Saturday, February 28, 2009

Serendipity and Design: The REAL Periodic Table

Sometimes beautiful things result from simple misunderstandings.

Serendipity has resulted in amazing things like the "discoveries" of Penicillin, Velcro, the microwave oven, and even chocolate chip cookies, as outlined in the book, Lucky Science: Accidental Discoveries From Gravity to Velcro.

Serendipity also helped in the creation of Theodore Gray's Periodic Table. Table as in piece of furniture.

Except that Mr. Gray created a piece of furniture for his office containing a sample of every element found in the scientific Periodic Table. Table as in a set of facts and figures.

While reading Oliver Sack's book Uncle Tungsten, Gray misunderstood a passage describing Sack's childhood remembrances about the Periodic Table display in the Kensington Science Museum. Even after he realized his mistake, Mr. Gray set out to create his marvelous table (pictured above with Oliver Sacks.)

As the saying goes, "Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow... " After realizing his scientific office furniture ambitions, Mr. Gray created a suitably impressive website concerning the Periodic Table and its constituent elements was created, with links to resources where you can purchase Periodic Table posters, individual element samples, or even an entire Period Table museum display if you should so desire.

So the next time you're messing around with an idea or a project and you make a "mistake" don't be too hasty in discarding it. You may be onto a serendipitously wonderful idea that you might never have discovered otherwise!

RELATED POSTING: "The Periodic Table of Videos"

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1 comment:

  1. Oh, Oliver Sacks listening for the little sound from the tungsten! So wonderful. If there is anything in science I love more than electricity and magnetism, it is the periodic table. Thanks, Paul! Jane