Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Periodic Table

Originally written on March 6, 2009

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, today is the anniversary of the birth of the Periodic Table, developed by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, and presented on this day, March 6, 140 years ago.

There's a lot of interesting stuff about the Periodic Table, if you happen to be interested in that sort of thing, which I mildly am, but it makes for boring reading. So instead I will write about Mendeleev's role in formulating the standards for the production of vodka.

In 1893, Mendeleev was appointed Director of the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Mendeleev's fascination with molecular weights led him to conclude that to be in perfect molecular balance, vodka should be produced in the ratio of one molecule of ethyl alcohol diluted with two molecules of water. It is nice to know that Russians have been getting drunk in the proper ratio for the last century.

Also, the Mendeleev crater on the Moon was named after Dmitri Mendeleev. I do not know why.

So, happy birthday, Periodic Table, with your elements and your atomic masses, and your predictability of elements yet to be discovered. And to you, Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, Ваше здоровье (pronounced "vashe zdorovie." Here's to your health). You've been dead for 102 years, but that's the only Russian toast I know.

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