Aristotle - Albert Einstein - Genius of Britain TV - Lawrence Krauss - Jim Al-Khalili TV - Timothy Leary - Brian Cox TV - The Universe TV - Jacob Bronowski TV - Star Trek TV - Star Trek: Voyager TV - Chris Mitton - Leonardo da Vinci - Michael Mosley TV - Birth of the Universe TV - Nova TV - Dmitri Mendleev - Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier - Lawrence Krauss - Stephen Hawking TV - How the Universe Works TV - Helen Czerski TV - Richard Dawkins - Mark Miodownik: Secrets of the Super Elements TV -
Element – one of those bodies into which other bodies can decompose, and that itself is not capable of being divided into other. Aristotle
It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience. Albert Einstein, The Herbert Spencer lecture 10th June 1933
His [Cavendish] discovery in 1766 of one of the most important elements in the universe ... Cavendish had discovered hydrogen. Genius of Britain II: A Roomful of Brilliant Minds, Channel 4 2012
Joseph Priestley is credited with identifying ten different gasses. ibid.
Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life – weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today. Lawrence M Krauss
A few minutes were all Gamov needed. In that time all the hydrogen and almost all the helium was made. That’s about 98% of all the atoms in the universe today. Or as Gamov put it, our universe was cooked in less time than it takes to cook a dish of duck and roast potatoes. Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Atom: The Key to the Cosmos, BBC 2010
Hydrogen which is the simplest element consists of just one sphere which Rutherford called a proton (which is the Greek word for first). All the other elements are made by adding more protons to the nucleus. It’s as simple as that. So helium which is the second lightest element comprises of two protons; lithium has three; carbon which is the element that is the basis for all life has six protons; the oxygen that we breathe has eight. And uranium which is the heaviest naturally occurring element has ninety-two protons. ibid.
Fred Hoyle’s great insight was to work out precisely how the heaviest elements are created through nuclear fusion. Hoyle worked out that this process can only take place at unimaginably high pressures and temperatures of millions of degrees centigrade. In our universe there’s only one place such conditions exist: in stars. ibid.
When the largest stars run out of hydrogen to fuse hydrogen into helium they come to the end of their lives. And they collapse under the weight of their own gravity. And then explode outwards. In a blinding flash of inspiration Hoyle and his colleague William Fowler realised that supernovae might be the hottest places in the universe. Hot enough to fuse together even the heaviest of atoms. Hoyle and Fowler had found the furnaces in which everything was made. ibid.
This is the story of the greatest scientific discovery ever: the discovery that everything is made of atoms. The vast variety and richness of everything we see around us in the world and beyond, how it’s built up, how it all fits together, is all down to atoms and the mysterious laws they obey. Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Chemistry: A Volatile History, BBC 2010
It’s only in the last two-hundred years that we’ve known what an element is: it’s a substance that can’t be broken down into a simpler one by a chemical reaction. ibid.
John Dalton’s idea in the early 1800s that elements had different atomic weights was dismissed by many scientists. ibid.
Today we know Newland’s Law of Octaves as the Law of Periodicity. ibid.
There are more known compounds of carbon than any other element. ibid.
We seem to inhabit a universe made up of a small number of elements – particles – bits that swirl in chaotic clouds, occasionally clustering together in geometrically logical temporary configurations. Timothy Leary, Chaos and Cyber Culture
The core will start to collapse very rapidly leaving a shell, leaving hydrogen and helium behind ... The creation process of Carbon and Oxygen is over in the blink of an eye. Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe 2/4: Stardust, BBC 2011
Twenty-six elements: what of the remaining elements, some of which are vital to life? ibid.
Strange – because it isn’t particularly useful for anything ... All the gold mined from the Earth in the whole of human history will only just fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools. And it’s that scarcity that makes gold valuable. But gold is only one of many rare elements. ibid.
Scientists are convinced that supernovas are much more significant than spectacular mere light shows. It is thought they are in fact the source of all the heavy elements that make up everything around us. The Universe s1e10, Life and Death of a Star, History 2007
A colossal nuclear reactor comprised of three-quarters hydrogen – the rest mostly helium with traces of heavier elements ... This process called Fusion gives off radiant energy. The Universe s5e8: Dark Future of Our Sun, History 2010
What makes these family likenesses among the elements? Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man: World Within World 10/13, BBC 1973
What distinguished Mendeleev was not only genius but a passion for the elements. They became his personal friends. ibid.
Each element has a characteristic atomic weight. ibid.
Mendeleev didn’t have all the elements: 63 out of the total of 92 were known. ibid.
Spock: Pure Tritanium.
Kirk: Fantastic. Twenty times as hard as diamond. Star Trek s2e13: Obsession
48623.5: There are two hundred and forty-six elements known to Federation science. We believe we have just discovered the two hundred and forty-seventh inside the ring system of a Class D planet. Star Trek: Voyager s1e9: Emanations
Hoyle’s achievement was to teach us that everything after Helium in the Periodic Table is actually stardust. It’s in the stars where these things were made. Chris Mitton, author Conflict in the Universe
All the elements
Will be seen
Mixed together with a
Running now to
The centre of the Earth,
Now to the sky
East to west,
From this hemisphere
To the other. Leonardo da Vinci
[Humphry] Davy had a real knack for finding new elements: eight in two years. Michael Mosley, The Story of Science: Proof & Passion, BBC 2010
Hoyle wanted to know where the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium had come from. He determined that stars acted like nuclear reactors, working in a similar fashion to a hydrogen bomb, but many billions of times more powerful. And their nuclear waste was new elements. It would be years before scientists were able to confirm his theory by analysing light from stars. Birth of the Universe, 2006
Iron is a very special atom. The protons and neutrons inside its nucleus are very tightly bound together. So that even the extreme temperatures inside stars couldn’t get it to fuse into heavier elements ... Forming these missing pieces would take some of the most powerful explosions the universe has ever seen. ibid.
We live in a world of incredible material variety yet everything we know – the stars, the planets, and life itself – comes from about ninety basic building blocks. Nova: Hunting The Elements I, PBS 2010
Yet all the gold ever mined would fit into a single cube about sixty feet on the side. ibid.
An ounce of gold for every ton of rock ... The surface mine produces less. ibid.
Protons may determine the identity of the element, but electrons rule its reactivity. ibid.
Phosphorus makes up about 1% of my six-foot-two-inch body. Nova: Hunting the Elements II
About 90% of all the atoms in the universe are hydrogen. ibid.
Silicon is the standard-bearer of the semi-conductors. ibid.
Different versions are called isotopes. ibid.
Plutonium was the first man-made element. ibid.