Nitrium, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series – based on the original name (before Natrium) for Sodium, #11, Na – by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Nitrium

Janet Kuypers

(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series)
based on the original name (before Natrium) for Sodium, #11, Na
started 1/16/15, edited and completed 1/29/15

I’ve been studying elements
in the Periodic Table, and when
I heard the word “Nitrium,”
it made me laugh
(thinking of Nitrous Oxide).
So I looked it up online…
The only thing I could find
was from the Memory Alpha
in Star Trek Wikia,
and they could only guess
that Nitrium was either an alloy
or a metallic element.

But the history buff in me
remembered that Nitrium
is a variant of natrium,
and it was the original name
for the element Sodium.

(I mean, doctors even call
low sodium levels in the blood
hyponatremia…)

So as I read up
at my Star Trek Wikia —
I suddenly realized how
essential this Nitrium really was:

If you remember basic chemistry,
sodium reacts violently with water,
disintegrating, or even exploding
(no no no, you’re thinking of salt,
that’s not straight sodium,
that’s why it mixes with water…)

And as I read, Nitrium
(which was the first name
for Sodium)
was prevalent in asteroids
and it was used
in so many places
in the construction
of Federation starships.

Now, when it comes to our own bodies,
Sodium (or should I say Nitrium)
controls blood pressure
and blood volume —
it’s essential in our bodies
to keep them running smoothly.

So it makes total sense
that Galaxy-glass vessels
used Nitrium in their ships,
from computers, to engines
to their life support systems.

Nitrium was so crucial
to the Cost of Living —
you see, I expanded my research
from Star Trek Wikia
to straight-up Wikipedia
and discovered that parasites
were eating the Nitrium
all over the Enterprise,
jeopardizing the ship’s integrity.

Because as I’ve learned,
with every Periodic Table
element out there
there’s a good side
and a bad side:
if Nitrium is used
all over the Enterprise,
something could easily come along
to destroy it as well.

I mean, think of it
in our own bodies:
when Sodium (or Nitrium)
reacts with water
and forms Sodium Hydroxide,
but this reaction
gets the Hydrogen so hot
that it burns.

And if Nitrium
was the original name for Sodium,
that probably explains why
you never see
a Galaxy-class starship
entering a planet’s atmosphere,
where there’s water in the air.
Because really,
the people at Star Trek learned
that even just a little water in the air
would be enough
to make their starship
disintegrate
around them.

…Really, whenever the Enterprise
actually goed to a planet,
they never land on the planet
with their big Galaxy-class starship,
they send a shuttle,
or they beam someone down,
because in this case,
the water in the air
that’s embedded in the atmosphere,
that water could react
with the Sodium —
oops, I mean,
that water could react
with the Nitrium —
and it might actually
do the Enterprise in.

As I said,
with all the elements
I’ve studied,
there’s a good side
and a bad side to them.
We might desperately need them,
but they also may somehow
do us in
if they’re mixed
in the just the right way.

Because if you sit in a lab
in the twenty-first century,
you can watch this element
react with water in a beaker —
and if you’re going
where no one has gone before
in the twenty-fourth century,
you might have to be sure
your Nitrium-rich ship
finds no water in space,
and finds no parasites
that may eat you
out of your only way home.

Thorium, from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#90. Th) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Thorium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#90. Th)
7/1/14

Think of how many times
you’ve heard scientists say
(or maybe you’ve heard it
from people on daredevil tv)
“do not try this at home” —
knowing that someone,
somewhere
won’t heed this advice
and end up
with an unintended explosion
instead of a fantastic discovery
from their radical experiment…

Well, good thing one Swedish chemist
didn’t decide to “not try this at home”,
doing groundbreaking experiments
in his kitchen flat.
Though Jöns Jacob Berzelius < !—(yens yoke-ub bear-zeal-ee-us)—>
discovered a few elements,
he seemed so psyched
to name one new element
for the Scandinavian god of thunder, Thor.

And it’s kind of funny
that with his affinity for Thorium,
he never understood
Thorium’s radioactivity
(because, well,
when he discovered Thorium,
radioactivity hadn’t
even been discovered yet).

But after Thorium was discovered,
Thorium was used
for powering gas lamps
back in the day
when the world’s light
disappeared at nightfall.
But wait, Thorium’s radioactive,
and back in the day
they didn’t know this,
so did people get cancer
from radiation poisoning?

