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.

Rutherfordium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Rutherfordium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf)
7/3/14

And when I get that engagement ring…
I don’t want Zirconium, I want a diamond!
I want something stronger!
Even the band,
everyone wants Gold,
but Platinum is stronger,
even Tungsten
(which has a cool goth sound to it)…
What’s the strongest element out there – Iridium?
Hey, that’s the stuff that was in the asteroid
that killed all the dinosaurs!
‘Cuz that stuff’s so strong that it’s brittle
and can’t even be bent into a wedding band…
But I want the biggest, strongest ring on my finger
because I want EVERYONE to know
that I’m gonna be the bride!

Because I’ve really had my heart set
on this one amazing man, Ernest.
(Isn’t that the coolest name, Ernest?
I mean, I’m being earnest with you,
that’s his name, and it sounds so cool!)
You see, he’s from the Rutherford family
and I’m so taken with him.
Oh, and get this, he was born in New Zealand
and now lives in the U.K. — this man
must know the world,
and I think I’m gonna melt!
But the things is, whenever he’s around
he’s only around for fleeting moments,
he mixes with friends
and his isotopes are around for as long as an hour,
but sometimes only for ten minutes,
and sometimes just for a minute or two…
So I ever get the chance to be with him
long enough to tell him how I feel.

My friends tell me not to bother,
because his radioactive personality
(that I’m so drawn to)
means that if I get too close
he might be trouble for me.

Well, I may not be the smartest girl
if he is such a strong and intelligent man,
but I’ve been doing all the research I can
about him. When it comes to researh,
I want to work with him,
and I want to learn.
I only hope he’ll let me.

Rhenium poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#75, Re) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Rhenium,

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#75, Re)
(started 8/7/14, written 8/8/14, finished 8/9/14)

Okay, so I’ve been researching
these elements in the Periodic Table,
and when I got to Rhenium
(named for the Rhine river, by the way),
I was kind of stumped.
What comes to your head
when you hear the word “Rhenium”?
Other than the fact that
“Rhenium” was an LP from Parliment
released in nineteen seventy,
I was stumped.

But hey, this element was named after the Rhine river
stretching through Europe,
but in ancient Greek Times,
they thought of the Rhine
as the outermost border
of civilization and reason,
beyond which were mythical creatures.
No lie.

But I don’t know if that mythical nature
of the unknown is what drove scientists
to search for this element,
and to learn everything they could
about what was otherwise unknown to them…

I mean, Mendeleev, the “creator”
as we know it of the Periodic Table,
postulated this element’s existence,
but it wasn’t found in his lifetime…
and it was later predicted
by an English physicist in 1913,
but it still hadn’t been discovered.

But people in different countries
claimed the discovery
through X-ray analysis,
but after a ton of dispute
this elusive element was finally found,
and as all scientists like to think,
this discovery has to mean something,
I mean, we have to use this discovery
for ssomething, so people
will appreciate our precious work!

Well they found out that Rhenium
(now that airplanes were being used more and more
by both vacationers and business travelers)
can be used with super alloys
to make jet engine parts
(well, I guess that’s cool
for the jet-setters out there…)
but, after people figured out
that putting lead in high-performance fuel
might not be good for the environment
(okay, or for people),
they found that Rhenium
could be a catalyst
for making lead-free
high-octane gasoline.

Since we now have means to travel faster and farther
(thanks to Rhenium in part, by the way),
we might not think of the Rhine as the edge of our existence
with anything beyond it being so mysterious.
But when it comes to Rhenium,
it’s one of the rarest elements in Earth’s crust
(I wonder if that’s why it took so long to discover it.)
Because of it’s radioactivity,
it’s used in the treatment of liver cancer
(and maybe pancreatic cancer too),
but with the skyrocketing price of this rare element,
scientists still worry about the potential toxicity of Rhenium.
So, maybe like the mythical creatures
beyond the Rhine the Greeks foretold,
maybe, after discovering Rhenium,
maybe we should be looking
at both the bad — and the good —
that can come out of the rare,
but radical,
and remarkable Rhenium.

Red Phosphorous, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, (based on the element Phosphorous, #15, P) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Red Phosphorous

Janet Kuypers

Bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #15, P
11/4/14

Overheard a crime scene investigator,
after witnessing in a home large amounts of Red Phosphorous
say
this must have been the lab site
for making crystal meth.

So, as the reporter in me comes to life,
I instinctively turn over my mobile device
and type in
Red Phosphorous
space
meth

and hit enter,
and lo and behold,
the first site lists
a Red Phosphorous and Iodine
methamphetamine synthesis.

