The Episodic Table Of Elements Holiday Special

♪ O chemistry, o chemistry, the study of all matter ♫

Featured above: Michael Faraday delivering one of his Christmas Lectures, 1856. You might be able to notice that I made one slight alteration.

Show Notes

I hope this episode comes to you as a pleasant surprise; nothing more, nothing less. I’ve come to accept that I’m not currently able to release new episodes at the cadence I used to. The program is just as important to me as it’s ever been — more so, really — and one reason I’m taking more time to release new episodes is because I want them to be episodes worth releasing.

But you lot have been exceedingly polite about that. I suppose all the toxicity is in the chemicals we talk about, because I’ve only ever received messages that rival Dickens’s in their kindness. I am so genuinely grateful for the listenership this show has attracted, including, and especially, you.

Now, how about a few notes on the content of the episode, eh?

First of all, it looks like the Royal Institution has just started posting videos of this year’s Christmas Lectures to their YouTube page. Enjoy!

The works by Faraday and Dickens that are so central to this episode can all be read for free, in full, by following these links:

I didn’t even get a chance to mention the Faraday Cage! It’s one of the most common ideas carrying Faraday’s name today, and it’s simple: A mesh or solid enclosure of electrically conductive material will block electrical charges from (most) electromagnetic fields. Sometimes you’ll see this applied as a shield for a passport or wallet.

Ne’er have I seen criticism that’s as petty as this while still clearly intended to be constructive:


Heh, one of my sources refers to the inventor of that ghost illusion as “Dr. Pepper” with a completely straight face.

As you might have noticed, Pepper occupied a middle ground between scientist and stage magician. He leaned a little more into the educational end of that spectrum, though. When he showed off a new illusion or special effect, he usually explained how it worked to the audience. Probably the closest we have today is the duo Penn & Teller.

Episode Script

No matter the occasion, location, or season, one holiday tradition that’s universal is the act of shining a light against the darkness. From menorahs to diyas, dēnglóng to strings of LEDs, and even the candles atop a birthday cake, everyone seems to agree that a good celebration involves illumination.

Of all, though, perhaps none is more eccentric than the bubble light.

First sold in the U.S. around the end of World War II, and especially popular through the 1970s, nothing else looks quite like a bubble light.1 2 A mushroom-shaped base contains a small incandescent light bulb and holds a needle-like glass vial of methylene chloride. The light bulb provides just enough heat for the volatile liquid to boil. This ampule of simmering colored liquid, lit from below by the brownish green-red of the glowing base, might look like a Halloween bauble to the unfamiliar eye, but to me, it’s a hallmark of Christmas.

Knowing my personal affection for these obscure oddities, my wife, Meena, recently gave me a bubble light as an early present, and I was touched by how perfectly it embodies the spirit of holiday gift-giving: it’s not ostentatious, it simply shows how well the giver listens, and how much they care.

And so, dear listener, whatever you celebrate this season, I proffer this special episode, in the humble hopes that I might do the same for you.

You’re listening to The Episodic Table Of Elements, and I’m T. R. Appleton. Each episode, we take a look at the fascinating true stories behind one element on the periodic table.

Or at least, that’s what we usually do. But today, you and I are pulling a Christmas cracker and broadening the curriculum ever-so-slightly. foley: Christmas cracker sound followed by party horns

Lest you suspect the pretense for this episode might be a bit contrived, I’d like to tell you about a longstanding and beloved precedent for celebrating the season with science. For this, we can thank Michael Faraday.

We’ve met Mr. Faraday before. You might remember him from the iodine episode, in which he acted as chronicler during Humphry Davy’s wartime visit to Napoleonic France. I’m ashamed to admit, however, that we haven’t discussed him at much greater length than this, even though his incredible scientific career had barely begun at that point.

Widely seen as Humphry Davy’s successor by both appointment and ability, Faraday was a legend of physics and chemistry. He discovered benzene, an organic chemical that’s a critical part of countless modern industrial processes. He essentially founded the field of nanoscience. Most of all, he was fascinated by electricity and magnetism, doing groundbreaking research on induction and electrolysis, and he invented some of the world’s first electrical generators and motors.3 4 5

Yet for all his scientific genius, Faraday possessed an even greater skill: He was an effective communicator.6

He didn’t merely understand the various physical and chemical phenomena that he studied. He was also able to convey that understanding to other people — other scientists, of course, but also to the general public. He was hired by the Royal Institution in 1821, where he gave lectures to spellbound audiences. These lectures weren’t just for university students, but anyone who wanted (and could afford) to attend.

