Investigating the Periodic Table with Experiments – with Peter Wothers

We celebrate 150 years of the Periodic Table and Mendeleev’s genius by braving the elements from Argon to Zinc in this demonstration filled show.
Subscribe for regular science videos:

You can pre-order Peter’s book “Antimony, Gold, and Jupiter’s Wolf: How the elements were named” now:

Dr Peter Wothers is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge and a Fellow and Director of Studies in Chemistry at St Catharine’s College. Aside from lecturing to Natural Science undergraduates at Cambridge, he is involved with a number of projects bridging the transition between sixth-form and university.

Peter is heavily involved in promoting chemistry to young students and members of the public and has fronted the lectures at the department for the Cambridge Science Festival for over 15 years. He was awarded the 2011 President’s Award by the Royal Society of Chemistry for his out-reach activities. He has a keen interest in the history of chemistry and has amassed a significant collection of early works on the subject. Peter presented the 2012 CHRISTMAS LECTURES, The Modern Alchemist

This show was originally titled “Braving the Elements” and was filmed at the Ri on 15 April 2019.

A very special thank you to our Patreon supporters who help make these videos happen, especially:
Dave Ostler, David Lindo, David Schick, Erik Shepherd, Greg Nagel, Ivan Korolev, Joe Godenzi, Kellas Lowery, Lester Su, Osian Gwyn Williams, Radu Tizu, Rebecca Pan, Robert Hillier, Roger Baker, and Will Knott.

The Ri is on Patreon:
and Twitter:
and Facebook:
and Tumblr:
Our editorial policy:
Subscribe for the latest science videos:

Product links on this page may be affiliate links which means it won’t cost you any extra but we may earn a small commission if you decide to purchase through the link.


Similar Posts


  1. "Berrilyum is very toxic" i don't know for sure, but let me guess… because it has similar chemical properties to some important element in our body, it can replace it. and cause it is similar and not exactly the same, something goes horribly wrong. And that would be good example of that elements of one group have similar chemical properties. Afaik many heavy metals can poison people like this

  2. You should understand that there are only 92 naturally occurring elements found on Earth, all the elements beyond 92 are man-made. Some are stable for very long periods of time, some exist for only micro-seconds inside particle accelerators. It is possible that the more stable elements actually exist in other places in the Universe. The less stable elements may have been created and immediately decayed within super novae.

    LOL! He is obviously a Chemist, like I started out, when he talks about smashing atoms into quarks and all sorts of "nonsense" like that. He is not wrong in that Chemists do not need to worry about all that internal structure.

    I wish he would not represent atoms with electron "whizzing around" in orbits like planets, when we clearly know that is not their true structure.

    Chemical properties are primarily the result of the number and arrangement of electrons forming the outermost energy level, called valence electrons.

    9:25 He says there is no good reason for calling Group 13, Group 3, but he is wrong, and demonstrates his ignorance of the history of the Periodic Table. We used to number the families using the suffix A or B. Families with A designations were the ones where the p-orbitals were filling. So group 3, elements had 3 electrons in the valence shell.

    By the way I stopped watching right after he showed his ignorance with the comment at 9:25.

    Wayne Y. Adams
    B.S. Chemistry (ACS Certified "Professional Chemist")
    M.S. Physics
    R&D Chemist (9yrs.)
    Physics & Chemistry Instructor (33 yrs., retired)

  3. I would like to Very Respectfully remind Dr. P. Wothers, that the proper pronunciation of Nucleus is "Nuke-LEE-es". Both my wife & I, time & again, listened to your pronunciation of Nucleus (right after mentioning Potassium…) said, "Nu-Kee-les in the heart…"!! (chart of Electrons: 19, Neutrons: 20). Please notice that by no means I mean disrespect. In fact, I gave a thumb up. Thank you for giving all the youngsters interest in science.

  4. Electrons don't orbit the nucleus, otherwise, they would emit radiation. They are in a probability cloud defined by the Schrodinger wave equation. The rest of the lecture and presentation was quite enjoyable.

  5. Thank you @The Royal Institution for uploading these marvellous and content rich leactures here on youtube for free. We are really very fortunate to watch and enjoy such great experiments done beautifully by these knowledgeble professors. I hope we could get such curious environment in our schools also so, that student can explore the beauty of chemistry which is far beyond just few chemical reactions which they cram for their exams.

  6. Two balloons of roughly the same surface area, but of different masses. Dropped at the same time, since gravity is constant, I thought they should have hit the ground at the same time? Does anyone know why they didn’t? Is it because of the ratio of the masses of the gasses in the balloons to the mass of the air around them? Asking for a friend…

  7. I felt sorry for the people sitting in that row near the top – they had those strong spotlights shining right in their eyes during the whole lecture. I would never have tolerated it – Royal Institute or not.

  8. I was enjoying the lecture until roughly 22 minutes into it. Chris brought out the balloons and the speaker berated him for not bringing out the correct colours. Unprofessional and the higher than thou attitude, not interested in watching persons like this :/

  9. I loved going back to college school taking chemistry… I wish I was with a company of people that actually practice real chemistry… seems like all the practical chrmists are hiding from me lol its my passion along string theory and quantum mechanics and energy storage. There is almost no interest in science where I live… as far as I know, im pretty much by myself out here.

  10. 4:23 Well, perhaps it would NOT be a bad idea to listen to those physicists. Then you'd learn the electron IS NOT "whizzing around", as shown in this animation, like a mad fly around Her Majesty's head. The electron is NOT even in any particular place until you specifically check where it is. It would be nice to mention that or at least to say "that's a huge simplification, the reality is a bit more complicated". Scientists are expected to TELL the truth, and NOT CONCEAL it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *