Getting to know the atoms, the assemblers of OSAU                           

The Profound Simplicity – I’ve listed the elements in their order of Z, the atomic numbers. That’s not unusual. It’s just a list that I’m sure many have seen before. But, until recently, I hadn’t really appreciated its profound significance! It’s not just a list of the elements.  It’s a list that shows the beautiful simplicity involved in the way OSAU has assembled, and continues to assemble itself with its building blocks of atomic nuclei and their atoms! This list is so profound I predict it will have a transforming effect on those who have processed it. I believe the process will affect how one thinks about their own existence on this planet and their own amazing place in OSAU, Our Self-Assembling Universe. At the very least, I believe that assimilating the meaning of the list can be a revelation and mind-blowing experience for all those that take the time to think about it. That’s certainly been the case for me!  

The list procedes as follows: One proton is hydrogen, two protons is helium, three protons is lithium, four protons is beryllium, 5 boron, 6 carbon, 7 nitrogen, 8 oxygen, 9 fluorine, 10 neon, 11 sodium, 12 magnesium, 13 aluminum, 14 silicon, 15 phosphorous, 16 sulfur, 17 chlorine, 18 potassium, 19 argon, 20 calcium, 21 scandium, 22 titanium, 23 vanadium, 24 chromium, 25 manganese, 26 iron, 27 cobalt, 28 nickel, 29 copper, 30 zinc, 31 gallium, 32?germanium, 33 arsenic, 34 selenium, 35 bromine, 36 krypton, 37 rubidium, 38 strontium, 39 yttrium, 40 zirconium, 41 niobium, 42 molybdenum, 43 technetium, 44 ruthenium, 45 rhodium, 46 palladium, 47 silver, 48 cadmium, 49 indium, 50 tin, 51 antimony, 52 tellurium, 53 iodine, 54 xenon, 55 protons is cesium, 56 protons is barium, etc., etc., etc. So beautifully simple, just one proton after another, just as simple as one, two, three, and yet, as it turns out, it’s really an ingenious and powerfully complex invention! It’s the key, essential part of the self-assembly of all of the building blocks needed to construct you and me and the entire rest of our Universe. Not only that, by taking just a few moments of one’s time, and by using just a little imagination, one can “experience” in real time, just as it occurred 13.8 billion years ago, the appearance of the first four nuclei of hydrogen, helium, lithium and beryllium as they show up in our Universe for the first time during the first twenty minutes of existence!

The Profound Complexity – Unlike the invariant  atomic numbers, Z, which I just described, and that identify each atom by referring only to the number of protons in each atomic nucleus, the mass numbers, A, can be variable since they are proton-plus-neutron counts. They are numbers that are often represented as the whole numbers that follow an atom’s atomic symbol. For example C-12 is the atomic symbol for carbon followed by the number 12. This is carbon’s mass number, but this is not its only mass number! It can also be carbon-13 or carbon-14! Why is that? Because, unlike atomic numbers, mass numbers include the neutrons in an atom’s nucleus and the number of neutrons in an atomic nucleus can vary to give rise to isotopes. In the periodic table mass numbers are often avoided by giving the atom’s actual recorded mass as measured from the pure element. Thus, the numbers given are fractional numbers that represent the invariant number of protons plus a mass-weighted average of the neutrons in an atom’s nucleus.  You might also find mass numbers that list an atom’s most prevalent isotope, just as I have incuded in my table listing all of the atoms according to their proton count.  And you might find it interesting, as I did, that based on the measurements listed by Scientific Instrument Services Al, As, Be, Bi, Cs, Co, F, Au, Ho, I, Mn, Nb, P, Pr, Rh, Sc, Na, Tb, Th, and Y are the only elements that have just one naturally occurring isotope! The others have one or more additional isotopes and some have a lot more.  In other words extra neutrons appear not to cause a big functional problem unless the extra neutrons or lack of neutrons make for unstable nuclei that form radioactive isotopes such as is the case for the beta-ray emitter, C-14, which is often used in research, versus the common C-12 isotope. In my warped quantum mechanics vernacular, neutrons increase the strong force to make it possible for protons to live next to each other. In my version neutrons act as shields or insulators that keep the repelling positively charged protons separated on the surface of spherical neutron core. Too few neutrons and the core is too small. Too many neutrons and the core creates instability for some reason. Why? I don’t know. And why some atoms have many isotopes with a number of acceptable neutron counts and mass numbers, and others have only one acceptable isotope, I haven’t, as yet, have a clue, but I aim to find out!

And find out, I just did this morning at 9 am on 9/5/16. And is it ever complicated! Pauli exclusion, shells, energy levels similar to those of electrons, spin coupling pairs, bosons, magic numbers. The bottom line, nuclei with even numbers of protons (Z numbers) are more stable and have more choice when it comes to neutron count, and, hence, can have more isotopes! But, if neutrons can stabilize an atomic nucleus by insulating or nullifying proton electrostatic-repulsion, why is there a limit to the number of neutrons found in atomic nuclei? Why do too many neutrons cause a nucleus to become unstable and radioactive?  For example, C-14 has two more neutrons than C-12.  C-12 is completely stable, where as C-14 is radioactive and slowly decays to N-14 by throwing off a beta-decay electron.  Apparently, neutrons are themselves unstable and, without the balancing presence of the right number of protons, they can throw off electrons to transform themselves into protons! So, it seems C-14 with two extra neutrons can throw off an electron to become N-14.  Might it be that a proton would pick up an escaping electron to become a compensating neutron if the proton happened to be adjacent to the electron-releasing neutron? Thus, in C-14 where there might not exist an adjacent proton neutron pair, a neutron releasing an electron could be transformed to a proton without a compensating adjacent proton to neutron transformation.  Maybe that’s the way it works?

