Periodic Pandemonium: Exploring Chemistry’s Rule-Breakers

When I tell people that I study chemistry, the response is usually some version of “You must be bright” or “I hated that class” or, put more simply, “Why?”  I’ve grown used to defending my love for chemistry, and I’ve often pointed to its straightforward nature as the source of my affection. I liked that the elements on the periodic table are arranged according to trends in their chemical properties, and that we can infer things about an element’s behavior by its position.   An element’s electronegativity (the tendency to attract electrons), for example, increases as you move from left to right and from bottom to top across the table. The size of the atom, meanwhile, increases from right to left and from top to bottom. In class, I labeled different chunks of the periodic table to signify alkali metals, transition metals, lanthanides, actinides, halogens and other categories of elements with neatly-defined criteria for membership.  As a straight-A student and a type-A personality, I appreciated how chemistry was so orderly, how there was always a right answer.   

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