By far the largest family of elements is the one known as the transition metals, sometimes called transition elements. These occupy the "dip" in the periodic table between the "tall" sets of columns or groups on either side. Consisting of 10 columns and four rows or periods, the transition metals are usually numbered at 40. With the inclusion of the two rows of transition metals in the lanthanide and actinide series respectively, however, they account for 68 elements—considerably more than half of the periodic table. The transition metals include some of the most widely known and commonly used elements, such as iron—which, along with fellow transition metals nickel and cobalt, is one of only three elements known to produce a magnetic field. Likewise, zinc, copper, and mercury are household words, while cadmium, tungsten, chromium, manganese, and titanium are at least familiar. Other transition metals, such as rhenium or hafnium, are virtually unknown to anyone who is not scientifically trained. The transition metals include the very newest elements, created in laboratories, and some of the oldest, known since the early days of civilization. Among these is gold, which, along with platinum and silver, is one of several precious metals in this varied family.

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