The Tale Of A Wolfram Research Co-founder And His Beloved “Periodic Table Table” [Video]

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Out of the annals of history comes this doozy. A man by the name of Theodore Gray is a co-founder of Wolfram Research, best known as the creator of Wolfram Alpha, the two-year-old computational answer engine, which Siri uses for 25 percent of her mobile searches.

Along with Stephen Wolfram, Gray helped develop Mathematica, the computational software used in technical computing that makes Wolfram Alpha, among other things, tick. He is an author, polymath, and, it seems, an amateur Chemist — or should I say, element collector. Yes, as the story goes, about 10 years ago, he built and created his own wooden “periodic table table” (presumably on company time), complete with compartments underneath in which Gray collects samples of the periodic table’s elements. This feat of carpentry, Rams-ian design, and wizardry won him an “Ig Nobel Prize” in Chemistry back in 2002.

Yesterday, a new video, or rather episode of “Bytesize Science,” emerged on YouTube wherein Gray discusses the tale behind his periodic table table. The video has been being passed around, and was tipped to us (thanks to Kirk Zamieroski). We thought it was worth sharing, based on pure awesomeness, the high quality kitsch, and DIY mastery. Luckily no radioactive elements made it into the table — or at least we didn’t spot any lead. No one was hurt in the making of the table, as far as we know, other than perhaps Schrodinger’s cat?

As the video’s uploader points out, Gray has gone on to win less Ig Nobel awards, becoming the 2011 winner of the ACS Grady Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, and the periodic table table is a “testament” to his love for chemistry — and his compulsive eBay purchasing habits.

We hope you enjoy.

(Check out Theodore Gray’s website here.)

Image credit: Popular Mechanics