Start by choosing one atomic property to scale and plot. For instance, you might choose atomic radius, ionization energy, electron affinity, electronegativity, density, melting point, boiling point, etc. For our example, we’ve used the calculated atomic radius of elements.
(Note: Depending on the property you want to plot, you may need to find a table or chart that has your chosen data. A sampling of resources can be found in the Resources section below.)
Once you’ve found a table to work from, analyze the information available and decide on a method to scale your data so it can be converted into an appropriate length of spaghetti. (A piece of spaghetti is usually about 25 cm long.) Note that your data might be in units not usually associated with standard lengths—for example, kilojoules per mole, electron volts, picometers, or even no units, such as for electronegativity.
Calculate the scaled length for each spaghetti stick to be used (a calculator might be helpful), and then measure and break spaghetti pieces into appropriate lengths to represent the relative scaled property of each element (see photo below). If a few of your spaghetti sticks need to be longer than 25cm, just tape an extra piece to the end to make up the difference. If more than a few need extensions, change your conversion method for scaling your strands.
In our example, we did this by creating a table of atomic radii in picometers (pm) that we scaled to centimeters (cm). This represents a 1010 times increase in length, since 1 pm is 10-12 meters and 1 cm is 10-10 meters. A simple way to make this conversion mathematically is to divide each value by 10, and then let centimeters stand for picometers. The table below, showing data for the elements lithium to neon, is a sample of the calculations we used to find the lengths of the sticks of spaghetti we needed for our table.
When you’ve measured each piece of spaghetti needed, insert each stick of spaghetti into the appropriate punched hole in your cardboard periodic table (see photo below). Look at the pattern and shape of your table of spaghetti. Can you pick out any trends? How do the rows and columns compare?