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


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,
(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.

Vanadium, from the “Periodic Table of poetry” series by Chicago Poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#023, V)

I’ve been going out with my boyfriend
for five years now…

And when he took me to prom
a few years ago,
his bulging biceps
almost made his tuxedo sleeves burst.

And I know he spent
four hours a day lifting weights,
I know he drank raw eggs
and took all sorts of drugs
just so he could be the strongest…

But every girl I knew
did a double-take, all agape
whenever he entered the room.

And it was the coolest thing,
climbing up into his truck
with the awesome exhaust
and the cool flames painted down the sides,
when he would take me to the movies
or drop me off for my cosmetology classes.

Now, I always thought
it was kind of weird
that he would take different drugs
just to bulk up more,
but he’d swear they were legal,
I mean,
he even told me one of them was just
a harmless element called Vanadium,
and I don’t know,
when he said “element”
I just thought about how
I just kind of tuned out
in chemistry class,
so I typed “Vanadium”
into my smart phone,
and I didn’t see anything
about it being bad for you
or illegal or anything…

All the girls in school would ask me
if I would stick with him
after I got a job out of school…

And the thing is,
now that my twenty-third birthday
is coming up,
I’ve got a job
and I’ve been doing really well…

And he’s been dropping hints
like he might pop the question
on my birthday this June.

But he was acting really weird,
so I thought
something was fishy,
so I checked out his smart phone
for any ideas of what he might be doing
for my birthday…

And that’s when I saw
“Vanadium” on a web page link,
and I thought,
‘Oh no, is he doing MORE
to try to get even BIGGER?’…

So I went to the web page,
and I saw that Vanadium
was added to “corundum”
(what? I don’t even know
what corundum IS),
but Vanadium is added to it
to make simulated Alexandrite gemstones.

Now, wait a minute,
I know Alexandrite is my birthhtone,
and it’s only found in like Russia.
It’s really cool, it changes color
in different light,
but it’s WAY expensive,
like more than diamonds or anything,
so I figured I could never afford
any Alexandrite.

And you know,
now that I’m out of school
I’ve got a really good job at the salon,
and after being promoted
they’re looking to promote me again,
I’m starting to feel
like I can actually
GO somewhere in my life.

So now that I think about it,
I mean, it was great
to hang off my bodybuilder’s arm
all these years,
but maybe now I should start
to stand up for myself.
I mean,
he may have thought he needed Vanadium
to make himself bigger,
but there’s no way
I’m going to take an Alexandrite rip-off
with Vanadium
if that’s the best he can do…

Ruthenium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#44, Ru)

IÙve looked for something
that would pique my interest,
the palladium bored me,
platinum was too expensive
because it was often so rare,
but then I looked around
and thatÙs when I discovered you.

I mean, there didnÙt seem to be
much of a use for you,
I even heard that a metals company
even offered 100 grams of you
free to aspiring researchers
(hoping that someone
one day may find a use for you)…

Organometallic chemistry experts
were even trying to give you away.

Well, sure, chemists used you —
they mixed you with whatever
they could find, just to see
what you might possibly create.

(Kind of like a bartender,
trying to come up with
the perfect cocktail, they
could mix for decades…)

but IÙve looked into it,
and youÙre a cheap dull grey,
probably something
IÙd find at a Walmart…

I know, I said I was looking
for something to pique my interest,
and though you come around cheaply,
youÙre still harder to find.
IÙll keep looking for something
to pique my interest,
and who knows, maybe
one day
people will find just the right niche,
and youÙll be just what I need.

Rhodium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#45, Rh)

When you say the word “menthol,”
images probably crop up in your head
of women holding a cigarette stick
like she’s using her smoke
as an orchestra wand,
tracing the line of smoke
like she’s conducting a symphony
with her mint-tasting cancer stick.

But menthol’s also used in lip balms
(I really like that stuff, too,
I like the minty flavor on my lips) —
it’s even used in cough medications.
It can be used in those Icy Hot patches,
menthol’s in decongestants
like Vicks VapoRub, it’s in
aftershaves to relieve razor burn.
Yeah, and speaking of the taste
in cigarettes or lip balm, menthol
is in mouthwashes, toothpastes,
even chewing gum.

So really, now that you know how
widely it’s used now, you can see
how menthol’s demand is now so huge
compared to the natural supply.
So in Japan, one man even won in 2001
the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for
a process to meet the demand
for more menthol worldwide.
This Japanese team used Rhodium
based catalysts for menthol synthesis.

