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Treebeard's Stumper Answer
18 February 2000

An Elementary Scavenger Hunt

Everything in the world is made from the same 92+ chemical elements listed below. Some are commonplace, like iron and oxygen. Others are profoundly uncommon, like hafnium and yttrium. Many are unfamiliar, but they have regular uses, like lithium camera batteries. This vacation stumper is a scavenger hunt. Can you find natural or manufactured objects that contain each of the natural elements, either as a pure sample or an important ingredient? The more familiar and useful, the better! Find them, and we'll make a collection!

The Elements Listed by Atomic Number    Tom Leher's song The Elements (1960)

(There's more!)
There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium
And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium (inhale)
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium and barium.

(Isn't that interesting?
I knew you would.
I hope you're all taking notes, because there's gonna be
a short quiz next period.)

There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium
And phosphorous and francium and fluorine and terbium
And manganese and mercury, molybdinum, magnesium,
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium
And lead, praseodymium, platinum, plutonium,
Paladium, promethium, potassium, polonium,
Tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium, (inhale)
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

There's sulfur, californium and fermium, berkelium
And also mendelevium, einsteinium and nobelium
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc and rhodium
And chlorine, cobalt, carbon, copper,
Tungsten, tin and sodium.

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
And there may be many others but they haven't been discovered.

There are unstable elements beyond Uranium, but they don't occur naturally on Earth. I hope you don't find them, especially number 94 (Plutonium, Pu)! Here's a printable checklist so you can keep score. You can listen to Tom Leher if you have QuickTime installed!

Coleman lanterns for camping use silk mantles soaked in a solution of thorium, cerium, and manganese oxides. The stronger new mantles use yttrium oxide. Many elements are commonplace, but it's interesting that these unfamiliar materials are just what we need to make something as down to earth as camping lanterns. I think of the chemical elements as the universal Legos of the universe. There are all the common blocks, but sometimes we need that special piece hidden down in the bottom of the box! Our final list of elements is below.


This was a fun scavenger hunt at school, and the Dunn Middle School kids rose to the challenge. I'm still collating our results, so this list is mostly mine. I'll update it when I can. Of course this list is not "complete". It's not meant to be. I originally found uses for 55 of the elements. With some research, we've found most of them without using generic answers like the Earth's crust or seawater, though metal alloys and special glass and semiconductors are pretty close to generic. Some of these are questionable, expect errors. The kids found that vitamin supplements and junk food labels are remarkable resources. A few jokes were irresistible.

There's a short form of this list that prints on both sides of one piece of paper on my 300 dpi laser printer, if I reduce all margins as much as possible and eliminate the usual header and footer.

