Dubnium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicgo poet Janet Kuypers

Dubnium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Db)
(8͏23͏14)

Over the years, the U.S. and Russia
have fought over all sorts of things —
thermo-nuclear bombs,
inter-continental ballistic missiles
to carry those bombs,
even getting men into space,
or winning the most Olympic medals,
or even… Making new chemical elements.

You may think of the Cold War
when I mention the U.S. and Russia,
oh, I’m sorry, the Soviet Union,
but you could probably also think
of the Transfermium Wars
where both countries spilled a lot of

ink

in an effort to come out the winner.

Because it was both Dubna in the USSR
and Berkeley California in the U.S.A.
that claimed the discovery of this element,
but after the Cold War, the IUPAC
(oh, don’t make me spell that out for you,
the International Union of Pure
and Applied Chemistry, the group
that decides the names for elements)
said that credit for this discovery
should be shared between the two.

But if the two countries no longer
battled over who discovered it first,
they could at least then argue
over the naming rights for the element…
The Soviets wanted to call it nielsbohrium
for the Danish nuclear physicist Niels Bohr.
The Americans wanted to call it hahnium
for the late German chemist Otto Hahn.
SO, American and Western Europeans
started calling the element hahnium,
while the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc
countries went on calling it nielsbohrium.

So the IUPAC gave the name unnilpentium
(one zero five, Unp) as a temporary name.
Though the two countries still disagreed
over the naming of this new element,
The IUPAC then decided on Dubnium,
to honor the Russian discovery location.
I think the only reason it got to be named
after Dubna is because America had
so many elements already named for them
(like berkelium, californium, americium),
and if the elements AROUND one oh five
(rutherfordium and seaborgium) are U.S.,
Dubnium can offset the American discoveries.

So yeah, even after all these decades
of competition and mistrust,
a third party had to come in — repeatedly —
to try to settle our squabbles,
kind of like the UN…

But now that we’re got the name
figured out for element one oh five,
maybe now we can learn about Dubnium,
right?
So I did a little research, and lo and behold,
scientists haven’t been able to figure
this element out either.
Melting point? Unknown.
Boiling point? Unknown.
Density? Unknown…
I guess that’s what we get
for battling with the Soviet Union
(well, okay, later Russia)
to try to create a highly radioactive metal
which doesn’t even occur in nature.
Only a few atoms have ever been made,
so I guess our “creation”
is for research interest only.

…But wait a minute, we just created
a radioactive element — should we worry
that if this spreads we’ll turn
into a radioactive planet?
Will our progenitors
be a radioactive species?

Well, that might sound like a thrill
for comic book guy, but Dubnium
is so unstable that it would decompose
so quickly that it’ll never affect humans.
And because of Dubnium’s half life
of half a minute (that’s short, by the way),
there’s no point in even worrying
about it’s affects on the environment either.
So as I said, sorry comic book guy,
but this won’t turn us
into radioactive people
or kill us by radiation…
Hmmm, maybe the United States
and Russia once worked
on trying to blow each other up
with nuclear bombs and missiles,
but when it came to the Dubnium battles
in the Transfermium Wars, maybe for once
we were both working at the same time
on something for science
that will only help us learn.

Berkelium, a poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicgo poet Janet Kuypers

Berkelium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#79, Bk)
(started 8/15/14, finished 8/22/14)

The streets of town were paved with stars,
it was such a romantic affair
and when we kissed and said good night
a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

A nightingale sang in Berkeley square.
Berkeley. B, E, R, K, E, L, E, Y.
You see, on the other side of the pond
the Brits have a different way of saying things,
including the name of the Anglo Irish
philosopher George Berkley.
That’s B, E, R, K, L, E, Y, like
you’re barking up the wrong tree,
but when a city and University in California
was named after this philosopher,
well, the pronunciation changed
after it crossed the ocean.
And because of scientific work done
at the University of Berkley,
they decided to name element seventy nine
after the University (it’s actually
only one of two elements in the Periodic Table
named after a university).
So, I don’t really know
how you’re supposed to pronounce it,
should I say berk-lee-um like the States,
or the British ber-keel-ee-yum,
because I’ve been trying to learn
a thing or two about Berkelium.
And the thing is, it’s never found
in it’s pure form,
because this transuranic radioactive
and artificially produced element
is a soft, silvery-white, actinide metal
that sometimes has long half lives
through it’s isotopes
(that range from microseconds to several days,
to three hundred thirty days, to nine years
to one thousand three hundred eighty years).
So maybe I’m only meant
to learn about parts of it
by these fleeting dances
scientists have with Berkelium…

Ununseptium, “Periodic Table” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Ununseptium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#117, eka-astatine, dvi-iodine, Uus)
with poetry from “Tired of Trying,” from the “Depression – the singles” collection

I knew you were out there for years.
But to get you, after toiling in my Dubna lab
we had to ask the Americans
over in Tennessee
if they could send us
some of their wares,

but years passed before I could get
22 milligrams of Berkelium
so I could work in Moscow Oblast
to get you in my sights.

All that time, all I could do
was research, hope.
I’d work, I’d go
and I’d stand on my own,
and I’d leave on my own,*
wondering how long it would take
before I’d see what you might be like.

You see, I used to work at a pharmacy
at Nevsky Prospekt in Leningrad,
that’s when I fell in love
with learning about chemicals,
and that is when I wanted
to discover something truly new.

That’s when you came into the picture.

Because after years of work,
I still waited for those damn Americans
to come through for us.
I mean, we’re scientists,
we’re supposed to be on the same side,
this is all about discovery.
And the thing is,
the higher we get in our research,
the more stable we got
on our little island of knowledge.
But this waiting was exasperating —
I got to the point
that I got tired of trying to tell myself
that I had something to discover,
something to share,
that someone wanted to hear.**

Eventually, they had to ship
what I needed to get you
in five packages wrapped in lead;
it flew back and forth
across the Atlantic five times
and was rejected twice by customs.
But once I got what I needed —
oh, you were just about
the heaviest thing I could imagine.
Then again, you’ve had me
spinning around over the years for you,
so it wouldn’t surprise me
if you would do the same for me.

So I’d work while listening to the radio,
and active actions from you
would come to me in short bursts.
But I’ll take whatever I can get
in my little corner of the world.
This is research. And this is what I do

to learn what I can from you.

 

* “How Soon is Now,” the Smiths, 1984
** “Tired of Life”, 2012