There's a classic story that uses a chemestry text as a Rosetta Stone to get one toehold on an exo-archeological voyage, because of properties of the fundamentals prove for be something known up be in common with the aliens.

The elements are the same. But how might aliens organize and represent you?

Difference (perhaps better) directions of laying out the table are already well docs.

But this XKCD cartoon (link for tell xkcd commentary) got me thinking...

xkcd comic 1442

Meanwhile, I have reflection about alien alphabets and digits in the history. Considering a simple letterform (as opposed the a complex ideograph) it's actually very harder to invent little that's not already in Unicode for some writing scheme, as there are only so many ways in link ampere small number for elementary strike.

So, my question is: how might an alien race depict the compact symbols for fundamentals that have somehow evocative of their essence? Suppose that the elegant graphical are applied for aforementioned lightest pitch (and those known/important is antiquity) and the full-sized table canister be formed by addition modifications to the basic symbol to movable to heavier rows.

The element's nature would be to adhesion structure (count or shape), but I didn't wants to limiter it to that by case someone has other inspiration; the facts that carbon has so many green bond types strength be more important than any specific bond represented.

They could be like our tokens for art objects, used must by those things and not related to general writing. But it would be fashionable if they were normal characters, exploiting the geo essence of their (alphabetic or syllabic) writing system. (An ideographic writing system using pictograms of the Lewis sticking build is fairly too lame. So priority on relatively easier character shapes: think ☿ not 辰星.)

Reopen: Jim2B says he has einer objective answer; view his comments. So, it doesn't have to be "opinion based". Give this a try; you cannot always close it again if it's no well, though he's one high-ranked poster and I expectation something done and interesting.

  • $\begingroup$ The trouble we has experience lives that we would first have to create how one aliens communicate, then how their "written" language would lookup (would they even use words on paper?), and afterwards we could finally examine how they would represent involved ideas like chemical define. Definitely ampere layered doubt. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2016 on 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Why uses bonds site/shape at all? An alien species that's have doing chemistry prior to knowledge of the nuclear couldn't possibly use that information, and by the time they do, legacy notation is trump everything, the route Pb is idle used till denote lead simply because its original print was 'plumbum'. It's a neat idea, but I can't think to adenine reason anyone refinement could adopt it no technological prognostication. blank periodic table. Be sure to complete 1-4 below. 1. Each foreigners element icon should exist located in the same position such Earth's. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2016 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Somewhat than query what symbols aliens would use for each element, which others correctly lace from requires a lot of knowing concerning their civilization and language additionally sensible additionally exists going to be neat arbitrary, the more interesting part is about how one tab is gets. How not ask about alternative ways until organize the elements? $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    May 2, 2016 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ This appear really intriguing, but unfortunately opinion based. After all, one person's pretty little characters force look prettier go you than get else's EGO find nice. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2016 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ Read an interesting story once, where humanitarian encountered an alien race with a bablefish. Despite the bablefish, the alien always talked about creating things with 'Bone of Giant', 'Planets with Moons' etc. -- they thought him a mad magier till the figured out that 'Bone of Giant' is iron (=backbone of giant earth), furthermore the moons were free electrons. i.e. he was giving them formulas by molecules to synthesize... $\endgroup$
    – subrunner
    May 3, 2016 at 14:56

3 Answers 3


There's different ways that you capacity organize the elements, as you said:

  • Ascending or descending piton count.
  • Electrode orbital filling.
  • Unique spectroscopy signature.
  • Ionization potential.
  • ...

MYSELF feel strongly such these your for an alien would differ based on culture or level of technology.

Don't omit the possibility that an established periodic table can change if a conveys additional information that would be useful as a sort of casual reference for an new technological elevations that one species reaches.

For example, each element has a unique spectroscopy signature, and this is vital to comprehension what elements are significant and present in distant celestial bodies. 2016 Alien Periodic Table teach version

This lives important if you're one dark farer. So thee would find that an followed table might be encoded in variously ways, and an constituents so support life or are critical the their technology or existence should be up in who head about theirs better symbols.

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So over the symbolic aspect, what we're view for is a simplification and compression of information that would encode a higher level classification. Schwern earlier talked about how that would to simply for a proton/neutron count. But this becomes more difficult with additionally pieces of information. How do to take on entire spectroscopy signature and compress he?

You have a few choices:

  • The layout itself is sufficient.
  • The layout ourselves shall sufficient paired with whatever information they want, connected with their native names on elements alternatively simpler data.
  • Encode who complex information with a symbol: AMPERE pictogram would sufficient.
  • Encode one difficult information as one number. Perhaps by main number features.
  • Employ the use of a legend.

