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Jacky Joyner McDaniel's op-ed on the periodic table
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WHEN I was a student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, I had many excellent professors. They were adept at their occupations, and the university had a high rating. Much of what I heard and studied has parted from my memory (the fate of knowledge that is not used fairly often). One thing I learned, however, was so profound that I've never forgotten it--and I've never heard it anywhere else.
Our chemistry instructor, Professor Schaefer, was discussing the periodic chart of the elements and their atomic numbers in class one day, and she related to us the profound impression it had made on her when she realized that the atomic numbers were the way scientists knew that there were elements that had yet to be discovered.
The chart begins with hydrogen, which has an atomic number of one. The chemical elements are organized in order of increasing atomic numbers in the chart, all the way up to 118, with 114 being given the placeholder name ununquadium, with the symbol Uuq. The letter "q" is used to designate number 114, as yet undiscovered. When the element is discovered, it will be given a new name.
The atomic numbers are based on the number of electrons in an atom. There were more of the elements missing in the chart when I was a student in college than there are now. It surprised me to find that so many had been discovered and had filled in their reserved places in the chart.
An element is a substance consisting of atoms that all have the same number of protons, that is, the same atomic number. Elements are the simplest substances and cannot be broken down using chemical methods. Elements can be changed into other elements only by using nuclear methods. Therefore, man cannot produce one in a test tube.
Until that day in chemistry class, I had assumed (if I thought about it at all) that the atomic numbers had been arbitrarily assigned by whoever discovered the particular element or by the persons who set up the chart. Professor Schaefer's stunning revelation made me realize that people had nothing to do with the atomic numbers of the elements. They had been designed as such by an organized Creator who had an extensive plan. For a highly educated professor--and at least one of her students--it provided proof of a Supreme Being.
Since then, I've never doubted the existence of God. There's no way that type of precise organization could have just happened. I have loved and worshipped and even grown angry with our Lord when his plan didn't synchronize with mine.
But eventually, he'd let me know the whys of his plan--and I'd see the wisdom and beauty of it and be more at peace and sometimes even be grateful for situations that I had thought awful previously.
I hope those who read this will experience that same revelation and the same inner peace that comes from knowing that the Supreme Commander is indeed at work in our universe--and that he's a loving God.
Jacky Joyner McDaniel lives in Spotsylvania County.