13. Aluminium: War Of The Words

Listen to some of the pointless arguments caused by element 13, and take a look at the argument-filled history of one sharp aluminum point.

Featured above: The Great Pyramid of America that would have held George Washington’s remains.

Show Notes

Heavy Metal: Morgan, from Verne’s novel, should have known better than to suggest copper after iron had been ruled out. Copper is three places to the right of iron on the periodic table, and almost 10% heavier than iron!

No Further Questions: The Wikipedia page for aluminium has been locked, banning further edits from anonymous contributors.

“Pyramidion” is one of those interesting words that has a very specific definition: The little pyramid at the top of an obelisk or pyramid. The one pictured above is the very one from the Washington Monument, during its short tenure at Tiffany’s in New York.

And here is Greenough’s version of Washington. Really, what remains to say that hasn’t been said already?

And below are two other possibilities for the Washington Monument: The originally proposed obelisk with colonnade, and a possible redesign following the twenty-year hiatus. (Click for big.)

Click To Read Transcript


  1. Astronautix, Jules Verne Moon Gun.
  2. Jules Verne, From The Earth To The Moon, pp. 37-38. 1865.
  3. Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Command Module, Apollo 8.
  4. Barnes & Noble, 5 Great Books Too Short For NaNoWriMo. Joel Cunningham, December 4, 2013.
  5. Wikipedia’s Talk page for Aluminium, various contributors.
  6. The Quarterly Review, Volume 8, p. 72. Various authors, 1813.
  7. The Critical Review, Or, Annals of Literature, p. 9. Tobias George Smollett, January 1811.
  8. Elementymology & Elements Multidict, Aluminium. Peter van de Krogt.
  9. See also the Episodic Table of Elements shows on magnesium and beryllium.
  10. The Disappearing Spoon, pp. 236-237. Sam Kean, 2010.
  11. 05:11, 19 April 2016 (UTC)
  12. Slate, Are You A Language Bully? Matthew J.X. Malady, September 5, 2014.
  13. History.com, 5 Things You Might Not Know About The Washington Monument. Elizabeth Nix, October 9, 2013.
  14. Vanity Fair, Watch Like An Egyptian. Bruce Handy, January 2008.
  15. Histories of the National Mall, Were There Any Alternate Designs For The Washington Monument?
  16. Smithsonian Legacies, George Washington, Sculpture By Horatio Greenough. 2001. Retrieved via archive.org.
  17. The Daily Beast, Weird Washington Monument History. William O’Connor, May 12, 2014.
  18. National Park Service History eLibrary, Construction Of The Washington Monument, First Phase 1848-56.
  19. National Park Service, Construction Of The Monument.
  20. Smithsonian.com, The Washington Monument Looks Like An Obelisk Because Of Egyptomania. Kat Eschner, December 6, 2016.
  21. The Member Journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, The Point Of A Monument: A History Of The Aluminum Cap Of The Washington Monument. George J. Binczewski, 47 (11) (1995), pp. 20-25.
  22. OfficialData.org.
  23. Wired, April 2, 1889: Aluminum Process Foils Steep Prices. Randy Alfred, April 2, 2008.
  24. The Economist, The Price Of Virtue. June 7, 2007.
  25. PeriodicTable.com, Aluminum. Theodore Gray.
  26. Stippy, The Fate Of The 1 Yen Coin – When Will It Lose Its Lustre In Japan? June 24, 2012.
  27. Washington Post: Wonkblog, The ‘I Before E, Except After C’ Rule Is A Giant Lie. Christopher Ingraham, June 28, 2017.

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