Of course, you must already know that 2019 has been declared the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. Folks, it doesn’t get much more exciting than this — unless you want to count the Chinese Year of the Rat, or the Pig … or the Dragon. This celebration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly during its 74th plenary meeting. “Plenary” means a meeting that is attended by all participants. At first I was over the moon because I thought that the words were “planetary meeting” but then I realized we are still all here on Earth. I have to cut back on those sci-fi shows.

It was 150 years ago in 1869 when that smarty-pants Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev finally put together a table of the known elements that made sense. Around that time, only 60 elements were identified (out of 94 naturally occurring elements), and there was no standard system to show their relationship to one another.

All this sounds silly if you’re not sure what an element is. Without going into the atomic structure of matter, which was not known in Mendeleev’s time, it’s a substance that you can’t break down into a simpler substance with a chemical reaction. An element like gold will not break down into anything simpler no matter what kind of acid, heat or chemical solvent you throw at it or how much you hit it with a hammer. Water, on the other hand, breaks down into two elements: hydrogen and oxygen. To do that, you run an electric current through it or you can use a good many chemical tricks to do the job. A hammer won’t work.

In 1869 elements were fairly mysterious. Some were gasses, some were definitely metals and some were, well, non-metals. They are still kind of mysterious; ask any high school chemistry student. But we have Dmitri Mendeleev, the bearded, long-haired, mad scientist poster boy to thank, who made them less confusing than in the past.

Mendeleev’s table grouped the elements in a way that their properties could be determined just by their position in the table. It even had blank spaces where elements that had not yet been discovered should fit in — and they did when these elements were eventually found or created in the lab.

As the U.N. puts it, the Periodic Table is “one of the most important and influential achievements in modern science reflecting the essence not only of chemistry, but also of physics, biology and other basic science disciplines.” People who know what they’re talking about put the periodic table in the same class as the “Mona Lisa” or the Taj Mahal; except that instead of art or architecture, it’s the pinnacle of scientific achievement of its time.

With all this bruhaha I couldn’t sit idly by and let the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements go by without giving it recognition. I’ve been thinking about it for months. Now the year is nearly over and we haven’t discussed it. That’s because I haven’t found much that’s inherently funny or amusing about the periodic table. It’s a goofy-looking chart, for heaven’s sake, and it’s not even for heaven’s sake; it’s a seriously scientific chart for, well, for scientists’ sake.

You have to be smarter than I am to pull out the amusing fun stuff from the Periodic Table. For example, it was pointed out to me that element 31 Gallium, named for France, is just west of element 32 Germanium, named for Germany. France and Germany share a border on the periodic table. Ha Ha, isn’t that a hoot?

However, lucky readers, Dr. Josh Bloom, an accomplished chemist who I am quite sure is not as hairy as Mendeleev, writes very amusing pieces about some enchanting elements that are worth searching the web to find. Look for titles like “Gallium: Melts in Your Mouth, Not Your Hand” and “Copper: A Seriously Cool Element — Especially If You Like Colors and Money.”

In his article “Fluorine: The Element from Hell,” Bloom annotates the Periodic Table, grouping elements into categories like “Stupid,” “Boring” and “Badass,” with a special section for fluorine labeled “God Help You.” This is my kind of chemist.

Moving on, we tip our hats to the Periodic Table and we can only hope that 2020 is designated to be the international year of the whack-a-mole or maybe the gin and tonic. Somebody, throw me a softball. Please.