And I swear
I’m not looking
to make crystal meth,
but my thumb
must have pressed a link
(I hate these mobile devices)
and the site came up
for an amalgamation
of many different methods
for the simplest, fastest
and cleanest method
for producing meth-amphetamine
in the highest yields possible.

Like I want to make crystal meth.

I wonder if the government’s
going to be on my back
for following this link —
        because recently,
        after renting a biography audio CD
        from the local library,
        I saw ads appearing
        on every web site I went to
        for a week
        suggesting I purchase
        the autobiography
        I just rented.
        So if government agencies
        are selling their data
        to the highest bidder,
        maybe I should also rent
        while visiting on the Internet
        Hitler’s Mein Kampf
        along with books
        on building a nuclear bomb.

        That and I’ll send
        a ton of emails
        including the President’s name.

         ’Cause if corporate America
        and my ever-intrusive government
        are watching over me,
        I may as well try
        to get on their hit list.

I mean,
a girl can only hope.

#

But then I looked down
at my crystal meth web page,
and quickly closed the window,
but then I thought about it —
we need both Phosphorous
and Iodine in our bodies.
You can even find
Red Phosphorous
in every matchbook,
in flares and fireworks,
but we humans had to go mix it
with what’s in Sudafed
to make crystal meth…

        And you know, I’m tired
        of only being able to purchase
        one package of Sudafed at a time,
        and I still have to sign for it
        and scan my driver’s license —
        you know,
        because I have sinus problems.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned
I’ve found that all the elements we need
can also be used to destroy us.
        I think of all the Hydrogen in our bodies
        and the H bomb, or then I think
        of how our bodies need Potassium
        but we use it for lethal execution injections,
        there are some elements used for cancer detection
        in x-rays that are products from nuclear explosions,
        the list of good and bad things from elements
        goes on and on, trust me…
And you may think,
“but it’s just crystal meth,”
and you may be right,
if you only do it once
it probably won’t kill you,
but it supports my point:
we ingenious humans
find a way to take everything we need,
everything that makes us… us,
and make it all something
that can also lead to our destruction.

It’s funny how we humans do that,
how we search, explore and discover
to find that the flip side
of the elemental coins
that keep us alive —
well, it’s scary to see
when we flip the coins
just how messed up
the other side can be.

Protactinium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, (#91, Pa) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Protactinium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#91, Pa)
7/1/14

Wanted to talk about P A,
element ninety one,
but gotta keep this brief,
because the first people
who discovered an isotope
of element ninety one
found it had had an
insanely short half life,
so they wanted
to name it “brevium”.

Than again,
after a German scientist
found another isotope
with a much longer
half life,
they figured that maybe
they’d try “protoactinium”,
because this element
is the progenitor of element 89,
Actinium, because
when element ninety one decays
and loses and alpha particle,
Actinium (element 89) is created.

But proto-actinium?
That still sounds
a little long,
maybe we can remember
that brevity
of the one isotope’s
short half life
and call it
Protactinium
instead.

But really,
this stuff’s radioactive
and highly toxic,
and no one has found
a single use for this element
besides maybe scientific research.
But right now they’ve discovered
when measuring the ratios
of Protactinium and Thorium isotopes
in ocean sediments, they can
reconstruct the movements
of bodies of North Atlantic water
during the melting of the last ice age.

Kind of cool.
But an ice age can take
millions of years.
Hardly brief,
like the first isotope
discovered of Protactinium.

But who knows,
maybe if Protactinium
is only good to us humans
for scientific research,
maybe we will
start to learn some cool stuff
about Earth’s past —
and maybe Earth’s future —
thanks to a brief little element
we otherwise have no use for…

Potassium Chloride, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, ( based on Potassium, #19, K) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Potassium Chloride

Janet Kuypers

(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, based on Potassium, #19, K)
10/25/14

Once worked for a company
who stopped selling their drugs
to state correctional facilities

who used them in cocktails
to kill their prisoners. The company
didn’t have the moral issue —

but religious and political
groups did, and companies
couldn’t justify selling drugs

as sedatives to hospitals
when those same drugs
were used to kill people.

Then I learned that in the cocktail,
pentobarbital was the sedative,
pavulon was the paralytic agent,

and Potassium Chloride killed them.
So I instantly remembered
that us humans need Potassium,

but nobody will sell supplements
because too much Potassium
could easily kill a person.

So, too much of an element
that we need for life
can kill us. Fascinating.

But it’s not straight Potassium
that they use in lethal injections,
it’s Potassium Chloride —

so I wondered, but why
is it not just straight Potassium?
That’s when I heard

that if you take Potassium straight
it would burn, so they use this
metal halide of Potassium with chlorine.

How nice of them, because it would
be cruel if prisoners were in pain
before we killed them. That would be

cruel of us.

