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November 6, 2006
Volume 84, Number 45
p. 72

Elemental Greeting Cards

People may wrinkle up their noses when the words "chemistry" or "chemical" are mentioned, but certain elements of society have found it perfectly acceptable to adapt the periodic table of the elements to meet their own needs. That's just what the company Iota People of Basalt, Colo., have done with a line of greeting cards, one of the products they sell along with "envelopes, books, papers, and other iotas." The company's motto is "Exercise Your Writes." With the Good Chemistry cards you can "express your most elemental feelings."

Mug Title Maryland Athletics
So = soccer.
Mug Title Linda Wang/C&EN
Friends: Express chemical feelings.
Mug Title I.B. Goodman
A steel: Stainless steel ring.

The line of 13 cards is appropriate for a range of occasions and emotions from "Bg. Beginnings are elemental" (iotatomic number 08) to the "Sorry" elemental card, "So. I was out of my element" (iotatomic number 06) to "Th. Thanks, you've been elemental" (05). Cards for parents of newborns in peacock blue or hollyhock pink say, "Boy. Oh baby, boys are elemental" (11) or "Grl. Oh baby, girls are elemental" (12). The last card alphabetically is the "Yippee" element card (Yp, 09), which says, "You're in your element now." The Iota online store is at

And a trip to Trader Joe's one day drew this writer to a greeting card with a copyright owned by Michael Hall. That card, which is blank on the inside, shows seven stylistically drawn cats of various colors that appear to be bonded to one another in a wheel-and-spoke shape. The phrase under the artwork exclaims: "The chemical structure of curiosity-revealed at last."

Periodic Table Sports

A curious poster was spotted on a soda delivery truck. The University of Maryland, College Park, has fashioned a campaign for its 27 varsity sports, from baseball to water polo, into a quasi periodic table with each sport shown as an element ( The soccer element is also for sale on a T-shirt. It shows, for example, that the group name is Terps/Maryland; the element name for the sport is soccer, whose symbol is So; its equivalent atomic number is 27 (for 27 sports); and its group number is 1 (for one team). Brian Ullmann, associate athletic director for external operations, says one of the goals of the campaign is to stress the educational part as much as the athletic part. "We believe it serves as a subconscious reminder to our fans and supporters that our athletes are students, too," he says.

Alternative Jewelry

Diamonds may be forever, but be prepared for the bling to sting. In the October issue of Money magazine, reporter Amanda Gengler unearths some alternative gems and metals that are just as nice at a fraction of the cost.

Palladium, she writes, offers the look of platinum but can cost up to 60% less. Palladium also doesn't tarnish or contain nickel, as white gold does; some people are allergic to nickel. White gold can also be substituted with gray-silver-hued titanium, which costs just half as much as white gold.

Meanwhile, new formulations are helping sterling silver maintain its whiteness and prevent tarnishing, and designers are increasingly pairing this 92.5% silver with other precious metals and gemstones. As an alternative, consider stainless steel, which can be cheaper and resists tarnish. It is also beginning to be mixed and matched with precious gems such as diamonds.

And with the price of good-quality diamonds having risen as much as 40% in the past three years and likely to stay high, consider moissanite. This gemstone looks closer to the real thing than cubic zirconia and can cost just a tenth of the cost of diamond.

This week's column was written by Arlene Goldberg-Gist and Linda Wang. Please send comments and suggestions to