Element Update: Work, War, And Art

Much of the information presented in these episodes will remain accurate despite the unrelenting march of time. For instance, the sun will continue burning hydrogen into helium for billions of years (unless we have a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of physics, but I’ll take that chance).

But other topics may benefit from further updates as time goes on. To that end, here’s the first in an ongoing series of Element Updates.


In episode four, I mentioned that the Obama administration finally proposed strict regulations on carcinogenic industrial metal beryllium at the very end of the term — only for the new administration to put a halt on all pending regulations.

This delayed the enactment of beryllium regulation until May 11, 2018, which is coming right up. It remains to be seen whether this regulation will be delayed again, finally enacted, or changed in some significant way.


In episode 7, I mentioned that “chemical weapons have never been used as widely as they were during World War I,” but that’s not to say they have not been used since then. Ongoing reports from Syria alleging the use of chlorine gas and other chemical weapons are a stark reminder that weapons of mass destruction are an inexorable part of modern warfare.


On a lighter note, I spoke about some art galleries dedicated to neon in episode ten. Coincidentally, my wife and I visited the Jewish Museum a couple days ago, and I was delighted to see that noble gases had made their way there, too. I took a couple photos (click for big):

To pick nits a bit, there’s probably actually no neon in these tubes at all. It’s likely argon, mercury, and maybe a couple others in there for good measure. After all, element ten imparts a blaze of crimson light, not these soft blues and greens. But we’ll get more into that that topic when we hit episode eighteen.

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