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What I mean is, does the current model make the most sense? The QWERTY keyboard was made popular because someone won a typing contest with it, and is widely used today, even though other keyboard designs might have made more sense. Is our current periodic table also just popular for an arbitrary reason, or is it actually the best design possible? If things had played out differently, is there a high chance we would use another table? Thank u

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    $\begingroup$ Mendelev's periodic table actually wasn't in the typical form now used. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 14 '16 at 8:57
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    $\begingroup$ You are also wrong about the keyboard. In the olden days typewriters were used that had the letters on levers that swung up an impacted a ribbon which left an impression of the letter on the paper. If you struck two keys at almost the same time then the keys would jam when both levers were up at the same time. So the keys were arranged by engineers to prevent jams. There was no contest. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY $\endgroup$ – MaxW Mar 15 '16 at 15:06
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The periodic table is very different to things like the QWERTY keyboard layout which is essentially arbitrary.

The structure is determined by the fundamental chemical properties of the elements. When the table was first developed Mendeleev was wise enough to arrange the table with both gaps and with some elements in chemical property order rather than the order indicated by know physical properties such as atomic mass (which usually gives the same order as chemical properties but gets it wrong a small number of times).

These properties are fundamental to the elements and not a matter where human choice can have any impact at all. Sure, there are alternative ways to get the graphic design right, but none of these work if the violate the original principles of grouping similar elements together. Therefore, no alternative choices by Mendeleev could work since they would fail to achieve this.

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Just like your keyboard analogy, the periodic table could have developed in a different way but it turned out to be so because since the beginning of classification of elements, all attempts of classifying the element are being made to classify elements on the basis of fundamental properties like atomic mass, electronic configuration, atomic number etc. The trend of the development of the periodic table of elements was headed in a particular direction from the very beginning, leading to the modern periodic table.


As for wether it is the best possible design or not, I believe that there is scope of improvement in every human design ever made. For example, the modern periodic table also has its own flaws such as not being able to properly classify hydrogen on the basis of its electronic configuration and not being able to decide wether to put hydrogen in halogens or alkali metals. Also the transition metals have properties that do not correspond to all elements in their particular group. So, yes if things had played out differently, we would definitely be using another periodic table of elements.

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    $\begingroup$ If someone could come up with a better periodic table design based on a pro/con analysis, then I do believe scientists would switch. The fundamental problem is that the "periodic properties" aren't actually rigorously periodic. So you can think of the periodic table as a good first approximation. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 14 '16 at 17:57

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