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Name that element!

Which element on the periodic table can make some crystal goblets sparkle, "glues" computer circuit parts together, and dust the mountain-tops on Venus? Follow these eight clues to find out. Then turn the page to test our chemistry IQ.

CLUE 1

HOCUS FOCUS

Alchemists (medieval chemists) believed they could convert the mystery element into gold (Au)--both members of the same period, or row on the periodic table. Their logic: By removing some of the mystery element's protons (positively charged particles), its atomic number would change into that of precious gold. Too bad this chemical wizardry wasn't successful.

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

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CLUE 2

WIRED

If you were to look inside your computer, you'd spot this element. That's because tiny chips are mounted to computer circuit boards using a compound (substance composed of two or more elements) formed by the mystery metal and tin (Sn)--members of the same group, or column on the periodic table. This compound is flexible; it won't crack when your computer heats up and circuit parts expand.

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

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CLUE 3

VENUS TRAP 3

This element is found beyond Earth. Scientists Bruce Fegley and Laura Schaefer from Washington University in St. Louis think they spied it recently on Venus. A mineral (naturally-occurring solid with a uniform structure) made of this element and sulfur (S) dusts the mountaintops on Venus. Dubbed "metallic snow," the shiny mineral reflects (bounces back) the sun's light, so that the alien peaks look bright metallic gray.

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

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CLUE 4

BUILD UP

Eating or even breathing air containing the mystery element can be risky. "It accumulates in the body, so a little a day can add up to a toxic (poisonous) amount," says Michael Rabinowitz, a chemist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. The element's favorite hiding spot: skeletal bone tissue. If levels in your bones and blood get too high, researchers think it can damage your central nervous system (body system that includes the brain and spinal cord).

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

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CLUE 5

LIGHT BENDER

This element can add sparkle to fine dining. Glassmakers sometimes add compounds made of this metal and oxygen (0) to drinking glasses. "[The mystery element] has 82 electrons (negatively charged particles). And the number of electrons determines the material's refractive index, a measure of how much light is bent," says Robert Doremus, a materials scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. So this metallic addition makes goblets glimmer.

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

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CLUE 6

SCREEN SAFETY

This element is found in many TV screens. It blocks you from the harmful radiation (high-energy waves or particles) that televisions emit. That's because the element's electrons are tightly packed around the nucleus (atom's center), making it difficult for the high-energy waves to penetrate. But this element has an atomic mass that is more than 200 atomic mass Units (amu). That makes for hefty waste when old TVs get thrown out.

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

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CLUE 7

PAINT THE WALLS

From sunshine yellow to museum white, this element once added pigment (color, or dye) to house paints. And a carbonate (compound of carbon and oxygen) form of this metal added a white tone to paints. By 1978, scientists had discovered that the element is a neurotoxin (damages the central nervous system). So other metals--such as titanium (Ti)--replaced it in house paints. Unlike the mystery element, titanium is a transition metal.

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

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CLUE 8

FILL IT UP

Gasoline containing this element helped car engines run smoothly. The metal's atoms (smallest units of an element) bind with carbon's four valence electrons (electrons in an atom's outer shell) to make a fuel ingredient. But tiny particles of the metal shot from car exhaust pipes, polluting the air. This caused health problems. So the element was banned from gas pumps in the United States in 1996.

STILL NO ANSWER? TURN TO PAGE 20.

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ANATOMY OF AN ELEMENT
X Atomic number
?? Element symbol
Name Element name
X.XXXX Average atomic mass


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 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.

IT'S ELEMENTAL

Name: --

First, study "Name That Element!" on p. 18. Then, solve the clues below to complete this crossword puzzle. To spell out the bonus words, unscramble the letters in parentheses.

ACROSS

1. Medieval chemists called --(-)--(-) strove to turn lead into gold.

2. A -(-)-- is a substance made of two or more elements.

5. To -(-)-- means to bounce back.

7. Radiation consists of high-energy (-)-- or particles.

10. Lead was once used to add -- to house paints.

DOWN

3. A -- is a column on the periodic table.

4. A --(-)-- is a naturally occurring solid with a uniform structure.

6. Atoms are the smallest units of an --(-)-.

8. --(-)-- is a poison that damages the central nervous system.

9. The --(-)-- is a part of the central nervous system.

11. -(-)-- electrons are negatively charged particles in an atom's outer shell.

12. The --(-)-- index measures how much light is bent.

Bonus: This famous scientist also tried to turn lead into gold: a. -- b. --

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ANSWERS

1. alchemists 2. compound 3. group 4. mineral 5. reflect 6. element 7. waves 8. neurotoxin 9. brain 10. pigment 11. valence 12. refractive Bonus: a. Isaac b. Newton
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Our Popular Mystery Series Returns
Author:Bryner, Jeanna
Publication:Science World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 6, 2004
Words:1018
Previous Article:Sea notes: navy ships send sounds into the sea to hone in on underwater objects. Could the noise be harming ocean life?
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