Three Dimensions Promotes Easier Understanding
3D models, used in the introduction to almost any subject, promote quick and easy understanding, as well as motivation and affinity for the newbie and tactile learners.
One of the initial barriers to overcome when teaching about the periodic table is prior impressions, all related to the table as it has been portrayed in the general public. All of these relate directly to the shape of the flat periodic table. Class introduction to the periodic table with a 3D model derails preconceptions and cleans the slate for greater acceptance of the lesson. The Alexander Arrangement of Elements is the best possible substitute in terms of a realistic and accurate representation of the Periodic Law.
The popular view of the common periodic table is adding a popular icon of trivia organization to that of one of the most dreaded and maligned rote memory educational chores. At least the idea of it being an organizational tool is generally emphasized, however poorly it may be carried out with cupcakes, swearwords, and the like.
The sheer identifiable recognizeability of the ugliness of the icon of chemistry carries the message.
What message is it for chemistry and science, however? To a great extent - possibly without exception - the most correct and most practical solutions to great problems are usually the least complex and most beautiful.
How is it that chemists and physicists, forever seeking symmetry, balance, and sophisticated solutions have swallowed the idea of the flat and fractured common periodic table as an icon?
Why, when surrounded with 3D atomic, molecular, and double helix models, have they not rebelled at honoring in two-dimensions instead of what is more perfectly descriptive and understandable - three-dimensions?
Perhaps the attention given to Mendeleev's flatenning de Chancourtois' vis Tellurique onto a page of a schoolbook - while successfully foretelling the nature of the missing elements, had a great part to do with it. That, and the fact that Alexander-Emile Beguyer de Chancourtois had little time or need for the kind of dedicated promotion that Dimitri Mendeleev had, with his new fame and special government treatment.
A-EBdeC apparently didn't seem to care enough to assure that even a 2D illustration accompanied his publication of the arrangement - which was in a geology publication yet!
The subsequent tables extrapolated from DM's with new elements and new measures were so easy to work with - once you got used to treating the chart like a prose document (jumping to the beginning of the line below) plus ignoring the center gaps and whole dislocated block. All the vital elements (pun intended) were there, and the concept of listing all of the parts of matter in one interrelated chart was so magnificently overwhelming that the ugliness was ignored... the Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome.
Fortunately, however, several people in the middle of the last century, resurrected the Real Arrangement of Chemical Elements According to the Periodicity of their Properties - all for purposes of education and clarification, the motivational aspect just happened.
While marketing my own device, M.Courtines' effort was the first I was to be alerted to - besides Eric Scerri's initial mention of the primacy of de Chancourtois' 3D 'screw' in the group of early discoverers. Courtines' design was printed in the Journal of Chemical Education (1925), and encourages readers to make their own. Many columns had a crease at their sides, the d-block protruded with 'horns' at the corners, and the f-block was little more than a tiny accordian of Lanthanides. Nevertheless, all the elements were in order and adjacent, and the periods put in sequence by a sudden slide down at the end/start.
I did not find the George Gamow drawing until some time after Courtines' model. The shock was that I initially took it for my own patent drawing, even though it was in a popular introductory book of a series called Mr. Tompkins Gets Serious.
In two of his books he just uses the drawing without comment instead of the conventional table during a narrative on relations among elements. The patent drawing look makes it appear that he had applied for a patent, and it appears that, while the publication was prior to my patent award (for the down escalators in the p-block), it was after I had made my first model in Chicago.
Except for the fact of Gamow's stature in science ( the Big Bang was a derisive term used for his concept prior to its validation) I would have merely considered his effort and mine to be inventions. But, coupled with de Chancourtois' & M.Courtines', and the sheer logic of the idea, it became evident to me for the first time that these had been a discovery, and later re-discoveries: instead of being inventions they are actual physical proof of the Periodic Law!
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last update 3/17/16