1 Hydrogen H charging car batteries, Zeppelin dirigibles (The Hindenburg), hydrogen bombs, hydrogen peroxide, hydrogenated oils, welding, water (H20) and all hydrocarbons, future fuel source?
2 Helium He birthday balloons and blimps, oxygen mix for deep ocean diving, inert gas for welding, lasers, pressuring rocket fuel
3 Lithium Li batteries for camera and computers, grease for car distributer arm, pyrotechnics, glass for telescopes, manic-depressive illness medicine, Nirvana CD
4 Beryllium Be emeralds and beryl gems, copper and brass alloys, springs and bearings, x-ray windows
5 Boron B borax for laundry and tanning animal skins, pyrex glass, boric acid eyewash and ant control, solder flux, fancy fly fishing rods, homemade silly putty ("goop"), dietary mineral supplements, Death Valley
6 Carbon C charcoal, graphite powder and fibers, diamond, coal, CO2, carbonated drinks, gunpowder, the basis for organic chemistry and life
7 Nitrogen N air, nitrates in hot dogs, ammonia, smog, manure, fertilizer, saltpetre, gunpowder, TNT, fireworks, nitro fuel, inert gas, amino acids and protein, nitric acid
8 Oxygen O air, rust and other oxides, welding, the basis of combustion and metabolism, ozone, LOX rocket fuel
9 Fluorine F drinking water additive, toothpaste, teflon, freon in old refrigerators and air conditioners, etching glass
10 Neon Ne neon lights, gas lasers, cryogenic refrigerant, Las Vegas
11 Sodium Na table salt, sodium-vapor street lights, almost all foods (too much)
12 Magnesium Mg epsom salts, sparklers and fireworks, flash bulbs, milk of magnesia, mag wheels, survival fire starter, chlorophyll, dietary mineral supplements
13 Aluminum Al foil, soda cans, cooking pots, engine blocks, bike frames and airplane bodies, telescope mirrors, thermite, clay and many rocks, ruby and sapphire, sandpaper grit, power lines
14 Silicon Si sand, quartz, most rocks, glass, sandpaper, computer chips, most Baywatch stars, silicone sealant, grease, and implants
15 Phosphorus P match heads, pyrotechnics, bones, bonemeal and super-phosphate fertilizer, breakfast cereal, carbonated drinks, steel alloys, ATP in all living cells
16 Sulfur S matches, farts, egg yolks, rotten egg smell, vulcanized rubber, gunpowder, dried fruit, volcanoes and hot springs, stomach and car battery acid, Santa Barbara drinking water, fungacide spray for fruit trees
17 Chlorine Cl bleach, most swimming pools and hot tubs and city water, freon, table salt, PVC pipe
18 Argon Ar light bulbs and fluorescent bulbs, inert gas for welding
19 Potassium K saltpeter, wood ashes, fertilizer, bananas, pyrotechnics, gator-aide, low-sodium salt substitute, dietary mineral supplements
20 Calcium Ca milk, bones, teeth, baking soda, cement, plaster, lime, chalk, limestone, hard water, dietary mineral supplements
21 Scandium Sc added to mercury vapor lamps for natural light
22 Titanium Ti expensive bike and airplane parts, white paint, dietary mineral supplements, golf clubs, dental caps, surgical implants, desalination plants, star sapphires and rubies
23 Vanadium V tool steels, small amounts in dietary mineral supplements
24 Chromium Cr trim and bumpers on cars, cro-moly bike frame, stainless steel, chrome yellow paint, tanning leather, mordant for dyeing, dietary mineral supplements
25 Manganese Mn black powder in flashlight batteries, contaminant in my drinking water, steel alloys, black pigment, dietary mineral supplements, Coleman mantles, amethyst
26 Iron Fe most abundant metal, steel beams, frying pans, tools, nails, hemaglobin in blood, spinach, dietary mineral supplements
27 Cobalt Co cobalt blue paint, magnets in good headphones, alnico magnets, alloys for jet engines
28 Nickel Ni silverware, stainless steel, alnico magnets, nickles?, ni-cad and ni-mh batteries
29 Copper Cu electrical wires, good cooking pans, water pipes, blue and green paints, brass and bronze
30 Zinc Zn galvanized metal, brass, flashlight battery cases, zinc oxide cream, solder, dietary mineral supplements, pennies?, dietary mineral supplements, Sobe drinks, pigments
31 Gallium Ga semiconductors, gallium-arsenide LEDs for lasers, low-melting alloys, mirror coating on glass, UV phosphors
32 Germanium Ge semiconductors, classic diode for crystal radio, dental alloys, special glass for wide-angle lenses
33 Arsenic As ant poison, "Arsenic and Old Lace", paris green paint, gallium-arsenide LEDs for lasers, pyrotechnics
34 Selenium Se solar cells, electrical rectifiers, concentrated by loco-weed, tiny amount in dietary mineral supplements
35 Bromine Br BromoSeltzer and AlkaSeltzer antacids, sedatives ("bromides"), gasoline additive?, photography
36 Krypton Kr flash lamps for high-speed photography, fluorescent lights, Superman's nemesis!
37 Rubidium Rb photocells, special glass
38 Strontium Sr red fireworks, in 1950s kids and penguins from nuclear fallout, tracer bullets, optical glass
39 Yttrium Y red phospher in TV tubes, lasers, metal alloys, new Coleman lantern mantles, artificial diamonds
40 Zirconium Zr zircon gems, superconductor magnets, surgical steel, lighter flints, nuclear reactors, poison oak lotions?
