Now, where’s that unobtainium?

By Carol Hinz
Editorial Director, Millbrook Press

I recently heard about the Periodic Table of Videos and had to check it out for myself. Martyn Piliakoff, a research professor at the University of Nottingham, and several other scientists and one brave videographer have put together videos about every element on the periodic table. Here is the video for sodium (Na):

The videos are a lot of fun, though by themselves they won’t teach you everything you need to know about the elements. But they do help turn those abstract combinations of letters on the periodic table of elements into something real.

I can envision one day having e-books about chemistry that have videos like this one embedded. It’s really the best of both worlds—you get the nuts and bolts of an element (number of electrons, atomic weight, freezing point, melting point, etc.) along with a dramatic demonstration of how the element behaves under certain conditions. After all that reading and video watching, however, the students are still going to need to strap on a pair of safety goggles and get into the lab.

If you want to check out a book on the topic, Twenty-First Century Books has The Elements by Ron Miller. It’s a good read, and far less explosive than these videos!

*No, you won’t find unobtainium on the periodic table of elements. It’s the difficult-to-obtain (get it?) element the humans in the movie Avatar are trying to acquire.