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12 Different Ways to Organize the Periodic Table of Elements



12 Different Ways to Organize the Periodic Table of Elements

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The Periodic Tables You’ve Never Seen Before

The Periodic Table of Elements is an iconic image in classrooms and laboratories all around the world.

Yet despite having an almost unanimous agreement amongst scientists on its composition, there are over 1,000 different periodic tables—and that number continues to grow. This is because the standard table does not highlight all of the existing relationships between the elements.

With 118 elements currently known, there are many different interactions and stories to tell. Here are some of the most remarkable, fascinating and bizarre periodic tables that we could find.

Purpose and Properties of the Periodic Table

To understand why there are so many periodic tables, we first need to understand exactly what a periodic table is. “Periodic” tables get their name because they organize the chemical elements by periodicity (or recurring periodic patterns).

When the elements are organized by their relatively stable number of protons, for example, we get the standard periodic table of elements first devised by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in the year 1869.

different periodic tables

Compared to protons, electrons are very mobile. The way electrons are configured around a nucleus—and how they behave with the electrons of other elements—gives them specific chemical properties.

These properties are similar amongst some elements and repeat periodically. The standard periodic table of elements visualizes this by arranging elements based on these shared chemical properties, providing a guide for understanding similar electron configurations at a glance.

Examining Different Periodic Tables

Below are just a few of the most interesting and unique periodic table permutations not commonly used.

Charles Janet’s “left-step” periodic table is the most popular alternative table. It organizes the elements by the way that electrons fill orbitals (the regions they whir in) rather than valence (an electron’s ability to bond).

different periodic tables

The ADOMAH table by Valery Tsimmerman is a form of the left-step table that groups elements by their principal quantum number.

different periodic tables

The Physicist’s Periodic Table of Elements by Timothy Stowe rearranges the standard table into both 3D-vertical (A) and 2D-horizontal (B) layouts. When merged with the work of Charles Janet and Eric Scerri (C) the result is a unique map of chemical groups.

different periodic tables

Many researchers and scholars also continue to come up with new ways to show the basics of chemical periodicity.

One method is in three-dimensional interpretations of periodicity. Here’s a collection of some of the most well-known designs and their creators, including the Telluric Screw and the Alexander Arrangement from the main graphic above.

different periodic tables

This representation by Anthony Grainger imagines all periods aligning along orthogonal (right-angle) planes cutting a sphere.

different periodic tables

This eye-catching arrangement by Franklin J. Hyde winds a linear count of the elements while putting silicon at center stage.

different periodic tables

Not all periodic tables show periodicity like the standard periodic table. Depending on the message, the chemical elements can take on various unique and exciting ways to tell a different kind of story.

This flowchart from Linus Pauling’s “General Chemistry” (A) organizes elements by the energy levels of their electron shells and subshells. On the other hand, Gooch & Walker’s Spiral (B) is a figure-8 representation that is almost entirely devoid of most atomic information common to other periodic tables.

different periodic tables

The spiral periodic table known as the Periodic Snail by Theodor Benfey swirls outwards by atomic number before branching into additional groups. The unique aspect of this table is that it reserves space for a hypothesized family of elements, the superactinides, and how they might correlate with the rest of the elements.

different periodic tables

These are just a few of the hundreds and thousands of different ways to examine the elements.

As contemporary research continues to break new ground in our understanding of the elements, the opportunities to see the periodic table take on more new forms are shaping an exciting future for chemistry lovers and and data visualizers alike.

For more variations and designs of the periodic table, please visit Dr. Mark R. Leach’s online database at The Chemogenesis Web Book.

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Ranked: Most Popular U.S. Undergraduate Degrees (2011–2021)

Which degrees have increased in popularity over the last decade? And which disciplines have seen fewer and fewer students?



Ranked: Most Popular U.S. Undergraduate Degrees (2011–2021)

In an era of soaring tuition fees and mounting student debt, choosing which undergraduate degree to pursue has become a crucial decision for any aspiring college student. And it always helps to see which way the winds are blowing.

