What if you took your school assignment to the next level and decided to collect physical samples of as many elements as possible?
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How far into the periodic table could you get? Would you be breaking any laws? At what point would your periodic table start killing you?

Vial of glowing ultrapure hydrogen. Image Source: Jurii on Wiki Commons

If you’re willing to spend $1,700, you could actually buy a ready-made set of the elements online. But where is the fun in that if you can make your own collection from scratch?

Argon tube. Image Source: Pslawinski on Wiki Commons

Scrape off the layer of copper on a penny minted after 1982 – and you’ll get pure zinc. Take apart a few batteries for carbon rods. Tear down smoke detectors for americium.

In the end, you could even pull some pure gold from your old cell phone. No matter how you collect your elements, you should always keep them in their sealed bottles. But what if you didn’t?

A magnesium ribbon burns. Image Source: WIki Commons

What if out of curiosity you decided to put all 118 elements together to resemble the actual table without any glass barriers?

Helium tube. Image Source: Alchemist-hp on Wiki Commons

There are seven rows in the periodic table. Starting on the first row, hydrogen and helium wouldn’t cause you any trouble, aside from them rising upward and dispersing right away.

A hydrogen balloon explodes. Image Source: Maxim Bilovitskiy on Wiki Commons

These elements are just like your introvert friend who always leaves the party before it gets good.

Beryllium. Image Source: Alchemist-hp on Wiki Commons

Next, the second row. If you weren’t careful enough, you’d start coughing and have difficulty breathing.

Scientists test beryllium in a quantum computer. Credit: Y. Colombe/NIST

That’s what beryllium poisoning looks like.


At this point you should consider wearing a gas mask, since you’d also have yellow fluorine gas spreading on the ground and burning everything it touches.

People enjoy oxygen bars. Image Source: Phil Whitehouse on Flickr

Other elements of the second row are harmless.

Roses frozen in nitrogen.

Neon would simply float away, while oxygen and nitrogen would be drifting around until they disperse.

A neon sign at the Dagaly Baths in Budapest, Hungary.

You wouldn’t stop at just two rows, would you?

Image Source: Wiki Commons

No. So, let’s move to the third one. It would burn you with fire.

Sulfur. Image Source: Didier Descouens on Wiki Commons

Sulfur normally doesn’t do anything bad other than stink.

Image Source: Maksym Kozlenko on Wiki Commons

But with fluorine and chlorine by its side, it would immediately catch fire.

White phosphorus.

On top of that, white phosphorus would spontaneously burst into hot flames that would be very hard to extinguish. Maybe you ought to just stick to doing chemistry class experiments… Instead, with your lab on fire, you’d decide to go on and stack the fourth row. Fine.

Potassium reacts with water. Image Source: Tavoromann on Wiki Commons

Adding potassium to the mix would set the arsenic on fire, too, releasing large amounts of arsenic trioxide. You sure don’t want to inhale that toxic stuff. There would be some interesting effects though.

Aluminum. Image Source: Temdor on Wiki Commons

As the elements on your periodic table were reacting to each other, aluminium would become as soft as wet paper.


Sulfur would stop smelling so bad. But if you weren’t careful, exposure to toxic smoke would have already killed you. These toxic elements would “eat” your body – and your mask too! You could sue your gas mask producer.

Image Source: Alchemist-hp on Wiki Commons

But you’re too smart to die so early in the experiment… you’d be watching from a safe distance – and you’d live to stack the fifth row.

Image Source: x768 on Flickr

This row would be much like the fourth, except for one thing – say hello to the first radioactive element in your collection – technetium. You still alive over there? Well, the next row of the table would fix that, no matter how far or how careful you were.

Radon decay in a cloud chamber. Image Source: Nuledo on Wiki Commons

Because the sixth row contains radon, polonium, promethium and astatine – all radioactive elements that you don’t want anywhere near you.

Marie and Pierre Curie study radiation. Image Source: Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust.

Ever. Stacking them together would result in a massive explosion and a cloud of toxic fire and dust. In a matter of milliseconds, you’d get a lethal dose of radiation.

Scientists study alpha rays from polonium.

You and the city that might’ve sued you for conducting such an experiment.

Image Source: Wiki Commons

At that point, there would be no one left to add the seventh row to your periodic table.

That’s probably for the best, since most of its elements are so unstable they can’t exist longer than a few minutes.

They would radioactively decay into elements that also decay.

Wonder what that looks like?

Image Source: US Navy

The reactions from adding the 7th row would be like a nuclear bomb exploding over and over again.

A mushroom cloud would rise over the area.

It wouldn’t be just radioactive fallout, it would leave the radioactive footprint of thousands of Chernobyl disasters.

So, if you want to pick a new hobby, keep in mind that there are a lot better things to collect.

Tungsten filament.

Facts About The Periodic Table:

Bismuth sample. Image Source: Kota Thomas A. Wharton via Wiki Commons

Dmitri Mendeleev was not the inventor of the first modern periodic table; his was simply the first to gain wide acceptance by the scientific community.

Gold and copper. Image Source: Wiki Commons

Rows in the periodic table are called periods.

Cesium crystals. Image Source: Dnn87 on Wiki Commons

Technetium was the first element to be made artificially.

Yttrium. Image Source: Alchemist-hp on Wiki Commons

Columns on the periodic table are called groups.

Strontium atomic clock. Image Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

The present periodic table has room for 118 elements.

Studying uranium. Image Source: US Department of Energy

Most elements on the periodic tables are metals.

Image Source: Wiki Commons

When argon was discovered in 1894, it and the other noble gases didn’t fall into the categories Mendeleyev had originally came up with, so he denied their existence.

90 of the elements on the periodic table are found in nature.

Source: Neda Glisovic on Wiki Commons
Neda Glisovic
Image Source: Neda Glisovic on Wiki Commons

19 of the elements were created by scientists in laboratories.

Source: Wiki Commons

Hydrogen is the first element on the periodic table because it has only one proton in its nucleus.

Source: K. Shimada

There are eighteen groups (or columns) on the periodic table.

Image Source: Wiki Commons

The only letter that does not appear on the periodic table is J.

Carbon. Image Source: Zephyris on Wiki Commons

Organic chemistry is a branch of chemistry entirely devoted to the element carbon and its compounds.

Image Source: Wiki Commons

Hydrogen is the lightest and most commonly found element in the periodic table.

Image Source: MarlonMarin1 on Wiki Commons

Francium is the least-commonly found element on the periodic table.


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