METALS



A number of characteristics distinguish metals, including their shiny appearance, as well as their ability to be bent into various shapes without breaking. In addition, metals tend to be highly efficient conductors of heat and electricity. The vast majority of elements on the periodic table are metals, and most of these fall into one of five families: alkali metals; alkaline earth metals; the very large transition metals family; and the inner transition metal families, known as the lanthanides and actinides. In addition, there are seven "orphans," or metals that do not belong to a larger family of elements: aluminum, gallium, indium, thallium, tin, lead, and bismuth. Some of these may be unfamiliar to most readers; on the other hand, a person can hardly spend a day without coming into contact with aluminum. Tin is a well-known element as well, though much of what people call "tin" is not really tin. Lead, too, is widely known, and once was widely used as well; today, however, it is known primarily for the dangers it poses to human health.

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