And yeah, Rhodium is used in catalysts
for anything from automobile
catalytic converters, or making
certain silicone rubbers. And sure,
Rhodium is used for jewelry,
coating sterling silver to stop tarnishing
or electroplating white gold and platinum,
making it white and reflective.

I mean, the Guinness Book of World Records
gave Paul McCartney a Rhodium-plated disc
in 1979 for being history’s all-time best-selling
songwriter and recording artist.

Not gold. Not titanium. But Rhodium.

(And because Rhodium’s so expensive,
that World Records award disc given to
Paul McCartney isn’t even solid Rhodium.)

So I guess it’s kind of interesting that
this expensive decorative jewelry addition
is also used to give our chewing gum
that excellent minty flavor. So yeah,
when you’re worrying about how money
can seem tight sometimes,
don’t worry about the jewelry.
Just pop a stick of mint chewing gum
in your mouth, thanks to Rhodium,
and realize that we all probably
don’t have it that bad after all.

Argon poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Argonne National Laboratory (the first U.S. science
and engineering research national laboratory).
was started because Enrico Fermi’s Manhattan Project
was to create the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction.
They constructed “Chicago Pile-1“, which achieved criticality
(a sustained nuclear fission reaction) December second
nineteen forty two, under the University of Chicago’s
Stagg football field stands. But since this experiment
was too dangerous to conduct in a major city,
it was moved to a spot nearby in Palos Hills,
and named “Argonne“ after the surrounding forest.

You know, when I was trying to learn
about the element Argon,
I was really hoping that Argonne Lab,
so close to where I grew up,
would have something to do with Argon
(and not a nearby forest preserve)…

Now, the element Argon got its name
from the Greek word meaning “lazy“,
but that’s because Argon atomically is stable
and resistant to bonding with other elements.
And because Argon has about the same solubility
in water as oxygen, Argon often displaces oxygen
and moisture-containing air in packaging materials,
to extend the shelf-lives of the contents.
You know, other noble gas elements
would probably work as well as Argon for this,
but Argon is the cheapest
(so I guess the cheap one wins).

Since Argon is colorless, odorless, and —
this is the important one —
does not satisfy the body’s need for oxygen,
Argon is therefore an asphyxiant.
And since it’s hard to detect,
it’s highly dangerous in closed areas.

But on the plus side,
liquefied Argon is used in cryoablation
to actually destroy cancer cells
with Argon plasma beam electrosurgery.

And the thing is, Argon can also be used
to create incandescent lights
looking like blue neon
(and you can just add a little mercury
to make the light more electric blue).

I wonder if that blue light Argon can emit
looks anything like what we see in the night sky,
because the one tidbit about Argon that really got to me
was that Argon is used (primarily in liquid form)
as the target for direct Dark Matter searches.
The interaction of a hypothetical WIMP
(a “weakly interacting massive particle“)
with the Argon nucleus produces scintillation light,
and Argon gas can detect the ionized electrons
made during the WIMP-nucleus scattering.


Okay, okay, when I was playing cards once,
we decided to place bets
on what the winner of each hand would get.
Since we didn’t have any money
and we on an astronomy kick,
the first winning hand won the Moon,
then the Earth, then more of the planets,
then the Asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt,
the Ort Cloud, the Solar System,
then the Milky Way Galaxy.
We may have even bet on the Andromeda Galaxy,
or constellations like Orion
(even though the stars and the nebula
in the constellation are nowhere
near each other in the Universe)…
Then my opponent suggested
the winner of the next hand
would have dominion over Dark Matter.
Alright, they won that hand, but the winner
of the next and final hand won the Universe,
and since I won that hand, I wanted to say
that I therefore ruled over the Dark Matter as well…

Now, you can’t see Dark Matter directly;
scientists believe that this hypothetical Dark Matter,
which neither emits nor absorbs light or radiation,
can take up to eighty-four percent
of all of the matter in the Universe.
Since Dark Matter can’t be seen,
scientists can only infer the existence
of Dark Matter by its gravitational effects
on other matter in the Universe.

And they assume the corresponding particle
in Cold Dark Matter
is a weakly interacting massive particle.

Now, this is all hypothetical,
But think about it:
if the Dark Matter within our galaxy
is made of WIMPs, then thousands of WIMPs
pass through every square centimeter
of the Earth
each second.

Kind of cool.

And if Argon is used to help detect
these hypothetical WIMPs,
that’s kind of cool too…
Because this stable noble gas
might be difficult for people
trying to breathe in confined spaces
when Argon can easily displace oxygen,
but Argon can help remove cancer
from our bodies,
can light the way,
and may even help us learn more
about some of those undiscovered details
in the Universe too.