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What is the Periodic Table of the Elements?

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Quick Answer

The periodic table of elements is a chemistry reference that lists elements by increasing atomic number, which typically correlates to their atomic masses. The atomic number increases from left to right as well as from top to bottom. Each of the rows on the table is a period.

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Full Answer

Every element on the periodic table is abbreviated with one or two letters. Some of these symbols relate to the languages of their early investigators. For instance, tungsten, listed as "W," is "wolfram" in German. Others, such as gold (Au), use abbreviated forms of their Latin or Greek names. Since the 20th century, English abbreviations are primarily used.

The table is used to find information about specific elements. For instance, the atomic number indicates how many protons an atom of the element has. Helium atoms have only two protons, while sodium atoms have 11.

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