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The Periodic Kingdom : A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995)

de P. W. Atkins

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6841126,314 (3.51)8
Come on a journey into the heart of matter--and enjoy the process!--as a brilliant scientist and entertaining tour guide takes you on a fascinating voyage through the Periodic Kingdom, the world of the elements. The periodic table, your map for this trip, is the most important concept in chemistry. It hangs in classrooms and labs throughout the world, providing support for students, suggesting new avenues of research for professionals, succinctly organizing the whole of chemistry. The one hundred or so elements listed in the table make up everything in the universe, from microscopic organisms to distant planets. Just how does the periodic table help us make sense of the world around us? Using vivid imagery, ingenious analogies, and liberal doses of humor P. W. Atkins answers this question. He shows us that the Periodic Kingdom is a systematic place. Detailing the geography, history and governing institutions of this imaginary landscape, he demonstrates how physical similarities can point to deeper affinities, and how the location of an element can be used to predict its properties. Here's an opportunity to discover a rich kingdom of the imagination kingdom of which our own world is a manifestation.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 11 (següent | mostra-les totes)
The author puts the fundamental elements of matter in perspective to each other and to the material world by imagining the periodic table as a geographical entity in three dimensions, and giving it properties analogous to an earthly landscape.

He does make the chemisty and physics interesting, but I found it helpful to get a grounding in the basics by first reading "The Search for the Elements" by Isaac Asimov. ( )
  librisissimo | Aug 29, 2021 |
A pleasant, brightly written book, using the analogy of a kingdom with various regions for the periodic table. The analogy is a bit strained, but I can still see the lakes of mercury and bromine in my mind's eye. The chapter titles support the analogy, "The History of Discovery", "The Cartographers", "Physical Geography". Unfortunately, the publishing company did not stand by their author. There is no table of figures, which is awkward, as the author refers to them several chapter after they are introduced, and the periodic table at the back is drawn into the spine, so that one whole group is more or less invisible. The editors failed to catch unfortunate errors, like the one in which bronze works its way into a sentence as an element. The illustrations are line drawings, mostly 3-D charts of properties of the periodic table as well as some diagrams of electron orbitals and so forth. Unfortunately, the 3-D charts are poorly constructed, and not all that well captioned.

I would certainly read more books by this author. "Molecules" is a much better constructed book, with much better diagrams and illustrations throughout.

======================================================================================

2018/12

Detailed Review:

Part I: Geography
Chapter 1: Terrain
A very broad summary with special mention of some elements very significant to life on earth.

Chapter 2: The Products of the Regions
Some talk about the metals that normal people think of as metals. Human exploitation proceeds from east to west, starting with copper and tin, then on to iron, and thence to titanium and vanadium. Proceeding all the way to the western shore with the highly reactive alkali metals. As one proceeds south along the western shore, these metals get really reactive. sodium and potassium, react violently with water, but are also essential to our brain function. The alkali earth metals are more reactive as we go south. They contain calcium, which is good for structure, and magnesium, which is essential to photo-synthesis. On the northeast shore, there is carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, which are all so important. Carbon is the backbone of organic molecules. Silicon lies just below carbon; it's good for computers and non-carbon based life forms in science fiction. Metals on the east side are generally non-reactive, which is why copper is good for water pipes. Lead is also good for water pipes, but not quite good enough. Tin is great for making "tin cans", but aluminum is even more unreactive. Moving back east it's easy to see how heterogeneous the regions are. All the elements on the northeast coast are dramatically different from their southern neighbors. Phosphorus is due south of nitrogen, and both are super important in agriculture. Some animals use H2S, hydrogen sulfide, in a similar manner to how plants use water. But they respire solid sulfur instead of gaseous O2, and so such organisms must live on their own byproducts. There are some organisms that do this, still, but not many. Arsenic's poisonous activity is achieved by imitating phosphorus, its northern neighbor.

Then come the halogens. Fluorine is so corrosive that it's hard to store, but it was necessary for the isolation of uranium during WWII, so people learned how. It is also added to toothpaste. Chlorine is a nasty green gas used modern warfare and also a component of chloro- and chlorofluoro-carbons with their adverse effect on the ozone layer. Hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, was not identified until the early part of the 20th century when it was found in stars using spectroscopy. (There is a snarky remark about armchair theorists, which is just right. People who sit and think, and don't do much else, are very good at coming up with specious negatives.)

