Beyond the periodic table
A ubiquitous sight in chemistry labs and classrooms around the world, the periodic table of elements celebrates its 150th birthday this year. When Dmitri Mendeleev published his first draft of the table in 1869, only 63 elements were known to science. Now there are 118. This week’s issue examines the past, present and future of the iconic chart — from the history of atomic ideas that pre-dated Mendeleev, to the difficulties researchers face in extending the table any further. The true organizational principle behind this arrangement of the elements is probed, as is its impact beyond the confines of science. Whatever the future may hold for the drive to create new superheavy elements, there is little doubt that efforts to explore the properties of elements will continue — a quest that owes a huge debt to Mendeleev and may ultimately take us beyond the periodic table.