In the 1960s, when Scientific American copy editor Michael J. Battaglia was 15, he had a chemical romance with the periodic table. In fact, Battaglia was so fascinated by the basic substances of our universe that he tried to collect 'em all (at least the 104 elements that science knew about at the time.) From Scientific American:
As I read about and ogled my first dozen elements, I thought they were neat, but sort of blah. I wanted them to do tricks. And here I was thrilled to find my first flammable metal—the alkaline earth metal, magnesium (12) in my chemistry set. I sacrificed half my sample to my father's blowtorch and gasped at its brilliant white flame through his welding goggles. But, like any addict, this just whet my appetite. I needed more elements of danger, so to speak....
Imagine my elation when I hauled home from a dumpster in front of a store that had gone out of business a neon (10) sign, which I hoped to wire up, and a vacuum tube with a tungsten filament (74), from an old radio.
As for other gases, hydrogen (1) and oxygen (8) seemed likely targets. Along with nitrogen (7), they surround us, but not in pure form. Ah, the miracle of chemistry—and lead–acid car batteries...
Ironically, a radioactive isotope, radium 226 (atomic number, 88) was available in the house. It was just a matter of getting hold of my father's trusty World War II–era radium-dial alarm clock, opening the face and removing a couple of the marker dots. I figured out that he might not notice blank spots over the numbers 3 and 5, because in the P.M. he’d be at work, and in the dark A.M. hours when it would be glowing, he would be asleep. So off came the markers. Yes! I had for my very own, a pair of luminescent, alpha particle–spitting pets. I had gone nuclear!
"I Was a Teenage Element Hoarder" (Scientific American)
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