To some degree, he was a natural born teacher. But he also cared a great deal about the art of the lecture, and was both student and teacher of the form his entire career. “A lecturer should appear easy and collected,” he once wrote to a friend. “His whole behavior should evince respect for his audience,” and “he should never … turn his back on them, but give them full reason to believe that all his powers have been exerted for their pleasure and instruction.”7 8 Several more pages of similar guidance reveal just how much consideration he devoted to his performances.9

Maybe Faraday was so passionate about education because he never received a formal one. Born in 1791, his father was a blacksmith, and at age 14, Michael became an apprentice at a bookbindery — an opportunity that would set the course of his life. While there, he read voraciously, and the Encyclopedia Britannica article on electricity especially intrigued him. He conducted experiments in the shop, and one amused customer gave Davy tickets to a few of Humphry Davy’s lectures. Afterward, he wrote an adoring letter to Davy, who was so impressed that he hired the boy as his valet.10

What little schooling he had, the books he read, the lectures he attended, and the experiments he performed were his only education until Davy took him under his wing. Admittedly, that’s one incredible leg up, but he earned it honestly.

In 1825, Faraday established a special series that would become his most visible legacy: The Christmas Lectures. 11 Held during December, these symposia would be held for a younger audience than usual — in fact, they were officially referred to as “a set of Twenty two Lectures on Natural Philosophy suited to a Juvenile Auditory, during the Christmas … [recess].”12 (You can see why “The Christmas Lectures” caught on quickly.)

Said one contemporary,

…[Faraday] never allowed his ideas to outrun their intelligence. He took great delight in talking to them, and easily won their confidence. The vivacity of his manner and of his countenance, and his pleasant laugh, the frankness of his whole bearing attracted them to him. They felt as if he belonged to them ; and indeed he sometimes, in his joyous enthusiasm, appeared like an inspired child.”

Though they may have been meant for “juveniles,” the program became popular with people of all ages, and was soon one of the most fashionable happenings one could attend in Victorian London.

A scientist named John Millington gave the inaugural lecture, and over the years, some of the brightest minds in the world took the spotlight, like John Tyndall, James Dewar, and William and Lawrence Bragg. But nobody presented more frequently than the man himself.13 14 Between 1827 and 1860, Michael Faraday was the headliner nineteen times.

Most of the early lectures are lost to history, in terms of their content. Speakers used handwritten notes only ever meant for themselves, and it appears that little thought was given to preservation at first. Luckily for us, the situation was very different by the time Faraday gave what’s probably his most famous demonstration, entitled, “The Chemical History Of A Candle.”15

In this lecture, Faraday introduced his students to the subject of chemistry by describing how a candle produces a flame, but it’s also much more than that. Through this talk, he attempted to instill in his audience a scientific way of thinking, and invited them to join in a wide-eyed, wondrous celebration of the natural world. In the opening, he declared,

There is not a law under which any part of this universe is governed which does not come into play and is touched upon in these phenomena. There is no better, there is no more open door by which you can enter into the study of natural philosophy than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle.”

Throughout the lecture, he explained how knowledge of the candle’s combustion can further one’s understanding of processes like metabolism, the brewing of beer, the rusting of iron, and the way we breathe.

We have better records after the first few years partly because publishers quickly took note of the occasion’s popularity, and suggested that transcribing the presentations could be a fruitful endeavor. On May 28th, 1850, one such publisher wrote the following letter to Faraday:

Dear Sir

I take the liberty of addressing you as if I knew you personally; trusting that I may venture to assume that you will excuse that freedom.

It has occurred to me that it would be extremely beneficial to a large class of the public, to have some account of your late lectures on the breakfast-table, and of those you addressed last year, to children. I should be exceedingly glad to have some papers in reference to them, published in my new enterprize [sic] “Household Words”. May I ask you whether it would be agreeable to you,–and, if so, whether you would favor me with the loan of your notes of those Lectures for perusal?

I am sensible that you may have reasons of your own, for reserving the subject to yourself. In that case, I beg to assure you that I would on no account approach it.

With great respect and esteem, I remain Dear Sir

Your faithful Servant

Charles Dickens”16

You heard that correctly: The author of A Christmas Carol, the very inventor of the modern holiday,17 wrote exceptionally gracious fan mail to the scientist Michael Faraday.

