Boron from the Big Bang, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Boron from the Big Bang

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#005, B)
3/21/13

The Higgs boson,
the Higgs particle.
The God particle,
as some have called it.
It’s an elusive
elementary particle
theorized about
for nearly half a century.

They call it the God particle
because it might have created
all matter.

You see, scientists
are trying to figure out
how the Big Bang
started to evolve.
You see, the theory
is that all of the universe’s energy
was created
from this massive explosion
from
nothingness.
But the question remains:
how did any
of that energy
turn into matter?

Because during the first
few minutes of our universe
after the Big Bang,
the temperature was so hot,
that it was too hot
for any binding energy
that could have supported
any matter, even hydrogen
or it’s isotope deuterium.
With temperatures so hot,
this bottleneck
delayed the formation of anything
until the universe
was cool enough
to make anything
out of anything.

But just a few minutes
after the Big Bang,
elements burst forth,
because the universe
suddenly got cool enough.
But at twenty minutes
after the Big Bang,
the universe was suddenly
TOO cool for nuclear fusion
or nucleosynthesis,
and THAT is when elemental
abundances were nearly fixed…

That means
hydrogen, helium
and trace anounts
of lithium, beryllium
and Boron
were the elements formed
in those first three minutes
of the Big Bang.
(Sorry, any elements
starting at carbon or higher
were only formed
after stars were around
to create them.)

…So the creation
of matter out of energy
during the formation
of this universe
only happened
in an insanely brief period
of the universe’s history.
Was it just
the insanely hot temperature
in this insanely short period
that did it?

And what does this
have to do with
the Higgs boson particle anyway?

Well, scientists believe
this Higgs particle is a part
of the Higgs field,
an invisible field of energy
throughout the entire universe.
That Higgs particle
interacts with whatever energy
passes through the Higgs field.
And with this interaction,
particles,
massless particles,
they trade their energy
to gain mass
when passing through.

And this Higgs field,
in the beginning of the universe,
helped create matter.

Which helped create us.

Higgs helped create matter,
including the first elements
in the universe,
from hydrogen
to the comparatively heavy
Boron.

Yeah,
five electrons is heavy
in the formation of the universe.

Yeah, Boron,
which helps keep our bones strong.
Boron treats osteoarthritis.
Boron builds muscles,
and when it comes to
trying to understand this science,
it even improves our thinking skills.

We’ve known of Boron
for thousands of years,
from the deserts in Tibet,
or from China in glazes
through to Persia
before it got to Italy,
where it was used
for medical purposes.

Well, knowing how long
we’ve used Borax for cleaning,
or even that Boron’s used
to make the strongest
magnet ever made,
it’s nice to know
that we also understand
how much this
infancy-of-the-universe
element
is vital in everything in our lives,
from our muscles and bones
to the very creation of the universe.

Yeah, it’s cool to see
how scientists
are starting to piece together
how matter came to be
in this universe,
because without that Higgs field,
and without that Higgs particle,
energy would never
have turned into
Boron,
to create any

thing,

or even create us.

Antimony, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Antimony

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#51, Sb)

It’s actually quite unremarkable.
It doesn’t seem to have much use.

But Antimony seemed to
cause a long and bitter war
in the sixteen hundreds
between France and Germany.

Wars are started over land,
religion, love, or money.
But the element Antimony?

Well, doctors in that age
believed in the medicinal value
of Antimony, and the war
was the war of the pen,
with opposing views
on Antimony’s medicinal value.
The two sides took up literary arms,
writing scathing reports
in medical journals
with the vitriol
of a Jerry Springer show
where the bodyguards
couldn’t even control the feud.

And the scary thing
is that Antimony is actually toxic…

But still,
Greek physicians
recommended Antimony
for skin complaints
in the first century A.D.,
and since that age,
many still championed Antimony
for medicinal purposes…
In fact, in Germany
a man (under the false name
of a fifteenth century monk
named Basil Valentine)
wrote an entire book
about Antimony remedies,
published in sixteen oh four.
And he claimed that alchemy
could free Antimony
of it’s toxicity:
just because it makes you vomit,
means that it helps your body
remove the toxins that ail you.

The Egyptians even
used Antimony
as a form of mascara —
they called the toxic
Antimony sulfide stibnite
a black eye powder
called “kohl”.

Later, Al-Qaeda chemists
called this substance
Al-Kohl, which came to be
a term to mean any powder,
which led to a sixteen hundreds
Swiss alchemist
to call a distilled extract
of wine “alcool vini”
(which shows the trail
from toxic eye make-up
to intoxicating “alcohol”).

But this fondness for Antimony
lasted through the centuries,
as doctors still prescribed it’s use
through the seventeen hundreds.
It has even been suggested
that Antimony “remedies”
may have been
what actually killed Mozart.

Maybe they caught on
to Antimony
by the next century,
because it became
the element of choice
for murderers looking to cause
a slow painful death
to their victims.

