I was just thinking about data mining relationships between atoms and chemical compounds, and about putting it all into a nice, neat RDBMS for that, when it occurred to me that I’m really not an expert in the field, and designing the database would require more knowledge than I have. However, in a process of table design on a subject that you’re not really familiar with, it also occurred to me that the best tool for the job is likely Microsoft Excel. In a spreadsheet you can add column effortlessly, and while you are doing that, you can fill in the rows. The process effectively lets you create the table and fill in the data slowly before you end up doing the “real” design.
I’m not advocating database design in Excel. Heck… I’m one of those radical freaks out there that would crucify anyone that dared not initially design for the 5th normal form and then denormalize for optimization. But in that specific case where you’re doing investigative work, Excel can be a very useful tool in table design.