a trick candle, a hot ember remains on the wick That heats the magnesium, and the candle reignites

3. Defend: When magnesium bonds with hydroxide, it forms a strong base Many stomachaches are caused by a buildup of the acids used for digestion. The magnesium compound can neutralize stomach acid: It reacts with the acid to form salt and water which are harmless to the stomach.
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Article Details
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Author:Carney, Elizabeth
Publication:Science World
Date:Jan 16, 2006
Words:1467
Previous Article:Hands-on science (no lab required).
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