We use Antimony now
only in alloys for batteries,
or maybe to harden lead.
But it’s strange,
that Antimony can have
such a violent history,
dipping it’s hand into everything
from make-up to medicines,
to the later naming of “alcohol”,
to poisoning people.
I guess when people don’t know
all the chemical conditions,
Antimony can lead
a colorful history indeed…

Aluminum {April Fool’s Edit}, “Periodic Table of Poetry” bonus poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Aluminum {April Fool’s Edit}

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#013, Al) – 4/1/13

On our wedding anniversary,
I try to remember
annual anniversary gifts:
we’ve passed wood, copper, iron,
and are just passing tin, steel,
and aluminum now.
What on Earth do I buy
for a gift that’s aluminum?
And how does Aluminum
represent a marriage?

Oh, I suppose
the pliability of aluminum
shows how our marriage
needs to be flexible
and durable, and like
aluminum, which can be bent
without being broken,
we have to learn to bend
to each other’s wills
so that we can be
stronger when we’re together.
And we are.

So, because of Aluminum’s
durability and pliability,
we see aluminum used a lot
because it mixes well
with others.

But in the body
it competes with calcium
for absorption, so it might
even lead to Osteoporosis…

So I guess that rules out
Aluminum cookware
for our anniversary…

This is really getting on my nerves,
trying to come up
with an Aluminum gift —
I better make sure my antacids
don’t contain Aluminum,
‘cause although it’s not good for my insides,
it’s used in so many other things
around us…

In the meantime,
I’m going to
grab some leftovers
from the fridge,
get it out of the
aluminum foil
and eat while I brainstorm
what his anniversary
present should be.

But wait,
maybe a picture frame would be good,
because if WE work well together,
an Aluminum frame
would be a different way
to hold us together, too.

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

Plutonium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#094, Pu)

Now, I know they named the element Plutonium
after the at-the-time newly-discovered planet,
but I can’t help but wonder
if any of those scientists
who deal with Plutonium now
feel slighted that the planet
was demoted to a planetoid.

But if these scientists care at all about astronomy,
they have to feel consoled
that, at least, their element Plutonium
is used with the element Neptunium
when extracted from spent nuclear fuel rods
And Neptunium is a by-product in production.

Added bonus, if this element’s namesake
was named after an icy ball at the edge of our
solar system, at least now the element can hang
and work with the element Neptunium,
which, like that element’s namesake Neptune,
is a bit of a gas giant itself.
Fermi discovered Plutonium,
and the silvery-white element
(looking not unlike an ice ball)
was even originally used
in weapon design in the Manhattan Project…

Because you know, even if the planet Pluto
is really just an icy ball from the Kuiper Belt,
at least in the Periodic Table
Pluto“nium” can at least hang out once again
with it’s once astronomical brother Neptun“ium”
and feel important again.

Touching Cobalt, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Touching Cobalt

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#027)

We toasted our anniversary
with Cobalt blue champagne glasses
after we looked over the Cobalt
and tungsten wedding bands.

Seems fitting,
since I am so attracted to you,
that we’re drawn to Cobalt,
one of the most magnetic elements.

I heard a physicist explain
that when two solid objects
are pressed together
they never actually touch.

Now, I can’t imagine it,
but maybe,
because electrons repel
all objects remain one molecule apart.

That must be why,
when we embrace
I want to hold you
tighter and tighter —

because I want to defy
the laws of physics
and feel that contact with you
as long as I possibly can.

Because right now
I don’t care about electrons,
keeping us one molecule apart.
Because…

When it comes to Cobalt,
it’s 27 protons and 32 neutrons
are would tightly together
with a strong nuclear force…
Its nucleus’ binding energy
is so strong,
that it only breaks apart
once it is broken down
into its isotopes.

It won’t break apart
in it’s pure form.

Kind of like us,
I suppose,
how we seem to be
so bound by physics.

Physicists say
that solid objects
can never actually touch.
And I’m sorry,
but when it comes to us,
that just can’t be.
Because I want to experience you
with all of my senses.
I want our molecules to intermingle.
I want us to actually touch.

Dysprosium, poem by Janet Kuypers

Dysprosium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#66, Dy)
12/26/12

I knew I could cut through you like a knife.
But, you were always difficult to get at.
With you, I couldn’t get my fingers wet
when I wore surgical gloves in my searches
for you. I couldn’t feel what I was doing
when I was looking for you, but I kept looking,
because you had the highest magnetic strength
of anything I had ever dealt with in my life.

You drew me to you. I couldn’t help it.

I know you’re not free, and the thing is,
you’ve always tried to bring along
some of your mineral compatriots
whenever we had the chance to meet.
And still, I’d have to search the world
for you, go to the other side of the planet,
because I swear, I thought you were worth
more than all of the tea in China.

