After spending so much time learning facts about elements, reading books about elements, playing with ptable (https://ptable.com/), and pretending to be elements, I suppose Benji would inevitably want to start collecting physical samples of elements.
That day has arrived, with Himalayan peaks of excitement and Mariana Trench depths of despair.
Last night Benji adamantly insisted he WOULD begin collecting elements that very moment. In a rare moment of logic, I managed to convince him to plan out how he would organize them, where the would go, etc., before dashing off to begin gathering items. This strategy paid off immediately: As we repurposed the poster board from his kindergarten science fair project, we rediscovered the samples of pure metals we had displayed on the poster. This gave us about half a dozen elements right off the bat.
From there on out, we had to compromise on the purity of our samples. Fortunately he didn’t quibble with finding phosphorus in matches, or nitrogen and oxygen in air. We did find carbon in graphite and tungsten in an incandescent lightbulb filament, some fairly clever thinking, if I may say so. Pure fluorine is out, although a safe alternative like toothpaste would be acceptable.
I drew the line at platinum — I’m not donating my wedding band to this project, no matter how educational — and titanium, even though I have an entire bike made out of it. We also eliminated any radioactive element, anything toxic, anything that requires special handling, or anything expensive (californium, I’m looking at you — $24 million/gram).
So far we’ve found just shy of 20 of the most common elements, just using items we had around the house. Benji already wants to take apart an old smoke detector to find the tiny americium sample, and I think that would probably be fine. Who knows what other places we can find safe versions of interesting elements? Honestly I’m kind of interested to see what all we find.
If any of y’all have any brilliant ideas about where to find unusual elements in everyday items, let us know.