And Faraday agreed. He sent his extensive and irreplaceable handwritten notes to Dickens, who collaborated with another writer to adapt and publish them as a series of short stories in his weekly magazine, Household Words. These stories conveyed scientific information from the lectures, but in a slightly different format: Young, eager, and frankly precocious pupil Harry Wilkinson has just attended a lecture by none other than Professor Faraday, and relays all he’s learned to his well-to-do Uncle Bagges.18

Dickens did a lot to bring science to the masses like this,19 20 and it seems that this was not all the inspiration Faraday provided for the author. A few years prior, he had written The Haunted Man And The Ghost’s Bargain, one of his many holiday stories featuring a ghostly character. That, however, is where the similarities with A Christmas Carol end.

The titular “Haunted Man” is Redlaw, who was no miser, but rather, “as the world knew, far and wide, a learned man in chemistry, and a teacher on whose lips and hands a crowd of aspiring ears and eyes hung daily.” His haunter is no apparition of a recently passed friend, nor even the embodiment of some appropriate ideal, and it does not have the protagonist’s salvation in mind. Instead, “the Phantom” is Redlaw’s doppelganger, a twisted twin who proposes a diabolical deal.

“Hear what I offer,” it shrieks. “Forget the sorrow, wrong, and trouble you have known! … I have the power to cancel their remembrance…”

Redlaw gives in to temptation, and naturally, soon finds that he got more than he bargained for. It’s a bit like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but with characteristic Dickensian gloom and a far less ambiguous ending.

Writing for the Royal Society Of Chemistry (no relation), Dr. Rupert Cole suggests that Redlaw “was likely inspired by Michael Faraday,” since his lectures were already enormously popular by then.21

If you’ve never heard of this particular story before, there’s good reason. Critical reception was generally unkind, with one review calling it “extremely silly and dull,” and concluding by saying,

Let us have a few more returns of Christmas, and Mr. Dickens will have destroyed his reputation as a tale-writer.  We earnestly recommend him to quit the Twenty-fifth of December, and take to the First of April.”22

Don’t worry, though, Mr. Dickens was just fine. The reading public purchased 18,000 copies of the book on release day alone — triple the day one sales of A Christmas Carol.23 24 25

It might not have the staying power as some of Dickens’ other works, but it remained widely read for years, and was occasionally performed as a play. Fittingly for a tale informed by scientific innovation, one of those performances became a showcase for further scientific innovation… or perhaps magic.

From 1837, the Royal Polytechnic Institution (no relation) had a lecture hall just down the street from the Royal Institution, and started out as a similarly genteel establishment. That didn’t last long, though. By the 1850s, it had earned a reputation for spectacle. The exhibition hall was littered with gadgets and gizmos aplenty, from kaleidoscopes and photographic equipment to an enormous, functional diving bell, and a glowing fountain of arcing electric effluvia.26 27 28 And the lecture hall was just as likely to accommodate a stage play as a science lesson.29

As one might expect, the theater chose its productions based on their potential for spectacle more than their dramatic merit. More James Cameron than James Baldwin. So when they decided to put on The Haunted Man And The Ghost’s Bargain, it wasn’t to spread the Christmas spirit. It was because they had a crackerjack new special effect for that ghost.

Henry Dircks and John Pepper were the artists who designed the effect, and it worked like this: One actor was on the dimly lit stage. Another was in the orchestra pit, brightly lit, but out of sight of the audience. An angled sheet of glass hung above the orchestra pit. Hopefully the audience didn’t notice the glass, which would reflect an image of the illuminated actor below, making it look like his incorporeal form shared the stage with his costar.

The show opened on Christmas Eve, 1862,30 31 and it was a smash hit. A review in The Times wrote,

The spectres and illusions are thrown upon the stage in such a perfect embodiment of real substance, that it is not till the Haunted Man walks through their apparently solid forms that the audience can believe in their being optical illusions at all.”32

A critic at The Observer praised how realistic the ghost looked, declaring the performance to be “one of the sights which all London will go to see.”33

And indeed, they did! The play ran for fifteen months, shown in front of a quarter million people, and bringing in the 2023 equivalent of 1.2 million pounds.34 35 36

In case you think I’m being unfair to Dickens and giving all the credit to Dircks and Pepper, one newspaper wrote of the show, “It was never really a success, and without its new attraction it would not now hold the stage for a single week.”37

