Segments in this Video

Introduction: Hunting the Elements (02:11)


David Pogue discusses the role of elements in various physical systems. See footage of him exploring procurement and uses for materials in a variety of settings.

Au: Elements and Atoms (02:41)

Pogue examines a gold mine and discusses his mission to understand the 118 elements. He explains the rare metal's particle components and unique characteristics. (Credits)

Au: Acquisition (08:03)

In Nevada, prospectors drill for microscopic gold; Lab Supervisor Gayle Fitzwater tests soil for the element, explaining its value per ton of dirt. Pogue tours the processing plant, describing characteristics of noble metals; see crushing and cyanide leaching extraction methods. Pogue pours a bar weighing 60 pounds and worth $1.5 million; see brick formation and handling.

Cu: Civilization (03:55)

Copper has been used by man for 7000 years; see Pogue at the New York Mercantile Exchange; commodities workers Anthony Grisanti and Harriet Hunnable explain the institution's history and the element's large and diverse market. More than 20 million tons are traded annually to be used in electronics, plumbing and technology.

Cu: Sn Alloy (08:59)

Tin and copper make bronze, a material revolutionizing weapon and tool manufacture. Pogue tours the Verdin Company; see the bell making process starting with raw materials. Bronze is used for the ringing sound produced when struck; Pogue explains the influence of atomic geometric structure and how electrons flow through the alloy; proportions must be correct to prevent breaking.

Cu: Observing Atoms (06:56)

Pogue and David Muller examine bronze at Cornell University; see lab imaging of individual atoms using a microscope magnifying 100 million times. Metals are crystals with orderly arranged atomic structure; technology capable of viewing interiors is not yet available. Protons are contained in the nucleus and quantity determines element identity and number on the periodic table.

Periodic Table of Elements: Model (03:26)

See a table designed as a periodic elements chart with visual representations of each element. Pogue and Theo Gray discuss visual representations of the 90 substances comprising all matter on Earth.

Periodic Table of Elements: History (03:56)

Dmitri Mendeleev created the periodic table of elements before the atom's discovery; Pogue tours his Saint Petersburg office and museum. The chemistry professor identified matter by atomic weight; Igor Dmitriev explains further chart arrangement by conductivity, relative weight and reactivity. The table is now in columns organized by properties; see samples of noble gases located at the end.

Reactivity (04:17)

Noble gases do not react with other elements or make compounds. Shell forming electrons dictate an element's reactivity; halogen's shells are not satisfied, making them reactive. Alkali metals have an extra electron; see Pogue and Gray experiment with chemical responses.

Na: Creating Explosions and Compounds (03:25)

Sodium is an alkaline metal with an extra electron in its atomic shell; see reaction experiments with water and chlorine. Compound formation is determined by electron stability in an element's outer shell.

O: Explosion Research (10:17)

Oxygen's atomic shell is missing two electrons, and prone to forming compounds; it is abundant on Earth and is biomatter. Pogue and Research Chemist Christa Hockensmith investigate a blast site; sample analysis reveals explosives made of oxygen rich nitrates. Combustion speed and explosion are regulated by a device's elemental proximities; see a computer model illustrating particle reaction.

Human Body: Primary Elements (10:29)

Living organisms are made mostly of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur; Pogue and Chemistry Professor Christine Thomas shop for materials containing the elements. They discuss the human body's elemental proportions; carbon is the foundation of life, bonding to itself to form long chains; see water separated into hydrogen and oxygen.

Human Body: Trace Elements (05:17)

Pogue undergoes a battery of tests at Gatorade Sports Science Institute to determine mineral levels and deficiencies. He and Lindsay Baker discuss his results and the body's use of trace elements.

O: Evolution (04:01)

Earth's organisms use oxygen in varying amounts; it was not always present in the atmosphere. See Pogue and Microbial Biologist David Ward collect samples from Yellowstone National Park. Cyanobacteria developed photosynthesis, producing oxygen and providing for species development.

H: Beginnings (03:04)

Hydrogen, accounting for 90% of the universe's atoms, was created in the Big Bang; its fusion generates helium. Physicists at the National Ignition Facility attempt to recreate the solar process to generate limitless power; see a computer model of a reaction. As stars burn through hydrogen, other elements are fused until collapsing, exploding and forming heavy metals.

Si: Windows and Computers (04:13)

Silicon is a semiconductor and the second most common element in Earth's crust. At Corning University scientists experiment by adding other elements to create stronger, flexible glass; see forging and resilience testing. The versatile substance is used in electronics and technology.

Rare Earth Elements: Acquisition (07:09)

Found at the bottom of the periodic table, neodymium is used to create powerful magnets that are essential to technology. Pogue tours Molycorp, the only rare earth element mine in the United States; he and Lawrence Jones analyze rock samples at Ames Laboratory. The substances are not rare, but difficult to separate and distinguish from each other; see physicist Paul Canfield design magnets.

Rare Earth Elements: Unique Applications (07:05)

After discovering rare earth elements' repellent effects, Marine Biologist Patrick Rice designed fish hooks intended to save sharks from commercial fisherman; see fish tested for reactions to different substances. Scientists theorize the materials give them electric shock; see demonstration creating battery current, and food deterrent test.

C: Aging Isotopes (05:28)

Carbon has three isotopes distinguished by their neutrons. Paleoclimatologist Scott Stine samples tree stumps for Carbon-14 dating; the unstable version decays at a constant rate, revealing age of dead biomatter. Research Physicist Tom Brown uses a carbon dating accelerator to measure the remaining element; he explains the process, finding the wood 150 years old.

U: Radioactivity and Man Made Elements (06:59)

Elements at the bottom of the periodic table are radioactive; uranium was last on the table before fissionable atoms were used to create synthetic elements. An atomic scientist demonstrates how a nuclear reactor works using ping pong balls and mousetraps. Ken Moody conducts tests on radioactive matter; he has created six new elements that instantly decay due to instability.

Credits: Hunting the Elements (01:05)

Credits: Hunting the Elements

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Hunting the Elements

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Where do nature’s building blocks, called the elements, come from? They are the hidden ingredients of everything in our world, from the carbon in our bodies to the metals in our smartphones. Watch as David Pogue unlocks their secrets.

Length: 114 minutes

Item#: FMK169125

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

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