Wednesday, March 29, 2006


A good-sized chunk of my day yesterday was spent in a conference room at the headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, engaged in what folks hereabouts call a Cold Eyes Review of a major project. The idea is to bring in people who have not been engaged in said project, but who have the expertise to determine how it will impact their particular areas of business, to Shit All Over It, metaphorically speaking.

The conference room was located in a new, standalone Conference Center, a relatively new facility tricked out with all the latest High-Tech Gizmos. But what caught my eye was the display in the corner of the room, a room which was appropriately dubbed “Chemistry Hall.”

The display was a lucite Periodic Table of the Elements, with each square (well, most of ’em, anyway) containing a small sample of the actual element. It was beautiful.

I’ve always had a fascination with the various elements that make up our world. It dates back, no doubt, to my Snot-Nose Days, when we had one of those dopey Time-Life Books entitled (what else?) The Elements. One of the Science and Nature series, I suspect. It featured photographs of all the natural elements, plus a few of the more exotic manmade ones. It was one of those Seminal Influences, I suspect, that drove me to study Chemical Engineering in college, many years later.

But here was a honkin’ big display, with the Real McCoy staring me in the face. During the breaks, I had a chance to look at it, up close and personal-like.

Of course, there were plenty of empty boxes. Substances like radium, plutonium, and technetium are too expensive - and dangerous, for that matter - to have lying around in a public place. And the higher transuranics only exist in laboratories, a few atoms here and there. But most of the Natural 92 - the radiostable ones, anyway - were represented. Fluorine? Bromine? Gold? Gallium? Cesium? All there.

Amazing what $17,950 will buy.

And then, later, surfing the ’Net, I found this: Tom Lehrer, singing the Periodic Table to the tune of “The Major-General’s Song” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. [Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to a fool in the forest for the link.]

Synchronicity, baby! And elementary, too.

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