The case for a Periodic Chart of Politicians

1913 was a momentous year. No, I don’t remember it! I’ve just read about it. But there were all kinds of important things that happened in that year. For example, my father was born. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was life-changing for me. 

Another life-changing event that occurred that year was the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which authorized the federal government to impose and collect an income tax. You have to admit that was pretty life-changing for just about everyone. 

I think the 16th Amendment was why my grandparents hurried and had my dad. Grandfather knew he was going to need a dependent. It’s interesting that the United States had survived for nearly 150 years before then without an income tax. However, it’s easy to see how much better off we are today through the established IRS. I have to be very careful with my wording here, for obvious reasons. 

Another important event was the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment allowed for the direct election of senators.  Before that, the senators had been appointed by the states, giving the states some control over the federal government. Now senators are just another group of politicians pandering to voters, but they have greater job security. 

The really important event of 1913, though, took place quietly in September at a family dinner hosted by the British radiochemist, Frederick Soddy. I’m not sure exactly what a radiochemist is. Perhaps he speaks with atoms and molecules using some kind of radio. Could be it’s sort of like a séance or something.

Speculation about the structure of the atom was all the rage in 1913. Ernest Rutherford and Niels Bohr had both proposed their theories about the nature of the atom, and people were incessantly arguing about which of the two would prove correct. Your grandparents undoubtedly discussed this in the evenings, back before the satellite dish. I understand Las Vegas was taking bets. 

In the meantime, Frederick Soddy had a séance with some uranium and found that there were two different forms. Both seemed to have the same chemical properties but differed in mass. So, naturally, the Soddy family conversation at dinner turned to the structure of uranium and he mentioned this anomaly. He couldn’t think of a name to distinguish between the two forms. 

A friend of his in-laws, Dr. Margaret Todd from Scotland, was present. Dr. Todd had been a school teacher in Glasgow but had become one of the first women to enroll in the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women when it opened. She suggested the name “isotope.” Topos is the Greek word for place and iso means the same. She suggested this because the two uraniums would occupy the same place in the periodic chart of the elements. 

So isotopes have been called isotopes ever since, and all the powers of the IRS and the United States Senate have not been able to change it. The isotope concept is a powerful idea because it means that two things can have identical outsides but differ internally. It seems a shame to waste such a powerful concept on radiochemists. 

So, in an effort to make political science more scientific, I propose the establishment of a Periodic Chart of Politicians, details to be worked out later by some genius. It’s obvious that there are columns for political parties. There are also rows in which to categorize the office held such as representative, senator, mayor, president of the HOA, or numerous others. 

Now, the isotope concept will be a little different in politics than in chemistry. Chemical isotopes are the same outside, but different inside. Political isotopes all look a little different on the outside, but the inside is all the same. Unfortunately, our understanding of the internal workings of politicians has lagged far behind nuclear chemistry.

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.

Volkswagen emissions scandal may widen

DETROIT — A Volkswagen engineer’s decision to tell everything he knows about the company’s scheme to cheat on U.S. emissions tests is a major break for investigators and a message to others involved to cooperate or face prosecution, according to legal experts.

James Robert Liang, 62, of Newbury Park, California, pleaded guilty in Detroit Friday to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and agreed to cooperate with investigations in the U.S. and Germany.

Liang is the first person to enter a plea in the wide-ranging case, but legal experts say his knowledge of the scheme means he won’t be the last.


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