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Periodic Pattern of Human Life

The Periodic Table as a metaphor of lifelong learning (Part #1)


Introduction
Related explorations and precedents
Focus on living and learning
Overall periodic structure
Pattern completion
Characteristic and emergent properties: new "phases"
Unexplored potential
Ageing and death
Pattern of learning as a whole: life is not a "table"
Autopoiesis: Remembering the Poem to Come
Conclusion
References

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Introduction

The following purely speculative exploration results from the recognition that very few people ever grow to be older than the number of chemical elements ordered in the well-known Periodic Table of Dmitri Mendeleev. The total number of those elements confirmed is currently 111, with unconfirmed claims made with regard to elements up to 122 (see Timeline of chemical elements discoveries). The oldest person in history, whose age has been verified, is Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) -- 122 years. Consideration has been given to the extension of the Periodic Table beyond the seventh period, with an eight-period table suggested by Glenn T. Seaborg in 1969 --, with elements up to 210 hypothesized. These concerns parallel those of life extension into a similar number of years, notably using strategies for engineered negligible senescence.

Whilst the relationship of such numbers to human lifespan may be purely coincidental, it is worth considering whether it is not and is indeed indicative of some as yet unknown fundamental constraint on the ageing process. It could for example prove instructive to compare the relative global abundance of the chemical elements (in terms of atomic number) with relative global human life expectancy (as measured in years) -- with the latter expressed in terms of the proportion of the population having a given age (the age distribution of the world's population). Such measures, typically represented as an age structure diagram, are a focus of the UN Programme on Ageing (The Ageing of the World's Population).

Any such correspondence leads to the notion that on every birthday individuals can be mnemonically associated with the next element in the periodic table -- somewhat as wedding anniversaries are associated with particular substances (notably including chemical elements) according to the number of years so celebrated.

The average life expectancy for many, especially those in some challenged societies, may then be associated with particular elements earlier in the table. The experiences associated with the later elements are then necessarily inaccessible to most.

The question for reflection is then whether other features of the ordering of the periodic table suggest intriguing ways of thinking about the passage of years of an individual human life -- possibly a kind of Periodic Table of Human Living or a Periodic Table of Human Life. This is further discussed elsewhere in greater detail (Periodic Pattern of Human Knowing: implication of the Periodic Table as metaphor of elementary order, 2009).

Indicative correspondence
between world population by age and abundance of chemical elements by atomic number
Abundance of chemical elements by Atomic Number
Source Wikipedia
World population (male + female) by Age
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base (094).
U.S. data are based on official estimates and projections
Abundance of chemical elements by Atomic Number World population (male + female) by Age
op_age.jpg" alt="World population (male + female) by Age " width="70%">

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