This visualization by Kashish Rastogi, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), examines the changing landscape of undergraduate degrees awarded between the 2010–2011 and 2020–2021 academic years.

Undergraduate Degrees Growing in Popularity

The NCES classifies all four-year bachelor degrees into 38 fields of study. Of these fields, 21 saw an increase in graduates in 2020–2021 compared to 2010–2011.

While only those with more than 30,000 graduates have been shown in the graphic (to prevent overrepresentation of large changes in small pools of graduates), the full list is available below.

RankField of Study2010–20112020–2021% Change
2Health Professions143,463268,018+87%
3Biomedical Sciences89,984131,499+46%
6Computer Sciences43,066104,874+144%
8Security & Law
10Leisure &
Fitness Studies
11Public Administration26,79934,817+30%
12Physical Sciences24,33828,706+18%
13Mathematics 17,18227,092+58%
14Agriculture Sciences15,85121,418+35%
15Natural Resources
& Conservation
19Military Technologies641,524+2,281%
20Science Technologies367532+45%
21Library Science96119+24%
Note: Field of study names have been edited slightly from their NCES labels for better readability.

Let’s take a look at the areas of study that were most popular, as well as some of the fastest growing fields:

Computer and Information Sciences

Bachelor’s degrees in this discipline have grown by 144% since 2010–2011, with over 100,000 graduates in 2020–2021. The allure of the tech sector’s explosive growth likely contributed to its popularity among students.

Health Professions

Undergraduate degrees in health professions saw an 87% increase, attracting nearly 260,000 graduates in 2020–2021. This field accounted for 13% of the total graduating class, reflecting the growing appeal of the healthcare sector.


There were 50,000 more engineering graduates in the U.S. in 2021, up 65% from 2011. With a median income over $100,000 per year, engineering graduates can usually rely on good wages as well as versatility in future careers, capable of finding jobs in tech, design, and communication fields, and of course, becoming future entrepreneurs.

Biomedical Sciences

University graduates in this field, which focuses on the integration of the study of biology with health and medicine, grew by 46%. A subset of this category—epidemiology—has been in the limelight recently thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.


While this category recorded a modest 7% growth in graduates, its popularity has been indisputable in the last decade, representing the largest proportion of the graduating class in both 2011 and 2021.

Fields with Declining University Graduates (2011‒2021)

Meanwhile, 17 areas of study experienced declines in the number of completed university degrees. We explore some of the notable ones below:

RankField of Study2010–20112020–2021% Change
1Social Sciences142,161137,908-3%
2Visual &
Performing Arts
4Liberal Arts46,71741,909-10%
7Human Sciences22,43822,319-1%
8Foreign Languages21,70515,518-29%
& Religion
11Ethnic, Cultural
& Gender Studies
13Communications Tech4,8584,557-6%
14Personal &
Culinary Services
15Construction Trades328221-33%
16Mechanic & Repair226221-2%
17Precision Production4328-35%

Popular in the 1970s, the English undergraduate degree has gone through peaks (80s and 90s) and troughs (2000s and 10s) of popularity in the last 50 years. Between 2010–2011 and 2020–2021, the number of students with an English degree has fallen by a third.

The state of English’s woes are even making its way to pop culture, like in Netflix’s The Chair, which follows the head of a struggling English department at a major university.


The existing teacher shortage in the United States does not seem to be getting fixed by a burgeoning supply of new grads. In fact, the number of university graduates in Education fell 14% between 2011 and 2021. With concerns around stagnant wages, burnout, and little to no support for supplies, many teachers are seeing an already demanding job becoming harder.

Liberal Arts

In the classic era, the liberal arts covered seven fields of study: rhetoric, grammar, logic, astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music. Now, liberal art degrees include several other subjects: history, political science, and even philosophy—but students are meant to primarily walk away with critical thinking skills.

The modern world rewards specialization however, and a wider-scope liberal arts degree is seeing fewer takers, with a 10% drop in graduating students.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: The National Center for Education’s statistics from their Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System surveys. Numbers for both 2010–2011 and 2020–2021 academic years can be found from their summary tables by changing the award level code (bachelor degrees) and the year on the left-hand toolbar.

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