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Name: Kayla D.
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Date: 2/19/2003

How do scientists discover elements?


Elements are the simplest forms of matter -- sometimes referred to as the "building blocks of the universe." When any substance is broken down chemically into its simplest components, those components are referred to as "elements." The "easy" ones have already been discovered.

As scientists made a catalog of those which were discovered over time, a Russian scientist (Mendeleev) and a German scientist (Meyer) arranged the elements in the form of a table with the known elements listed in rows and columns based on their chemical properties.

The modern version of that arrangement is referred to as "The Periodic Table of the Atoms." Mendeleev left blanks in the table where he believed as yet undiscovered elements would one day fit. Today's Periodic Table contains no blanks in its body -- only unfilled spaces in its last horizontal row. Elements that will one day fill in those spaces must (thus far) be synthesized (made from) other elements.

It is a complex and difficult task that will take much time to accomplish. In theory, at least, there is no end to the number of elements that can exist. Nevertheless, the current Periodic Table contains only about 110 such building blocks. Every"thing" we know anything about, we believe, has been built of this small handful of elementary materials.

ProfHoff 589

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