Copyright © Esther Schiller, 2021.

*

Since over 150 years, the table generates the following question: Will a new element be discovered? Or is the list complete?

Even if the table were complete, the lack of empty boxes does not imply the end of chemistry. Physicists can learn a lesson from this.

*

For a physicist, the table of elements is a complex and fascinating result of the standard model of particle physics and of general relativity.

The nuclear interactions determine the quark model, the properties of protons and neutrons, and the properties of nuclei. In particular, the strong coupling constants enters, as well as the strong gauge group. The weak interaction coupling and the mixing angles determines the mixing of the quarks. Both nuclear interactions thus determine which isotopes are stable and which are not.

The electromagnetic interaction determines the electron cloud around the nucleus, the radius and the chemical properties of each element. In particular, the fine structure constant and the electromagnetic gauge group are determining here.

Gravitation, together with the gauge interactions and the Higgs mechanism, determines the mass of the elementary particles and thus, in the end, also of the mass of all atoms.

The table of the elements also shows the limitations of the standard model and of general relativity. It is not yet known how exactly the two fundamental theories determine the masses and interactions of the atoms. It is not yet known, how they determine the numbers of elementary particles and the the fundamental forces. See the description of textbook physics in eight lines. The 8 lines list all that is known in fundamental physics, including all that is unknown. In particular, because we do not know the origin of the fine structure constant and of the electron mass, we do not yet know the origin of all the colours in nature.