Atoms proton order

I’ve also created a periodic table that just shows the proton count for each nucleus in the position that it would occur in the table.  For example, hydrogen and the alkali metals appear in the first column of the table so it kind of makes it easy to remember just how many protons are in each nucleus. H is 1 add 2 for Li and you get 3, add 8 more for Na and you get 11, add 8 more for K and you get 19, add 18 more for Rb and you get 37, add 18 more for Cs and you get 55, and 32 more for Fr and you get 87.  See the pattern as one goes across the table?  Makes it a little easier to see this way I think.


In my next blog I want to bring focus to the alkali metal and alkaline earth metal groups by comparing the two with my ping-pong ball models of atomic nuclei.

Why, at the ripe old age of 78, do I finally love and desperately want to get to know The Periodic Table of the Elements?

Why, indeed, good question!  I don’t know exactly, but it goes back to the feeling I first expressed in my book on OSAU #OSAUIA. I feel have been guided by a rainbow and by the very atoms that have me building their nuclear models with ping-pong balls!  Okay, I know that sounds crazy, but here’s the thing.  If atoms are the self-assembling builders of Our Universe and, surely, that’s the case, shouldn’t we all want to get to know them by name and get to know a little something, or maybe, even, a lot of something, about each one of them? I know I do. So, here goes, better late than never, right?

Starting with hydrogen and the alkali metals, the first column and group in the table, i.e., the goup I spent a lot of time writing about in my first book on OSAU, we have hydrogen, lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium, cesium and francium.  So far so good.  We know the first names of seven of the builders, and we know a little about each one. Also, we have our first clue as to why the periodic table is constructed the way it is.

I’m a biochemist but my background in inorganic chemistry sucks.  I made A’s in chemistry but I don’t remember spending any time with the periodic table.  It was just a list of the elements that was put together in some way that made inorganic chemists happy.  Ah, but now I see that it is REALLY important.  The table says a lot about the functions of the atoms and the way that our universe uses them to assemble itself!

In the first column of the table, where we see a listing of hydrogen and the alkali metals, we get to see that each of the atoms with one electron in their outermost shell can all behave in a similar way!  For example, the metals will each violently explode when their pure metallic forms are thrown into water!  And if you have not yet seen this, please take a look at these explostions on All of the alkali metals appear to make water boil, catch fire and explode! But, especially, you will  want to see what cesium does to a bathtub!  So, yes the periodic table can be very exciting and important to get to know, but it does obscure what appears to be an important, ingenious simplicity.  That is, it obscures the “one, two, three” method by which the elements have been assembled, to whit, the first element is hydrogen.  It has one proton.  The second element is helium.  It has two protons.  The third element is lithium.  It has three protons, etc., etc., etc.  And that’s the “simple”, ingenious way in which all of the elements have been assembled.  But try to see that in the periodic table. It’s not so obvious is it? And it leaves us with a question.  Why does the table look the way it does?  Anyway, a more useful way to see the simple pattern is just to list the elements by proton count.  In other words let’s, first, just list them by what the chemists refer to as the atomic number.





I just discovered “Imagine the Universe”!

“Imagine the Universe: Probing the Structure & Evolution of the Cosmos”,

What a great site!  They do an especially wonderful job of explaining how stars use their fantastic energy t0 assemble all of the atomic building-blocks larger than helium and lithium. Check out “Imagine the Universe”.  You will be glad you did! The authors and participating teachers in the program are truly imaginative and inspirational.  I sooo respect what they are doing!

However, I do think they have missed something important.  And this is not to be taken as a criticism but rather as further evidence that I have not been alone in failing to recognize the obvious truth.  To whit, just as I have done, until recently, they have been failing to recognize the amazing, clever, mind-boggling inventiveness of the star-factory, and they have been failing to recognize the responsible party.  That is, they haven’t recognized the-truly-not-credible-and-yet-it’s-true fact that our universe is assembling itself and     that the universe has made it possible for each of us to witness the fact of our own assembly by the approximately seven-octillion atoms that work together each day to put us together.

It’s true that our universe works at such extremes of atomic dimensions, time and space that the processes involved in assembly are hard to grasp and easily discounted.  And yet the processes are not unlike the processes of hypothesis-testing that scientists use in their own work.  It’s just that atoms are so extremely skilled, patient and tiny.  We humans work in hours.  The atoms work in billions of years.  We work in things that we can handle and see on a workbench.  They are tiny beyond imagination and yet their workbench is so gigantic that it can span millions and even billions of light-years.  Our experiments are easy to figure out.  Their experiments verge on the impossible.

For me, thoughts such as these bring new excitement, value and perspective to cosmology and atomic chemistry.  All of which makes me want to get my hands on the assembly process to the degree that I can.  My ping-pong ball models are helping me do just that, and my hope is that they can do the same for others.

Ping-pong balls are objects everyone can use to assemble their own models of atomic nuclei.  For me, doing so makes the universe more real. For example, holding an orange, 1.5-inch diameter model proton in my hands makes the proton more real.  I can see it.  I can hold it. I can feel it. Of course it’s not actually the real thing, but my imagination and the tactile sensation makes it feel real.  It also gives me a way to appreciate the incredible dimensions involved in the assembly processes.  I can do this by imagining that I am putting my orange ping-pong ball model of a proton in the center of Qualcom Stadium, and by seeing myself sitting in the upper-most row of the stadium as I squint in order to see my ping-pong ball on the fifty-yard line, and by visualizing the transformation of my ping pong ball into the hydrogen atom with the appearance of an imaginary electron force-field that surrounds the stadium and extends beyond it another half-mile!