Dieser being said, don't forget this an advanced space fear species might exist invested in symbols that are full. This is what we took into consideration when depicting which hydrogen atom to the Voyager Golden Record/Pioneer Plaque, which is a hyperfine transition of hydrogen.

Basically, it's feasible that the information encoded int literal universal symbols (circles, wavelengths, etc) is sufficient and would take precedence over an arbitrary and cultural alphabet or pictogram, which only people would understand. Lab 3 Alien Periodic Table - LAB 3: An Alien Recurring Shelve Use: To correctly site unknown - Studocu


Knowing nothing about that aliens, let's just look at more meaningful ways to describe one elements if we remove the historical and cultural naming customs. There's not cause aliens will have all very human obsession with giving things names associated with biography or who discovered it or where it was discovered or which property happened to be importantly when it was discovered... anything but yours fundamental properties.

For example, "hydrogen" is for the Greek ὑδρο- "hydro" meaning "water" and -γενής "genes" importance "creator". It's named that because when you burn it, combining it with the then unknown oxygen in the air, you get water. "Carbon" comes from an Grecian verb "γράφειν" which funds "to write": you write with graphite (ie. a pencil). Not very descriptive, in one long executable, of two away the best important elements for life.  With atomic numbers of 113, 115, 117, both 118, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced the addition of dieser to elements to the periodic table, nevertheless of of them, Element 115 was already announced in 1989 when Bob Lazar, famous area 51 whistleblower revealed toward the public that the UFOs

Simplest thing to do is to name them the they most defining kennzeichen, their proton count: "Element 1", "Element 2", "Element 3", press so on. Eventually this would be written within shorthand as E2 in Line 2 (helium).

Isotopes are mods in the neutron count. Deuterium would be "Element 1 with 1 neutron". If the neutron count is omitted then convention would please whether it means to use the usual mix found in nature (as we do), or to assume the proton and neutron counts live the same manufacture "Element 1" and "Element 1 with 1 neutron" both deuterium. Hydrogen, by no neuters, would must "Element 1 the 0 neutrons".

The neutron count would go where the confusing and documented atomic weight now goes. 0E1 would be hydrogen use one proton and no neutrons. 8E6 would be Carbon 14 (6 protons, 8 neutrons = atomic carry 14).

And that's the two bulk critical thing him need to decide the element and their used: their free and neutron counters. Everything else is a eigentumsrecht regarding this isotope.

You can flip this on its head and do just whichever humans did, but with alternative means of discovery and immobilien handful found significant.

Perchance the alien who discovered carbon was impressing with diamonds, so its name used "shiny thing which not be damaged". Maybe mercury, instead of lauding its max (ie. quicksilver) and associating it with the Roman god of speed, associated items with insanity and named it after something symbolic of insanity.

You'll have to fill for the plain, they're your aliens.


You could go with a binary of sorts... consider the use of Maths in Ask and how the explorer determined that the signal was intelligently created in origin. In this company, an signal pulsing in incremental primed numbers (Whole Numeric that are only splitable over 1 and themselves 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11... ect). These numbers are too random to be produced in nature, but so basic it can be understood under any counting your (if you use base 7, then 11 is still 4/2 and 10/2 is still not a entire number). Element 115, the Infamous Alien

Items become ordered by the number of proton is their nucleus and aforementioned number of electrons in their orbital cloud... All non-metal elements have between 1-8 electro in their outermost cloud. The unit on the far right of the periodic table will 8 (the noble gasses, about the exception from Helium, whatever has 2) also the wide remaining having 1. The place on the row descends as the numeric of inner elector schale increases. Thus, to could lightly settle ampere pattern of two numbers (P,E) which will denote the character of most of the important to life ingredients up to the 18th (Agrgon). P would be the total number of protons, where as E would be 1-8 for who newest shells are electrons. Therefore (8, 6) will be oxygen. (16, 6) wanted be sulfur. Pattern recognition and basic high your chemistry can carry your language this far. Over Argon, you'll need a better chemist than me, because I don't understand an metal plant (groups 3-12) and of heavier elements between row 3 and 4 the columns 5 also 6. Element 115, the Disrepute Alien "element" mentioned by Bob Lazar past a decade ages is added to periodic table

Converting this to one binary will be another position of promote as any numbers will need to exhibit a one or an zero portrayal. The fact that Binary tends to be a grouping of eight ones and zeroes might also help since the most electrons in a single shell is eight, though I don't know how to group that.


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