Tools & Technology

Periodic Table Contents

In this week’s episode we pay tribute to the periodic table.

Episode 105 | October 8, 2010

Episode 105: Periodic Table Contents by Distillations Podcast

The periodic table is found in most, if not all, chemistry classrooms and laboratories throughout the U.S. As we know it today the periodic table was conceived by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. The image of the table has become so well known that it has started appearing in pop culture, as recently pointed out on CHF’s blog, the Periodic Tabloid, by regular Distillations contributor Hilary Domush and our executive producer Tori Indivero in two separate blog posts. 

In this week’s episode we are paying tribute to the great periodic table itself. First we talk to Sam Kean, author of the best-selling book The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. Sam tells us how the spoon disappears, which element he thinks is the happiest one, and how molybdenum caused a battle on U.S. soil during World War I. Next we hear an excerpt from Primo Levi’s book The Periodic Table about an atom of carbon. Playing the carbon atom is our senior producer Mia Lobel. 

And finally, Distillations is hosting a competition! After listening to this episode we hope that you’re inspired to tell us about how different elements on the periodic table link to you in your life. Send your 200-300 word submission to If you are a teacher, check out our suggestions for how to work this competition into your classroom. We look forward to hearing from you!

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:31 Introduction
01:21 Conversation with Sam Kean
09:28 “Carbon” from Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table
12:57 Competition – Elemental Memoir
13:31 Closing Credits


Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music from Music Alley. Additional music includes “Singing To The Earth (To Thank Her For You),” by Apollo Sunshine and “Apres un Reve by Gabriel Faure,” by Cello Journey.

This week’s image is of the Periodic Table of Cupcakes at CHF’s museum’s first anniversary. Cupcakes by JPM Catering and Events. Photo by Rosanne Cook.