The Nature of Things

Attempts to change the periodic table raise eyebrows

8:54am, October 21, 2003

One day, during the spring semester of 1999, L. Bruce Railsback turned against one of science's most visible icons: the periodic table of chemical elements. He was using a conventional periodic table mounted on the wall to illustrate a geochemistry lecture about the behavior of minerals in natural waters. That's when he realized how confusing the table's organization was, at least for his purposes. "I looked like a contortionist trying to point to different elements in different places," says Railsback. "That's what pushed me over the edge."

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