#

More than a decade after my state
imposed a moratorium on executions,
then the death penalty was abolished.

And I know the death penalty
costs us taxpayers much more money
than keeping prisoners alive for life.

The death penalty’s not a deterrent,
and the death penalty does take
innocent lives from wrongful convictions.

But all that’s stuck in my head
right now is the Potassium Chloride,
things our body needs, to kills us.

I reflect on the late-night leg cramps
because we don’t get enough Potassium.
Chloride’s needed for metabolism,

and Potassium’s one of the most
important electrolytes in our body.
Still, too much of it can kill us.

It must, somehow, makes sense
that we humans take these elements
and use them as an instrument of death.

I’m afraid I know how us humans think,
so,
of course. It makes perfect sense.

Lanthanum, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #57, La) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Lanthanum

Janet Kuypers

(poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #57, La)
6/27/14

When I went to the after party
of a recent Chicago live play,
an actor from the play
asked me if I was an actor.
I said no, I write,
I run a poetry open mic,
occasionally do features,
and the actor told me,
then you are an actor.

And my story has not
been produced as a play,
and directors aren’t
knocking down my doors
to offer me a starring role.
At my open mic
I applaud other readers,
collect money for features,
and although I perform
in a show sometimes,
a day or two after my show
I am quickly forgotten,
and I still,
otherwise,
seem to slip into the woodwork.

#

You know, I was thinking about it:
if you look at the Periodic Table,
you know elements are grouped
by weight and therefore by properties,
but there’s this block of elements
sticking out at the bottom of the Table.
It’s like scientists didn’t know
what to do with some of these elements,
so called them Lanthanides,
from the Greek word “lanthano”
(meaning “to escape notice”),
and then moved them out of the way
on the Periodic Table.

And that first element in the series
has the name from the series, Lanthanum,
and maybe it is like an actor
who appears in film after film
always portraying different roles
but not often taking the lead. ..
Lanthanum’s joined with metal elements
to make them stronger, because
even when added to lenses
or the accuracy of radio carbon dating,
everything is sharper, stronger and more accurate —
Lanthanum’s supporting role
makes everything stand proudly
in the lime light.

Hassium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Hassium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#108, Hs)
(8/22/14)

Hassium is a Periodic Table element
that was discovered in nineteen eighty-four.
Apple launched it’s first Macintosh
computer in nineteen eighty-four.
That’s also the same year
the first planet outside of our solar
system was discovered.
Nineteen eighty-four is the year
Nelson Mandela saw his wife
for the first time in twenty-two years.
It’s the same year Walter Payton
achieved the most rushing yards,
and the year Michael Jackson’s hair
was set on fire taping a Pepsi commercial.
It was the year McDonald’s sold
it’s fifty billionth hamburger.
Then again, it’s also the same year
vegetarian Fred Rogers (you know,
From Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood)
it was the same year he donated
his red sweater to the Smithsonian.

Although it had existed for decades,
nineteen eighty-four is the year
the AIDS virus was technically identified.

Don’t get Orwellian on me, but
it was a busy year, nineteen eighty-four.

Named for the German state of Hesse,
this radioactive synthetic element
(that’s an element that can be created
in a lab but is not found in nature)
seems to have a half life – the time
it takes for something to fall
to half its value because of radioactive
decay – it has a half life of only seconds…
But give the scientists some credit,
there have only been a little over
one hundred atoms of  the transactinide
element Hassium synthesized to date.
I know that Russian scientists in Dubna
tried to synthesize this element in 1978,
but Darmstadt scientists in Germany
got it together in nineteen eighty-four.

“So… another radioactive synthetic
element, so what?” is probably
what you’re thinking right now,
and yeah, when it comes to it’s apparent
only value for scientific research
you’re probably right, but check out
this one cool sounding point
for element one oh eight…
According to calculations,
one oh eight is a proton magic number
(which means it is the number
of protons that will arrange into
complete shells in the atomic nucleus) —
and it’s the proton magic number
for deformed nuclei (that means
nuclei that are far from spherical).
This means the nucleus of Hassium 270
may be a deformed doubly magic nucleus.
Okay, it’s more science stuff,
but it’s cool to think
that an isotope of Hassium
can still have a perfectly arranged
nuclear shell in it’s atom,
while still remaining deformed
and look completely out of synch.
Makes sense for a radioactive
element that we created;
makes sense it’s a little off-base,
but still somehow together.
So I guess it’s kind of cool that
we were able to create an element
on the earth-shaking year
of nineteen eighty-four, and
that we’d make something so off-kilter,
but somehow still perfectly in balance,
considering everything it can
potentially do
if we ever made enough
to this radioactive stuff.