Shared from National Geographic
Did you know there’s a prank hiding in one of the most widely recognized charts in science history? Look closely at the bottom row of the periodic table of elements…still don’t see it? It’s staring right at you at element 94, plutonium.
The abbreviated symbol for plutonium is Pu. But wait, isn’t the element spelled P-L-U? So why isn’t the symbol Pl? Is it possible the scientist who discovered this destructive element didn’t know how to spell?
Well the scientist is Glenn Seaborg and he’s known as one of the greatest chemists in America. So what’s with the “Pu?” Robert Krulwich’s article An 80-Year-Old Prank Revealed, Hiding in the Periodic Table! goes into detail about all of Seaborg’s remarkable contributions to chemistry and reveals that the strange abbreviation is not a spelling error, but in fact a joke made by Seaborg himself!
Robert sat down with Seaborg’s son Dave where he told him that his dad’s sense of humor was always a little out there and “’he just thought it would be fun’ to treat this element as if it were stinky. You know the face kids make when they say pee-yoo? He wanted to sneak that into the periodic table” (Robert Krulwich, National Geographic).
So there you have it. Every time you look at the periodic table, arguably one of humanity’s greatest creations, you can chuckle at the fact that one of the greatest minds in science played a prank on all of us by making us say pee-yoo!
For more articles like this, visit National Geographic here.