Pepper and Dircks did not invent this effect. It’s been described at least as far back as the 16th century, when Italian playwright Giambattista della Porta wrote Magia Naturalis.38 It had never been pulled off very well, though, only ever used for peephole dioramas. Dircks spent years refining the technique, and Pepper perfected it. The two tried to share the credit for their brainchild, but newspapers often failed to mention Henry Dircks. Maybe it’s because he called it his “Dircksian Phantasmagoria” — quite a mouthful compared to the name it did acquire, the same by which it’s known today: “Pepper’s Ghost.”39

You’ve probably witnessed this trick in some form, even if you didn’t realize it. It’s commonly used in amusement park dark rides, most famously Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Some entertainment companies have tried to repackage the Victorian-age tech as “holograms,” promising to bring famous musical artists back from the dead to perform onstage. Less controversially, some mixed-reality headsets use the effect, and so do the heads-up displays in some newer fancy cars. Older technology applies the effect, too. Actors and politicians have benefited from Pepper’s Ghost since 1950, when the teleprompter was invented.

The Royal Polytechnic Institution continued hosting scientific exhibitions of all kinds, but held its last Christmas show in 1871.40 Right down the street, though, the Royal Institution has continued its grand tradition of Christmas Lectures. Speakers have included Kevin Fong, Richard Dawkins, David Attenborough, and Carl Sagan. Except for a (completely understandable) hiatus during World War II, the Institution has provided yuletide science to the masses for nearly two straight centuries.

For 2023, Professor Mike Wooldridge will dispel some of the mystique surrounding artificial intelligence and ask, “Can AI ever truly be like us, or are humans unique?”41 Thanks to the miracle of streaming video, you can join generations of Brits and gather the whole family ’round for a little egg nog, good cheer, and scientific inquiry — no matter where you are.

You may wonder if the holiday season presents any unique opportunities for element acquisition. I’m afraid it really doesn’t.

If anything, the winter holidays are becoming less chemically diverse. For one brief midcentury moment, aluminum Christmas trees were a bit of a fad, but there aren’t too many of those anymore. Even traditional trees used to be trimmed with tinsel — the real stuff, not that wimpy plastic stuff you can buy now. No, back in the 1700s, boughs would be weighed down with strips of real, bona fide silver! Now, it’s true, that can be a little expensive, so copper, aluminum, and lead were popular alternatives for many years.42

Sadly, there were better uses for copper — especially during times of war — and aluminum ribbon, amazingly, increased the flammability of the dry, resin-packed conifer adorned with candles. As for lead, need I say more?

Well, maybe I do. In 1959, Pennsylvania’s Pottstown Mercury newspaper printed a front page article raising awareness of the hazardous chemicals in some popular Christmas decorations, even warning that the methylene chloride in bubble lights can be fatal if swallowed. And yet, despite the widespread sale of plumbous tree trimmings, the same article confidently declared, “Tinsel is fairly safe, because even if the kiddies should decide to swallow it, it will not cause poisoning.”43

The tinsel industry voluntarily ended production of lead decorations in 1972, at the Food and Drug Administration’s polite suggestion.44

We’re left to celebrate the holidays with a lot of CHON — that’s C. H. O. N., carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen. Carbohydrates are heavily involved whether you’re eating laddoos or latkes; candles burn hydrocarbons and oxygen,45 and let’s not forget all those H, O; H, O; H Os. Aside from those rare aluminum specimens, what is a Christmas tree but one resplendent display of carbon — whether they’re natural or artificial?46

Even rudolphomycin is nothing more than C42H54N2O16!

I shouldn’t mislead you, though. While there is plenty to say about rudolphomycin — it’s made by cultures of the Actino sporangium bacteria, it’s an antibiotic, and it’s an antitumor agent — it is absolutely not named after Santa’s ninth reindeer.47

Rather, rudolphomycin was discovered alongside similar compounds named marcellomycin, musettamycin, and mimimycin, which are among the components of bohemic acid. Any opera fans out there might have figured it out: Researcher Donald Nettleton named these compounds after characters from Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La Boheme. (His four daughters were also named after opera characters, and when he ran out of daughters, he continued the practice with molecules.)48

There is one last twist, though: that same team discovered a new kind of sugar within rudolphomycin. Sugars are given names ending in -ose: glucose, fructose, et cetera.49 For this one… well, I’ll let the authors speak for themselves: “In view of the origin of this sugar we propose the trivial name rednose…”50

We shouldn’t consider this a loss, though. Instead, let”s act in the spirit of the season, focusing less on collecting elements for ourselves and more on giving elements to the people we love. After all, everyone is kind of an element collector, whether or not they call themselves one. I’m sure no one would scoff at a gift of elements 47 or 79, nor one containing a chip of silicon. And despite the element’s Christmastime reputation, you could make someone very happy by presenting them with a sizable lump of carbon.

