In producing this show, I collect research from a wide variety of sources, both online and from the local library. (These sources are provided in the show notes for each episode!) They range from the chemistry and history textbooks you would expect to personal correspondence and Shakespeare’s plays. Collected here are some of the books and websites that I refer to most frequently, for anyone interested in doing their own research.
First and foremost, it’s very helpful to have a periodic table to reference when working on a show about chemistry, and it can provide some good context while listening, too! Ptable.com is my favorite on the internet, presenting a dynamic table that looks good on practically any device. It’s also straight to the point when you just need a quick visual reference, but offers a truly shocking depth of information, too. Practically any data you could want to know about an element, you’ll be able to find on Ptable.
Chances are good that if you’re here, you’re already familiar with Brady Haran’s legendary series of chemistry lessons, Periodic Videos. Professor Martyn Poliakoff is the truly delightful host of the series and is at least as fascinating as any of the subjects he’s presenting. Haran, meanwhile, is an astonishingly prolific video creator, with several other series worth checking out.
Here is a website that deliberately includes no scientific data whatsoever about any chemical element — but a wealth of information about their names. This is the single more comprehensive and exhaustive source on that particular subject I’ve found anywhere, whether online or in print.
Maxim Bilovitskiy is an Estonian video blogger who creates some amazing work showcasing the elements and various chemical reactions for his YouTube channel, Thoisoi. Graciously, he caters to his English-speaking audience by translating all his videos and posting them to his Thoisoi2 channel. He often provides fascinating information that can’t be found in many other places. Bilovitskiy insists that he’s not a chemist, but I suppose to disagree would be to get rather philosophical, wouldn’t it?
This isn’t as robust a resource as some of the others here, but it does one thing very well: Illustrates the ways in which every element is put to use. Granted, not every element can be put to use, so those are left blank.
Above all, this book consists of gorgeous photography. I’ve found it a great starting place to find inspiration and jumping-off points for my research, and it’s an essential read for any aspiring element collector.
Gray’s website offers much of the same information for free, if you’re more concerned with research than aesthetic enjoyment.
Sam Kean’s book was incredibly popular upon publication in 2010, and part of my job in creating The Episodic Table of Elements is to ensure I produce a show that stands apart from similar works. The Disappearing Spoon casts a long shadow, but for good reasons. It’s thoroughly entertaining and readable, and Kean was able to dig up a lot of stories that other writers might have missed.
Despite being published within a year of The Disappearing Spoon, and covering a largely similar subject matter, this book stands on its own with the tales it tells. I take this as a good sign that there are simply so many stories to tell in this arena that no single work can hope to cover them all. At any rate, Periodic Tales is a great companion to Kean’s book, and hopefully, this podcast, too.
This is an excellent resource on the chemical elements, more encyclopedic than narrative driven. It’s also arranged in alphabetical order, which can be more convenient when looking for information on a specific element. This book is chock-full of scientific data and interesting trivia.