Which element name will get you the highest score in a game of Scrabble? That’s the question that inspired this slightly frivolous graphic, which looks at how many points each of the elements’ names will bag you in the word-building board game.
This graphic was inspired by the following tweet from Stuart Cantrill:
Want another periodic table challenge. Again, without looking it up, which of the 118 elements scores highest in Scrabble (not doubling or tripling of anything)? #IYPT2019— Stuart Cantrill (@stuartcantrill) July 6, 2019
Turns out, there are actually three different elements which will get you 22 points: zirconium, rutherfordium, and praseodymium. At first it might look like they’re not likely to be playable in a normal game of Scrabble. Rutherfordium might have potential, though – it could be built up from ‘ford’ –> ‘Rutherford’ –> ‘Rutherfordium’. And while you’d need a pretty specific board configuration to be able to play ‘praseodymium’, it’s been pointed out that it is possible:
Not technically impossible😉 Could have the necessary letters to play it from here for example, haha! pic.twitter.com/QC5nmS2N0j— Andrea Chlebikova #FBPE (@Stare_at_Air) July 7, 2019
Corrected example with actually feasible letter counts, because details matter😉 pic.twitter.com/Wfipicln38— Andrea Chlebikova #FBPE (@Stare_at_Air) July 7, 2019
Putting aside the highest scoring elements, the table also reveals some other elements of interest. For instance, zinc, despite only containing four letters, will score you a whopping 15 points. Phosphorus seems pretty playable in a couple of turns, and will score you a pretty impressive 20 points. On the other end of the scale, the lowest scoring element in the periodic table is tin, with a paltry 3 point return.
The Noble Gases put in a pretty unimpressive shift, with three of the elements in the group scoring fewer than 10 points. Silver and gold might be precious metals, but they too score poorly. Only one element scores the same number of points as its atomic number: aluminium (though note that this ceases to be the case if you’re using the American spelling of aluminum).
Of course, these points only apply to the English addition of Scrabble and the points allocations for letters that it uses. For different language versions of Scrabble, I imagine different elements might end up being the highest scoring (I’ve only got as far as working out that zirconium would only score 19 in Hungarian Scrabble as cirkónium).
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