Why Mendeleev didn’t use chatGPT when he created the Periodic Table The seek for the basic elements The 4 elements cannot explain all matter So many elements Mendeleev’s mechanistic breakthrough Could chatGTP or Microsoft Bing have discovered the Periodic Table?


Mendeleev taught us the facility of pondering deeply to seek out explanations

Dmitri Mendeleev uses chatGPT

Black box approaches are increasingly popular in AI, machine learning, and computational data science. By black box, I mean computational approaches that make predictions without explaining their rationale. For instance, the favored chatGPT and the menacing Bing chatbot provide information and amusing conversations, but we don’t know why they select the responses they select.

Black box technologies (created with DALL·E)

Similarly, deep learning and neural networks are computational tools that make powerful predictions without revealing the mechanism or rationale for his or her predictions. Nevertheless, we lose something vital once we use these tools — the reason for . The story of Mendeleev provides a strong example of why this matters.

For 1000’s of years, humans sought to know the substances that make up the world. Philosophers speculated since precedent days in regards to the fundamental composition of matter, however it was difficult to make progress on this problem. Early Greek philosophers proposed that since water is abundant and may change form from solid to liquid to vapor, perhaps water was the basic basis of the world.

Water droplet
Water (Adobe Stock)

Other philosophers suggested it could possibly be air that was fundamental, since air forms clouds, hurricanes, and water vapor, and is throughout us.

Air (Adobe Stock)

Similar arguments were made for fire and earth.

The philosopher Aristotle integrated these ideas and proposed that these 4 substances are the 4 fundamental elements that make up the fabric world. For 1000’s of years this concept held sway, and most of the people believed that the 4 fundamental elements of matter were indeed water, air, earth, and fire. This mesmerizing hypothesis stays oddly popular in fiction, television shows, pseudoscientific circles, and in popular culture even today.

The four elements
The 4 elements proposed by Aristotle (Adobe Stock)

An iconoclastic researcher and physician named Paracelsus began the method that led to the unraveling of this hypothesis and the modern-era seek for the basic chemical elements, resulting in the birth of a recent field of science. Paracelsus was the primary to make use of the term chemistry to check with efforts to make pure versions of natural elements.

Paracelsus (Adobe Stock)

Robert Boyle, often viewed as the daddy of recent chemistry, published his book The Sceptical Chymist in 1661, by which he argued against the prevailing view of the famous 4 “elements” of air, fire, water, and earth being the premise of all matter. He noted that many experiments showed that there needed to be greater than 4 fundamental elements of matter, and that some substances, reminiscent of gold, gave the impression to be pure elements on their very own, as they may not be broken down further into these 4 “substances”.

Gold bricks
Gold (Adobe Stock)

Boyle argued that the identity of elements needed to be determined experimentally moderately than by theorizing within the absence of knowledge, with elements being defined as substances that might not be broken down into any simpler substances.

As a bewildering variety of pure elements were discovered, chemists wondered why there have been so many, and the way they could possibly be organized. A Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev, was struggling to write down a comprehensive chemistry textbook, The Principles of Chemistry. He was attempting to summarize what was known about each of the 63 elements that had been discovered, from easy hydrogen to carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen that make up most living matter.

Dmitri Mendeleev (Adobe Stock)

In serious about how one can present the accumulating data on each of those elements, Mendeleev analyzed the similarities of their properties, in order that he could classify them into families of related elements. As he studied the list of the weather so as of accelerating atomic weight, he noticed that they’d a repeating pattern of their properties, which led him to arrange the weather in the shape of a table, in order that the periodic pattern can be evident in each row and column.

Dmitri Mendeleev creating the Periodic Table (created with DALL·E)

History is a bit confused on what happened next: due either to illness or lacking an appreciation at first for the impact of his organizational scheme, Mendeleev asked his friend Nikolai Menshutkin to present his table for him at a gathering of the Russian Chemical Society. Either way, as Mendeleev elaborated upon his organization of elements in the approaching months, he developed a growing appreciation that his periodic presentation allowed him to predict the existence of latest elements, including people who became often known as aluminum, silicon and boron. When these elements were discovered and had the properties he predicted, the chemistry community embraced Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of the Elements as a profound breakthrough in understanding the constructing blocks of the fabric world.

As Richard Morris noted in The Last Sorcerers, “It was Mendeleev who discovered the periodic law, a principle that describes the periodicities which can be observed within the properties of the chemical elements. This enabled him to predict the existence of as-yet-undiscovered elements, to predict atomic weights, and to explain their chemical and physical properties as well.” This discovery reverberates today through all of chemistry and biology, and its impact can’t be overstated.

Mendeleev pointing to his table
Mendeleev studying his periodic table of the weather (created with DALL·E)

The Periodic Table of the Elements gives us a form of Netflix rating system for elements, teaching us that helium, neon and argon are unreactive noble gases due to their position within the rightmost column of the table. Or that sodium and lithium make similar salts, because they’re found together within the leftmost column of the table.

What if Mendeleev had used chatGPT, Microsoft Bing, or a deep learning network to predict the properties of elements? Sure, he would have had improbable success, but without knowing why. He wouldn’t have unraveled the basic reason for the relationships amongst the weather — their underlying atomic structure. We wouldn’t have the periodic table.

Mendeleev using chatGPT
Mendeleev using chatGPT (created with DALL·E)

AI is powerful, but we also need mechanisms and explanations to advance our fundamental knowledge of the world.


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