December 02, 2012

The periodic popularity contest

Inspired by xkcd and some remark in the office about yttrium being obscure, I decided to find out how popular the different chemical elements are. Here are the result of doing a Google search and counting the number of approximate hits.

Most popular were, perhaps unsurprisingly, gold (2,680,000,000) and silver (1,870,000,000). Lead got into third place (1,420,000,000), perhaps due to the fairly common verb "to lead" rather than its heavy charisma. Why tin is so popular (1,110,000,000) beats me.

Least popular are the transuranians, with Bohrium (40,600), Livermorium (106,000) and Flerovium (118,000) as the least popular. These might suffer a bit because they are recently named and people might still remember them with their old names. But they are still fairly obscure outside connoisseurs of heavy nuclei. Why Meitnerium is so popular compared to the others also beats me.

Comparing the abundance of the element online with the Earth's crust shows a weak pattern. Artificial elements are most obscure, very rare elements fairly obscure (with Xenon as an exception) and the most common elements are also all fairly popular. Silicon is surprisingly little mentioned given its abundance in both the Earth and in electronics.

Of course, I felt I had to do something similar to xkcd's calendar, where font size denotes the number of hits. Here I let the logarithm of the number of hits determine the font size.

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Posted by Anders3 at December 2, 2012 02:51 AM