41 Niobium Nb tool steel additive, superconductor magnets, arc-welding rods
42 Molybdenum Mo cro-moly bike frame, stainless steel, high temperature grease, small amount essential for plants, dietary mineral supplements
43 Technetium Tc medical imaging?
44 Ruthenium Ru alloys for electrical contacts
45 Rhodium Rh car catalytic converters, electrical contacts, special alloys
46 Palladium Pd removes color from gold to make white gold, dental crowns, electrical contacts
47 Silver Ag jewelry, money, photography, silver solder, eye medicine, burn dressing, cloud seeding
48 Cadmium Cd cds light sensor, expensive paint pigment, ni-cad batteries, color TV tubes, silver solder
49 Indium In photocells, low-temperature solders and alloys, semiconductors, mirror surface
50 Tin Sn tin can lining, solder, white metal D&D figures and model parts, pewter, old toys, tinfoil, window glass manufacture, super-conductor magnets
51 Antimony Sb infrared diodes, match heads?, tracer bullets, white metal, batteries
52 Tellurium Te semiconductors, glass colorant, vulcanizing rubber, daylight lamps, blasting caps
53 Iodine I disinfectant medicine, iodized salt, kelp, dietary mineral supplements, photography, cloud seeding, fingerprints, detects starch
54 Xenon Xe electron tubes, strobe lights, camera flashes, fluorescent lights, light bulbs?, lasers
55 Cesium Cs super-accurate atomic clocks, photoelectric cells
56 Barium Ba drink before digestive tract x-ray, white paint, pyrotechnics
57 Lanthanum La carbon-arc lighting for movies, special optical glass
58 Cerium Ce Coleman lantern mantles (w/ Thorium), catalyst in self-cleaning ovens, carbon-arc lighting, lighter flints, glass polishing agent
59 Praseodymium Pr welding goggles, carbon-arc lighting for movies, cigarette lighters
60 Neodymium Nd welding goggles, special glass, lasers, powerful magnets
61 Promethium Pm beta source for thickness gages
62 Samarium Sm magnets in expensive Sony headphones, carbon-arc lighting for movies
63 Europium Eu red phospher in TV tubes (as europium-activated yttrium vanadate!), lasers
64 Gadolinium Gd TV tubes, enhances images in patients undergoing MRI scans, CD disks?, nuclear reactor control rods, metal alloys
65 Terbium Tb lasers, semiconducters
66 Dysprosium Dy lasers, CD disks?, nuclear reactor control rods
67 Holmium Ho alloys?, glass colorant
68 Erbium Er photographic filter?, glass colorant, nuclear control rods
69 Thulium Tm radiation source?, magnetic alloys?
70 Ytterbium Yb portable x-ray radiation source, lasers?
71 Lutetium Lu alloys, industrial chemistry catalysts
72 Hafnium Hf special metal alloys, reactor control rods for nuclear submarines, vacuum tubes
73 Tantalum Ta expensive capacitors in electronics, surgical sutures and plates, high temperature steels, camera lenses
74 Wolfram
W light bulb and TV tube filaments, car distributer points, tungston-carbide saw blades, fluorescent lights
75 Rhenium Re electrical contacts, thermocouples, alloys
76 Osmium Os hard alloys for fountain pen tips and phonograph needles, detect fingerprints?
77 Iridium Ir trace in rocks at end of dinosaur age, coating on some Oakley sunglasses?, high temperature crucibles, pen tips
78 Platinum Pt expensive jewelry, instrument probes, spark plugs, missile nose cones, jet engine fuel nozzles, catalytic converters for cars, blonds and credit cards!
79 Gold Au jewelry, money, bullion, printed circuit board connectors, gold teeth, coating satellites
80 Mercury Hg thermometers, mercury switches, tooth filling amalgam, explosives, mercury-vapor lamps, small batteries, seafood and too much water, dangerous environmental poison
81 Thallium Tl old rat and ant poison, semiconductors, special glass
82 Lead Pb fishing weights, car batteries, lead gasoline, Roman plumbing, solder, radiation shields, bullets, crystal glass, white pigment for paint
83 Bismuth Bi thermocouples, cosmetics
84 Polonium Po brushes for removing dust from photographic films
85 Astatine At
86 Radon Rn dangerous gas in Rincon shale in Santa Barbara foothills can collect in houses
87 Francium Fr
88 Radium Ra old glowing watch hands, cancer treatment
89 Actinium Ac neutron source
90 Thorium Th Coleman lantern mantles (w/ Cerium), alloys with magnesium and tungsten, special camera lenses
91 Protactinium Pa
92 Uranium U nuclear fuel rods, atom bombs, armor piercing bullets, yellow glass, photographic toner
93 Neptunium Np neutron detectors
94 Plutonium Pu nuclear weapons, nuclear power, bad toxin, powers time machine in "Back to the Future"
95 Americium Am ionization source for smoke detectors?, gamma radiography
96 Curium Cm "alpha particle source for the Alpha Proton X-Ray Spectrometer on Mars"
97 Berkelium Bk
98 Californium Cf "used in moisture gauges for the determination of water and oil-bearing layers in oil wells."
99 Einsteinium Es
100 Fermium Fm

There are many Web sites with info on the chemical elements, but most of them are too-technical databases. Here are a few links I found especially useful or interesting:

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