I couldn’t help it. You’d put a whole new
light on everything after you hit me
with your laser-like intensity. As I said,
you had this magnetic effect on me.
You’re rare. And I couldn’t help it.

I should have known that if you got close,
if I got the chance to breathe you in,
you’d probably be an explosive hazard
to me. I should have known that
what we have could be ignited
by the sparks we would make.

But as I said, I couldn’t help it.
Even if you cause this spark,
even if you cause this explosive reaction,
I’d still have to come back,
because no matter what,
the burning I feel for you
doesn’t last as long as you do.
You burn readily, but you’re hard to get.
And I’m waiting for that next chance
to feel those reactions with you again.

Nobelium poem by Janet Kuypers

Nobelium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#102, No)*

I never saw you.
You were the one thing
we were all looking for —
peace —
and we didn’t know
what it would look like
when we found it.

If we found it.

I heard that Sweden
laid claim to you first,
but I swear,
we were all searching for you,
and I think that like most Americans
we would even try to synthesize you
in order to lay claim to you.

Listen to me,
like all Americans,
laying claim to you.
Possessing you.

Maybe you’ve kept yourself
so well hidden
because we’ll never learn
how to live in peace…
Maybe we can only take peace
in small amounts,
mixed with our usual
anger and discontent.

I know you’ve been around
for so very long,
and I can’t remember
how many years
we’ve been searching for you.

Had your hair grown
to silvery white or gray
waiting for us
to truly want peace?
Have you grown rough and metallic
in your impatience with us?
Would you be a hazard to us
if we took you in
in sufficient amounts?

Because, we want to take that chance.
Because we’ve been looking,
and we’ve been waiting for you.
    * The discovery of element 102 was first announced by physicists at the Nobel Institute in Sweden in 1957. The synthesis of element 102 was then claimed in April 1958 at the University of California, Berkeley. Element 102 was first named nobelium (No) by its claimed discoverers in 1957 by scientists at the Nobel Institute in Sweden. The name was later adopted by Berkeley scientists who claimed its discovery in 1959. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) officially recognised the name nobelium following the Berkeley results. In 1994, and subsequently in 1997, the IUPAC ratified the name nobelium (No) for the element on the basis that it had become entrenched in the literature over the course of 30 years and that Alfred Nobel should be commemorated in this fashion.
Little is known about the element but limited chemical experiments have shown that it forms a stable divalent ion in solution as well as the predicted trivalent ion that is associated with its presence as one of the actinides.
The appearance of this element is unknown, however it is most likely silvery-white or gray and metallic. If sufficient amounts of nobelium were produced, it would pose a radiation hazard.

Americium poem by Janet Kuypers

Americium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

When I heard there was an element
called Americium,
I thought,
what scientist felt possessed
to name an element
after the United States of America?
I mean,
was it discovered during a war effort
when everyone rallied with national spirit?
Was it a World War Two effort
against the element Germanium
named after Germania
(even though that element was not named
for Hitler’s desire to create
the perfect thousand year empire)?
I can’t believe the decision
to name an element Americium
was based on the boo-rah mentality,
go fight win, U.S.A., U.S.A….
I mean, is the actual element
somehow explicitly related to America?

Okay, fine, I will look on line for information.
Let me first check dictionary dot com
before Google or Wikipedia
for information about Americium…
But before I scrolled down to the definition
I saw the speaker icon,
so I could hear the computer-generated voice
say Americium for me…
Oh, Ah-mer-EE-cee-um.
Not Uh-MARE-ick-ee-um. Oops.
But the definition says Americium
is the products of high-energy helium bombardment
of uranium and plutonium.
Wow. I’m really going to have to research this,
and maybe I can dispel the World War Two links
I was apparently making up for this element.

Wait a minute, Americium was discovered
in 1944, but the discovery was kept secret
and only released to the public in November 1945.
(Okay, this doesn’t help my anti-Hitler case…)
Let’s see… Americium was first identified
at the University of California, Berkeley,
and it was chemically identified in Argonne Lab
at the University of Chicago. Okay,
so it was discovered in America, but
in the Periodic Table, Americium falls
right next to it’s twin lanthanide element europium;
so thus by analogy, they named this element
after another continent, America.

Hmmm, fun little story. But Americium
was primarily used in nuclear tests
conducted between 1945 and 1980,
as well as at sites like the Chernobyl disaster.
(Oh, so we go from Germany as our emeny
to the Soviet Union as our enemy,
because the enemy of your enemy
is not necessarily your friend.)
And elevated levels of Americium
were also at the crash site of a US B-52 bomber
which carried four hydrogen bombs
in 1968 in Greenland.

But us Americans have to come up
with more practical appplications
for Americium than nuclear testing…
And that’s when I learnbed
that the silvery-white element
(which is soft and malleable,
and tarnishes in the air)
has isotopes that are used in
smoke detectors.
So an element that can help kill
can also help save people’s lives.
Well, I guess in a way
that sounds like America, too.