Megan Levad

Although we may think of ourselves as post-Enlightenment empiricists, we very rarely come to know what we know through evidence, experiment, or experience. More likely it was through language, in all its messy fallibility, that we learned of the movement of the planets, the chemical makeup of our jam and toast, the history of the Etruscans, the importance of the clavichord. We come to know much (most?) of what we know from one another. Information is filtered through many minds and, perhaps more importantly, through many voices. And yet, we seem to manage pretty well. Like the light of the sun, knowledge travels unimaginable distances―through time, and space, and cultures―to get to us, and it is usually still in some recognizable shape when it arrives.


So Mendeleev as you know discovered he, he made the periodic table and the way he came up with it was well first the ancients used to think about the elements as wind fire and water. I was going to say ground but I don’t think that was one. So basically what happened with that was that in the 18th century they started dividing those elements further like they discovered that the wind was made of gases and the ground could be divided into different properties and they kept going further and further until they discovered atoms. And they discovered atoms were different and could do different things like some could fuse easily with other atoms. So Mendeleev would go on these long train trips and since he couldn’t do experiments to occupy his time he basically made flash cards of all the different elements. And he would sit on the train for hours doing what he basically um like solitaire with the elements and he would look and um ah as he was passing the mountains oh what makes up the mountains and try to find some way these atoms connected and apparently he had a dream one night and came up with the idea of putting all of the elements in a matrix like a graph so he started doing that and ordering them and he found that if you ordered the gases in such a way that they would start lightest and go to heaviest and if you did that that pattern would keep happening but within that pattern you would also have elements that would deviate from it but they would deviate in a way that would create another pattern and basically with the periodic table he made it so it can be read millions of ways. Because basically chemistry is just the study of why different elements are attracted to each other or why they are disgusted by each other.


It’s more of a description. Okay. So there was this scientist as a child and he was studying you know, the science where you study parabolas, calculus. Anyway, so this kid was studying calculus he must have been very young and he said the first time where he realized, uh, he was looking at the parabola and he realized why am I looking at this this is silly and he was looking at the processes of the parabola and then he was looking at a drinking fountain and he realized that the drinking fountain was a parabola and then he saw that parabolas are everywhere that something is falling back down again and this is how he discovered that there is such a thing as law. Scientific law.


Oh I don’t know anything about gravity. I can’t explain that.

Megan Levad

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