Interactive science event plays up periodic table

A volunteer adds nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide to a petri-dish, also containing a drop of bottled water, to show how air pollution in the city is turning lakes acidic. DH photos/Akhil Kadidal

In 1997, Luc Besson’s science-fiction adventure film, 'The Fifth Element', popularised a plot point of four classical elements, which are used to defeat an intergalactic evil.

While the real elements of the periodic table may lack that blockbuster heft, they are no less important — or so goes the theme of a new science exhibit organised in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the periodic table.

In an interactive session held on Wednesday at MG Road’s Rangoli Centre, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the international Science Gallery highlighted all 118 elements of the periodic table.

Among the exhibits was one titled BYOE (Bring Your Own Element), which encouraged visitors to contribute items to various display boxes assigned to the various elements.

“The hook is that people must donate an item made out of a specific element to a box assigned to represent that element,” said a volunteer from the Bengaluru branch of the science gallery, which is being built in Sanjaynagar.

In a box dedicated to 'Europium', an element which is used in anti-counterfeiting efforts, someone had donated a 10 Euro note.

At another event, a volunteer curated wooden boxes showing various elements in physical form, including gold and platinum, while beyond a volunteer named Nomaan regaled children by adding a drop each of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide to a petri-dish, also containing a drop of bottled water, to show how air pollution in Bengaluru is turning lakes acidic.

Even as the children watched, the drop of water turned yellow.

“Nitrogen dioxide is emitted from vehicles and sulphur dioxide primarily from industries. You can imagine what these chemicals are doing the city’s waterbodies,” Nomaan explained.

Meantime, Chef Elizabeth Yorke helmed another exhibit with foodstuffs, including cheese, amaranth, millets, chocolate and basil, which she said would show people that elements are not merely a collection of symbols on the periodic table, but things we interact with daily.

“Cheese, for example, is a rich source of bio-available zinc, which bolsters the immune system,” she said.

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