Well, maybe if
there was enough Thorium
in those gas lamps,
and maybe if that Thorium
wasn’t stopped from
getting to humans
by the glass surrounding the lamps…
Because only if you’d
eat Thorium (and maybe
only the supernatural God Thor
would eat Thorium)
maybe only if you ate it
only then might it make you sick.
        I mean, they still sell it
        today in camping lamps,
        unless you actually look for a lamp
        that’s Thorium-free…

But even when it came
to eating Thorium,
some people would do it
back in the ‘30s with x-rays
for detecting their cancer,
because at the time Thorium
was perfect for saving lives
thanks to those x-rays.
So with Thorium for cancer x-rays,
the new cancer risk
seemed like a fair trade-off
before they could find
a safer x-ray detection agent.

So yeah, there’s no way
a Swedish chemist
could have guessed it
when he discovered
the element Thorium
and wanted to name it
after the God of Thunder,
but Thorium can bring
some light into our world,
as long as we use Thorium
in just the right way.

Thallium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#81, Tl) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Thallium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#81, Tl)
started 2/7/14, finished 2/8/14

I swirled the wine glass in my hand.
I watched the red wine swirl,
creeping it’s way to the lip
as I hypnotically observe the vortex.

I like drinking my red wine from those
low, wide-mouthed glasses
so you could smell the sweet aroma
without even drinking. But now,

now I check my fingernails,
looking for dark ridges. I wonder if I
should pull out a few hairs
and check the roots for telltale stripes.

I scan my brain to check if I have enemies,
the coast seems clear, but still I fear
that this precious liquid I hold in my hand
could be the vehicle for my demise.

And no, my liver’s fine, it was just tested,
and I’m not talking about alcohol poisoning
unless it’s because someone put something
in my drink I wouldn’t taste, or smell, or see.

But my brain now flashes to Thallium,
this superconductor, once used to treat
syphilis, gonorrhea, or even tuberculosis
is such a highly toxic heavy metal

that it was used for rat poisoning,
and sometimes even for hair removal
(yeah, trace amounts of Thallium can even
make you lose your hair). But the thing is,

I’ve heard that if you drop it into somethnig like,
say, red wine, no one would be the wiser
and you could kill someone without your victim
even knowing they were ever in danger.

If I keep this up, I’ll really start to worry
whenever my stomach hurts, whenever I feel
nauseous, or even have diarrhea.
If I feel numbness, or tingling and pain,

I’ll second-guess myself. I’ll have to check
the shower drain for excessive hair loss,
and I’ll check my fingernails and follicles again
to make sure I’m in the clear.

Seaborgium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Sg) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Seaborgium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Sg)
7/28/14 (started 7/27/14)

I’ve always loved the sea.
When standing at these Pacific shores
I’m always intoxicated by the action there,
at the vibrancy, the sense of life.
I’ve always been drawn to the idea of learning,
to California’s desire to explore and discover.

#

There was a scientist, Glenn Seaborg,
who later worked through U of C Berkeley.
And when it comes to discovery in California,
Seaborg really had a hold on the chemistry market.
Because during his career, he did theoretical work
in the development of the Actinide series
in the Periodic Table, and he even helped discover
ten elements (many in that Actinide series).

But one element that wasn’t in the Actinides series
that he helped discover, element one oh six,
that was the element people petitioned
to be named after him (you know, because
of all he had discovered for the Periodic Table).
But scientists in Dubna Russia were also wanting
to claim the naming rights for element one oh six,
and naming this element after Seaborg
caused quite a stir, because elements
are only named after dead people, they said.
But the Americans actually pulled it off
and got the new element named Seaborgium.

Transuranium elements like Seaborgium
are only artificially made with particle accelerators,
and I know those scientists,
after finding elements that way
only acquire one or two atoms,
and they can only guess the element’s properties
by their location on the Periodic Table…
I mean, Seaborgium’s isotopes
have half lives only seconds long,
and there’s no use we know of for Seaborgium
other than scientific research
(like for scientists like Seaborg or Albert Ghiorso,
or the leader of that Seaborgium discovery team).

But after the element was named Seaborgium,
and since Seaborgium is the only element
named after a living person,
it may have been possible
to send Glenn Seaborg a letter
addressed in chemical elements:
send it to Seaborgium,
in lawrencium (for his Lawrence Berkeley Lab),
in the city berkelium,
in the state californium,
and
(if the letter’s being mailed
from outside the U.S.)
in the country americium…
I don’t know if any letters like this
actually got through to him,
but for a man with that many
discoveries under his belt,
sending letters to him
using only Periodic Table elements
almost seems like icing on the cake.