Thanks for listening to The Episodic Table of Elements. Music is by Kai Engel. To read the full tale of The Haunted Man or Faraday’s lectures, visit episodic table dot com slash holiday.

I will continue to release episodes on an irregular schedule, but no matter the length between episodes, rest assured that I am not leaving the periodic table behind. I’m very grateful to have you as a listener.

Next time, we’ll hear how Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn spent their Christmas break with neptunium.

Until then, this is T. R. Appleton, wishing you warm, healthy, and very happy holidays.


  1. Christmas Collectibles, p. 27 – 30. Tracy Martin, 2010.
  2. Christmas Wishes: A Catalog Of Holiday Treats & Treasures, p. 120 – 125. Tim Hollis, 2010.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica, Michael Faraday. L. Pearce Williams et al., last updated November 9, 2023.
  4. Science History Institute Museum & Library, Michael Faraday. Last updated December 14, 2023.
  5. The Electrochemical Society, Birth Of Electrochemistry.
  6. James, F. A. J. L. (2002). “Never talk about science,show it to them”: the lecturete theatre of the Royal Institution. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 27(3), 225–229. doi:10.1179/030801802225003178
  7. The Life And Letters Of Michael Faraday, p. 65.
  8. Morus, I. R. (2010). Worlds of Wonder: Sensation and the Victorian Scientific Performance. Isis, 101(4), 806–816. doi:10.1086/657479
  9. p. 233.
  10. The New York Times, ‘A Life Of Discovery’: A Valet To His Hero. Timothy Ferris, March 13, 2005.
  11. Chemistry World, Faraday’s Famous Lectures. Bill Griffith, November 21, 2011.
  12. Christmas At The Royal Institution, p. xvi. Frank A. J. L. James et al., 2007.
  13. Christmas At The Royal Institution, p. xvii – xix. Frank A. J. L. James et al., 2007.
  14. BBC Science Focus, The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: A Brief History. December 20, 2012.
  15. Scientific American, Christmas With Faraday: The Chemical History Of A Candle. Jennifer Ouellette, December 25, 2011.
  16. The Selected Letters Of Charles Dickens, p. 216. Edited by Jenny Hartley, February 2, 2012.
  17. Pursuit, Did Charles Dickens Invent Christmas? Ken Gelder, December 20, 2022.
  18. The Chemistry Of A Candle, Household Words Vol. I, p. 439-444. Percival Leigh and Charles Dickens.
  19. Charles Dickens Museum, Dickens’s Scientific Interest. Jaanuja Sriskantha, June 16, 2021.
  20. NPR, A Twist On Charles Dickens: He Was A Public Health Pioneer Too. Joanne Silberner, July 5, 2018.
  21. Royal Society Of Chemistry, Victorian Christmas Chemistry. Rupert Cole, December 21, 2018.
  22. Macphail’s Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Journal And Literary Review Volumes 5-6, p. 426, 431. 1848.
  23. Smithsonian Magazine, Why Charles Dickens Wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’.  Kat Eschner, December 19, 2016.
  24. Vox, A Christmas Carol Is A Defense Of Charity — And Capitalism. Brandon Ambrosino, last updated December 25, 2015.
  25. The Victorian Web, The Last Of Dickens’s Five Christmas Books: The Haunted Man And The Ghost’s Bargain. Philip V. Alingham.
  26. Cables And Coils And Gassiot Cascades: That’s What Electrical Bodies Are Made Of, Iwan Rhys Morus. Dans Annales historiques de l’électricité 2010/1 (N° 8), p. 105 à 117.
  27. Londonist, The Victorian Science Museum Where Prince Albert Was Dunked. Laurence Scales, last updated April 16, 2021.
  28. Reading Victorian Illusions: Dickens’s “Haunted Man” and Dr. Pepper’s “Ghost”, Helen Groth. Victorian Studies, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Autumn, 2007), pp. 43-65.
  29. The Guardian,Science And Christmas: A Forgotten Victorian Romance. Rupert Cole, December 14, 2012.
  30. p. 5.
  31. Jeremy Brooker (2007) THE POLYTECHNIC GHOST, Early Popular Visual Culture, 5:2, 189-206, DOI: 10.1080/17460650701433517
  32. Reading Victorian Illusions: Dickens’s “Haunted Man” and Dr. Pepper’s “Ghost”, Helen Groth. Victorian Studies, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Autumn, 2007), p. 43-65.
  33. p. 143.
  34., Raising A Modern Ghost: The Magic Lantern And The Persistence Of Wonder In The Victorian Education Of The Senses. They in turn cite Judith Flanders’ book Consuming Passions, but I couldn’t get a hold of the book to verify.
  35. London 1849: A Victorian Murder Story, p. 138. Michael Alpert, 2014.
  36. Bank Of England Inflation Calculator.
  37. p. 24.
  38. A Companion To Digital Art, p. 88. Edited by Christiane Paul and Dana Arnold, 2022.
  39. this very book.
  40. p. 86.
  41. The Royal Institution, The Truth About AI.
  42. The Atlantic, Don’t Lick The Tinsel. Cari Romm, December 21, 2015.
  43. The Mercury, Hidden Dangers Revealed: Care With Holiday Trimming Will Insure A Happy Christmas. December 9, 1959.
  44. Consumer Safety Act of 1972: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Executive Re-organization and Government Research …, 92-2, on Titles I and II of S. 3419, April 20, 21; May 3 and 4, 1972, p. 155.
  45. You can read The Chemical History Of A Candle if you need more information on that!
  46. The Washington Post, Are Real Or Artificial Christmas Trees Better For The Environment? Allyson Chiu, November 25, 2022.
  47. p. 64-65.
  48. More Molecules With Silly Or Unusual Names. Paul May, 1997-2021.
  49. LibreTexts Chemistry, 24.1: Names And Structures Of Carbohydrates. Dietmar Kennepohl, Steven Farmer, and William Reusch, last modified July 14, 2020.
  50. Doyle, T. W., Nettleton, D. E., Grulich, R. E., Balitz, D. M., Johnson, D. L., & Vulcano, A. L. (1979). Antitumor agents from the bohemic acid complex. 4. Structures of rudolphomycin, mimimycin, collinemycin, and alcindoromycin. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 101(23), 7041–7049. doi:10.1021/ja00517a044

