Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ping-Pong Versus the Periodic Table

It was an epic battle. Strength against strength. Body versus mind. Mom versus son. Ping-pong takes on the periodic table.

We were playing the table tennis return challenge on the Wii the other day. The game involves returning serves for as long as you can. If you return the ball successfully, you score one point, the next ball is served, and you keep going. But, one miss and your turn is over.

I was up first. I missed the very first ball. My score was zero.

Kai was next. He did better than me, which of course is not saying anything. But, at least he got his score into the teens.

Then it was Mom’s turn. Now, compared with teens, gamers, or anyone with a modest amount of coordination, none of us are really all that great at any of the Wii games. But my wife does pretty well at table tennis, at least by our meager standards.

My numbers-loving son gets excited when it’s Mom’s turn to do the return challenge as he knows he may see the score get pretty high. Sometimes, he counts along. And, that’s what he did this time.

Except that he didn’t count with numbers. He counted with elements.

Instead of one, two, three, he said, “hydrogen, helium, lithium” which, by atomic number, are the first three elements in the periodic table.

As my wife’s score got into the 20s, Kai got more excited. “Calcium, scandium, titanium!”

As the streak went on, Kai got progressively louder. “GALLIUM, GERMANIUM, ARSENIC!”

My wife started to get annoyed. “Kai, stop counting! You’re distracting me!”

I, however, was very amused. I was pretty sure that my son had not yet learned all 118 elements. Would my wife be able to keep her streak going until she got to the point where he would no longer be able to give the name of the element?

My wife’s score went past 50. “TIN, ANTIMONY, TELLURIUM, IODINE, XENON…”

I could see the tension on my wife’s face. The elements were getting to her.


At 69, she missed. Kai didn’t. “THULIUM!”

Elements had defeated ping-pong.

My son remains the undisputed lightweight champion of the periodic table.


  1. That's kind of amazing. The memory of some of the kids on the spectrum amazes me.


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