The "southern islands" north coast (lanthanides) are basically boring. The south coast is all radioactive, and otherwise not very interesting.

Some elements are less exploited than others. Two reasons for this are scarcity (not enough) and radioactivity (too scary).

3. Physical Geometry
Plots of the elements in terms of their various properties. Atomic mass presents a nice straightforward picture, with some tiny, but not necessarily insignificant anomalies. As one proceeds from left to right, and top to bottom, as in reading in the western world, the elements gets heavier. There are a few moderate infractions of the rule, for example, nickel is a smidge heavier than copper. Diameter is less regular, but not chaotic. Density is a derived property, and behaves as expected given the other two. First ionization energy also has its regular pattern, and is somewhat related to diameter.

Part II: History
4. The History of Discovery
The first tool for separating compounds into their distinct elements was fire, which is how the ancients got gold, tin, copper, silver, lead, iron. It was easy to mistake a compound for an element back in the old days, how could you be certain you had an element? Joseph Priestly heated up mercury oxide and separated out the oxygen gas (1774). A good quotation: As in the "discovery" of terrestrial lands, it is typically the last person to "discover" a land who is recognized by posterity. Henry Cavendish isolated, but did not identify hydrogen as an element, later in the 18th century. He showed that hydrogen and oxygen combined to make water, hence the name, "water former". In 1807 Humphry Davy applies an electric current from a very large battery to caustic potash (now potassium hydroxide) and isolated an element, which he called potassium. caustic soda (now sodium hydroxide) yielded sodium a few days later. By the same means Davy isolated calcium and strontium. Similarly, he was able to isolate chlorine. Flourine was harder and was not isolated until the late 1800s. Around 1869 Mendeleev laid out the periodic table, and got people trying to fill its gaps. Marie Curie was using this information when she isolated radium. The noble gases, being so noble, were overlooked until 1894, when William Ramsey got argon (lazy) from air. Ramsey kept at it through the turn of the century, isolating all the noble gases, until he finally got radon in 1905. A lot of the lanthanides and actinides were isolated under the pressures of WWII. And now atoms are smashed together to make new elements. Some chemists suspect that there is a possibility of finding stable elements of much higher weights, but these would still be necessarily radioactive and hence not much fun. ( )
  themulhern | Dec 18, 2016 |
A guided tour through the land of the periodic table. Could be used as separate chapters or as whole book.
  MartyBriggs | Jun 11, 2014 |
9
  agdturner | Aug 5, 2011 |
AMAZON - The Periodic Kingdom is a journey of imagination in which Peter Atkins treats the periodic table of elements - the 109 chemical elements in the world, from which everything is made - as a country, a periodic kingdom, each region of which corresponds to an element. Arranged much like a travel guide, the book introduces the reader to the general features of the table, the history of the elements, and the underlying arrangement of the table in terms of the structure and properties of atoms. Atkins sees elements as finely balanced living personalities, with quirks of character and certain, not always outward, dispositions, and the kingdom is thus a land of intellectual satisfaction and infinite delight.
  edella | Jul 16, 2009 |
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Come on a journey into the heart of matter--and enjoy the process!--as a brilliant scientist and entertaining tour guide takes you on a fascinating voyage through the Periodic Kingdom, the world of the elements. The periodic table, your map for this trip, is the most important concept in chemistry. It hangs in classrooms and labs throughout the world, providing support for students, suggesting new avenues of research for professionals, succinctly organizing the whole of chemistry. The one hundred or so elements listed in the table make up everything in the universe, from microscopic organisms to distant planets. Just how does the periodic table help us make sense of the world around us? Using vivid imagery, ingenious analogies, and liberal doses of humor P. W. Atkins answers this question. He shows us that the Periodic Kingdom is a systematic place. Detailing the geography, history and governing institutions of this imaginary landscape, he demonstrates how physical similarities can point to deeper affinities, and how the location of an element can be used to predict its properties. Here's an opportunity to discover a rich kingdom of the imagination kingdom of which our own world is a manifestation.

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