16 Replies to “The Episodic Table Of Elements Holiday Special”

  1. Thank you for the special episode, a very appreciated gift to put under the tree:-)
    you know, the only thing I really don’t like of this podcast, is that it covers a finite list of elements, and so is bound to finish due to lack of protagonists… but, you can work on tones of special , can’t you? 🙂
    Merry Christmas from Italy

  2. An astronomy but related chemistry question:

    I know the r-process produces about half of the atoms heavier than iron; there a little-known fact that the other half is produced by the s-process.

    The difference is that the r-process rapidly captures neutrons, which happens in supernovae and when two neutron stars collide together. The s-process occurs in AGB red giants and occurs when a neutron slowly captures a nucleus.

    I know that the sun is not massive enough for a supernova or neutron star, but when it goes AGB 12 billion years in the future, will it use the s-process to create elements heavier than iron?

    1. BTW, is tantalum really is the rarest stable atom in the entire universe, besides uranium (which is known to be radioactive but long-lived) and where is is produced in the universe and why it is so rare?

      Also can black holes proform nucleosynthesis?

      Michelle Vu

      P.S It’s been I long time since I last saw you!

        1. There’s some debate about the rarest stable element in the universe, but tantalum is a commonly cited contender! Regarding black holes, I’m not sure, but I think they probably do not cause any significant amount of nucleosynthesis — a black hole is usually formed after a star has run out of atoms it can fuse together.

          1. also have you also answer the inital question about the sun producing elements heavier than oxygen in the far future; the s-process

  3. May I congratulate you on an excellent series of presentations. You have
    really brought the Periodic Table to Life. Eagerly awaiting the rest right up to
    No. 118.


    Billy Walsh

    1. I appreciate your concern! I’ve been spread a little thin since the holiday special, but I’m also making good progress on the next episode. It’s going to be a long one!

      1. I’m glad it’s still happening! I’ve started listening this month and I’m on episode 18 today 🙂

        1. Thank you so much for listening! I hope you enjoy each episode and that there might be more waiting for you by the time you get up to 92. 🙂

  4. I know I’m a little late to the party but I’ve been binging this podcast for the last few weeks at the lab and finally got caught up!! Your podcast is truly the most fascinating and enjoyable podcast I’ve ever listened to. Some days at work are rough but the episodes of your podcast definitely help make it bearable. Thanks for all the hard work you do to put the show together!!! I really can’t put into words how much I’ve enjoyed every episode!!!

  5. TR Appleton— Just found this podcast and am sharing instantly with Mary and Tom. Grateful for your work. Thank you.

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