I try not to focus my posts too much on other websites – it seems as if it is a bit of a cheat but over the last few months the BBC magazine (found on the BBC website) has been producing some excellent articles on various elements in the periodic table – you may have read some yourself.


However, what has not been so widely publicised it the fact that the written articles have accompanying downloadable podcasts of around 30 minutes – and the quality is excellent!

In this post you will be able to find a link to the pod casts and a small summary on the accompanying BBC magazine article and a link to it.


Here is a link to the 23 podcasts that the BBC has commissioned:


You will see that Silicon, Sulfur, Tungsten, Vanadium, Nitrogen, Carbon, Chlorine, Lithium, The Rare Earths, Calcium, Tin, Gold, Mercury, Aluminium, Helium and Phosphorous have all been included.

Below is a link to the associated BBC magazine article and a short summary of it:

Silicon:  After the chip – another revolution

This article deals with the use of silicon in microprocessors and solar cells



Sulfur: Up to our Necks in the Diabolical Element

Acid rain, rotten eggs and volcanoes – what have they all got in common? Sulfur of course.



Tungsten: The Perfect Metal for Bullets and Missiles

Not to mention drilling bits, replacement hips and light bulbs.



Vanadium: The metal that may soon be powering your neighbourhood:

The power may come from a Redox Flow Battery – that is very similar to cyclic phosphorylation (that you may have covered in Biology)



Nitrogen: The Bringer of Life and Death

Ammonia and explosives, as well as a pseudo inert gas – that’s Nitogen for you!



Chlorine: From Toxic Chemical to Household Cleaner

Trench war to bleach – not forgetting one of the constituents of a very useful polymer (PVC)



Lithium: A Metal that Floats on Oil and Powers our Phones

Don’t forget that it is also used in mood stabilising drugs!



The Rare Earth’s: Neither Rare nor Earth’s

But really useful in a wide range of items from wind turbines to 20 Euro notes.



Calcium: Building Block for the World

From milk to limestone – calcium is essential for our support mechanism (our skeleton) as well as for building houses.



Tin: The Story of how the Tin Can nearly wasn’t

Tinned meats – where would we be without good old Sn – but why is it so useful for this purpose?



Gold: Why do we Value Gold?

The beautiful sun metal that can be hammered so that it is just a few atoms thick.



Mercury: A Beautiful but Poisonous Metal

Would you take a bath in mercury?



Aluminium: The Metal that just keeps on Giving

Aluminium is a metal that is really taken for granted – but until there was electricity, there was no aluminium. Why?



Helium: Is it Right to Waste Helium on Party Balloons?

And why would a gushing oil geyser initially not catch fire?



Phosphorous: How much of the Science in Breaking Bad is Real?

No more explanation needed!



Sodium: Getting Rid of Dirt and Murder Victims

The extraction of salt from brine and caustic soda – what have they both got in common?


I hope you agree that this is an excellent set of resources and one that you will find useful not just in your IB studies but beyond them as well.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions they will be gratefully received, please post them below.