Entry 517: Elementary, My Dear Chemists

Hey, everybody, it’s Mr. Sciencemoron, here again to bring you the latest news from the world of science.

And this is big news indeed–four new elements!

This is a ginormous breakthrough because new elements don’t just come along every day, you know. As a matter of fact, they no longer come along at all. That’s because we’ve already found all the elements. We haven’t actually discovered an element in nature since 1939, when Maguerite Perey found some francium lying alongside a road in France.

Here is a picture of francium, in case you ever come across it in your backyard and want to francium_152409821[1]adopt it as a pet.* I’ll let Wikipedia tell you more about francium:

Bulk francium has never been viewed. Because of the general appearance of the other elements in its periodic table column, it is assumed that francium would appear as a highly reflective metal, if enough could be collected together to be viewed as a bulk solid or liquid. Obtaining such a sample is highly improbable, since the extreme heat of decay (the half-life of its longest-lived isotope is only 22 minutes) would immediately vaporize any viewable quantity of the element.

This lack of bulk francium is why you almost never see it for sale at Costco. Francium is also the most unstable of the naturally-occurring elements, so it is to elements what Donald Trump is to presidential candidates, except I’m not entirely sure Trump is naturally-occurring. I’m positive his hair isn’t.

But I digress.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But, Mr. Sciencemoron, if there are no more elements to be found, where did the four new elements come from?”

Now, boy and girls, if you had been paying attention instead of texting, you would know  I said that all the natural elements had been found. Once there were no natural Twinkies to be found, either. But humans used their ingenuity to make some. Humans can do wondrous things with chemicals.

Humans have an insatiable appetite for new elements, you see, just as they have for new Star Wars movies. So some of the J.J. Abramses of the science world simply created some new elements!

These elements are so new, they haven’t even been named yet! For the moment, scientists are calling them ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium because those are their numbers on the Periodic Table in some foreign language, respectively 113, 115, 117 and 118. (continued ununder the table)ColorfulPeriodicTable[1]

You remember the periodic table, don’t you boys and girls? That was what was displayed on that big poster in your chemistry classroom in high school so that, when things got really boring, you could gaze up at it and wonder why the abbreviation for copper was CU.

Well, if you’re like Mr. Sciencemoron, which is to say, really old, you’ll be surprised to learn that there are, like, a gazillion more elements than there were when you went to Palladium%20Marquee[1]school. Some of the ones on the table now don’t even sound remotely familiar to Mr. Sciencemoron. I mean, when I was in high school, Palladium (Pd) is where we went to see a concert. And isn’t Protactinium (Pa) something you use for acne? And what the hell is Dubnium (Db)? It sounds like a word the giant would say in some fairy tale. “Fe fi dubnium, I like my dubnium with rum.” Also, I seem to remember listings that aren’t there anymore. Wasn’t linoleum an element? It should have been; our whole kitchen floor was covered with the stuff.  Did that get voted off the periodic table, like Pluto lost its planetship?proactive[1]

Where was I?

logoRight, new elements. I know inventing elements sounds exciting, but before you go out to your garage to create some elements of your own, you should know that not just anyone can do it, and especially not you. First, you need to be a member of The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (motto: “As should be apparent from our logo, none of our members is a designer.”), otherwise your element might not get recognized, and you won’t get a handy FREE totebag when you join.**

Second, I know you, and you don’t have the slightest idea how to go about creating an element. But don’t worry, it’s easy! Here’s all you do:

Step 1: Choose an existing element.
Step 2: Add protons into the atomic nucleus through nuclear fusion reactions.

Just complete those two simple steps, and you could find yourself with a new element on your hands. You may also find that your garage has landed in another state. But then comes the tricky part. You have to keep very close tabs on your new element, because some new elements can disappear literally nanoseconds after you make them. Unless, that is, you trap them in a jar really quickly.

Another thing you should know about your new element is that it will be a “heavy element,” so you may not be able to lift the jar after you catch it.

Given that new elements tend not to even last as long as a Vine video, you might be duck-and-cover-100413736-primary.idge[1]wondering why scientists enjoy making them. Well, one of the reasons is that they want to see how large atoms can be. Mr. Sciencemoron does not know why they want to do that. Mr. Sciencemoron thinks it sounds dangerous, don’t you, boys and girls? It makes Mr. Sciencemoron remember something else from when he was in school, when they used to tell us to hide under our desks.

See you soon.

*If you do adopt francium as a pet, do not give it water, because, well, BOOM!

**If you do join IUPAC, be sure to attend its next big event, Polymer-solvent Complexes and Intercalates, on January 27 in Kolkata, India. Don’t forget your fez.

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2 Responses to Entry 517: Elementary, My Dear Chemists

  1. Nick Andes says:

    As we used to say in chemistry class, If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate. Also, I am pretty sure that Linoleum is a planet in the galaxy Kitchenicus.

  2. Pingback: Entry 653: Black is the New Black | The Upsizers

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