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This is a really thin little red line. It's purpose is to steal your underpants when you are sleeping.


Now with roentgenium, copernicium, flerovium, and livermorium!

If you liked this animation you'll LOVE Tom Lehrer's music. Click here for details.
Click here
for a terrific little animated introduction to the element oxygen.

A story from the last student in the last class Lehrer ever taught, circa 2001.
Wow! Click here
for the earliest known Tom Lehrer recordings! Wow!
Video of Tom performing math tunes. Click here.
Click here for a 2003 Australian interview with Tom.

Or here for an interview with T.L. by The Onion.
Want to know more about Mr. Lehrer? Check out his Wikipedia page.
Click here for a 9k PDF file of the lyrics to The Elements.
Is Roy Zimmerman the new Tom Lehrer? Judge for yourself. I like him!

Bad NEWS! My stock of The Element DVD's have sold out. But they're still available on
How about your very own Periodic Table Shower Curtain? Or some Periodic Table Blocks.

For those who are interested, I completed primary animation of Mr. Lehrer's snappy little ditty involving the periodic tables sometime early in the year 2000. I thereupon added it to my web site for all to bask in the glory of Saint Thomas. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by friends of Mr. Lehrer who said that he had seen the animation and was quite pleased with the result. My happiness gland soon exploded from delight overload.

Six years, and about two million downloads later, I was contacted by the WestEd company who thought the animation would be a valuable resource to offer to their education-oriented audience. After some minor financial haggling they, Tom, and I agreed to the deal and the animation can now be found on Art Sussman's "Dr. Art Does Science" DVD. I couldn't be more pleased.

Since 2000 the animation has gone through several minor changes, mostly involving the addition of new elements.

I've often received emails asking if I'll continue to update the work, adding even newer elements as they come along, and my answer is no. The main reason is I now consider it an historical relic, in the same way one would not add the modern Italian skyline to the background of the Mona Lisa. The more practical reason is that I've simply run out of audio footprint in which to squeeze the new names. A shave and a haircut will only stretch so far. Such is life.

The Periodic Table

The periodic table of the chemical elements (also periodic table of the elements or just the periodic table) is a tabular display of the chemical elements. Although precursors to this table exist, its invention is generally credited to Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, who intended the table to illustrate recurring ("periodic") trends in the properties of the elements. The layout of the table has been refined and extended over time, as new elements have been discovered, and new theoretical models have been developed to explain chemical behavior.

The periodic table is now ubiquitous within the academic discipline of chemistry, providing a useful framework to classify, systematize, and compare all of the many different forms of chemical behavior. The table has found many applications in chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering, especially chemical engineering. The current standard table contains 118 elements to date. (elements 1–118).

The layout of the periodic table demonstrates recurring ("periodic") chemical properties. Elements are listed in order of increasing atomic number (i.e., the number of protons in the atomic nucleus). Rows are arranged so that elements with similar properties fall into the same columns (groups or families). According to quantum mechanical theories of electron configuration within atoms, each row (period) in the table corresponded to the filling of a quantum shell of electrons. There are progressively longer periods further down the table, grouping the elements into s-, p-, d- and f-blocks to reflect their electron configuration.

In printed tables, each element is usually listed with its element symbol and atomic number; many versions of the table also list the element's atomic mass and other information, such as its abbreviated electron configuration, electronegativity and most common valence numbers.

As of 2010, the table contains 118 chemical elements whose discoveries have been confirmed. Ninety-four are found naturally on Earth, and the rest are synthetic elements that have been produced artificially in particle accelerators. Elements 43 (technetium), 61 (promethium) and all elements greater than 83 (bismuth), beginning with 84 (polonium) have no stable isotopes. The atomic mass of each of these element's isotope having the longest half-life is typically reported on periodic tables with parentheses. Isotopes of elements 43, 61, 93 (neptunium) and 94 (plutonium), first discovered synthetically, have since been discovered in trace amounts on Earth as products of natural radioactive decay processes.

The primary determinant of an element's chemical properties is its electron configuration, particularly the valence shell electrons. For instance, any atoms with four valence electrons occupying p orbitals will exhibit some similarity. The type of orbital in which the atom's outermost electrons reside determines the "block" to which it belongs. The number of valence shell electrons determines the family, or group, to which the element belongs.

The total number of electron shells an atom has determines the period to which it belongs. Each shell is divided into different subshells, which as atomic number increases are filled in roughly this order (the Aufbau principle) (see table). Hence the structure of the table. Since the outermost electrons determine chemical properties, those with the same number of valence electrons are grouped together.

Progressing through a group from lightest element to heaviest element, the outer-shell electrons (those most readily accessible for participation in chemical reactions) are all in the same type of orbital, with a similar shape, but with increasingly higher energy and average distance from the nucleus. For instance, the outer-shell (or "valence") electrons of the first group, headed by hydrogen, all have one electron in an s orbital. In hydrogen, that s orbital is in the lowest possible energy state of any atom, the first-shell orbital (and represented by hydrogen's position in the first period of the table). In francium, the heaviest element of the group, the outer-shell electron is in the seventh-shell orbital, significantly further out on average from the nucleus than those electrons filling all the shells below it in energy. As another example, both carbon and lead have four electrons in their outer shell orbitals.

Note that as atomic number (i.e., charge on the atomic nucleus) increases, this leads to greater spin-orbit coupling between the nucleus and the electrons, reducing the validity of the quantum mechanical orbital approximation model, which considers each atomic orbital as a separate entity.

The elements ununtrium, ununquadium, ununpentium, etc. are elements that have been discovered, but so far have not received a trivial name yet.

Animation copyright Mike Stanfill
Mike Stanfill, Private Hand - 2330 Jonesboro - Dallas, TX 75228 - 469-278-6040