Nobelium poem by Janet Kuypers


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


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.

Fluorine poem by Janet Kuypers


by Janet Kuypers

of Scars Publications
from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Just got a postcard from my dentist
telling me it’s time to schedule
another dental appointment.
I thought about the fluoride toothpaste
I just changed to, and then
I wondered about water fluoridation,
the government adds fluoride
to public water supplies, you know,
to reduce tooth decay and hopefully
prevent cavities. Hmmm,
how much water would I have to drink
so I wouldn’t have to go to the dentist
so regularly?
Wait a minute, I just read that
for the fluoride to work, it has to remain
in contact with the teeth, so fluoride ions
that are swallowed won’t help.

Maybe I should just gargle with water more.

But fluoride is just one of the ionic compounds
of Fluorine, and I thought it was funny
when I found out that the name
for the mineral fluorite is derived
from the Latin word “flow”,
because it was added to metals
to make them flow.

Kind of like water, I suppose,
which we now add flourine to.

But you know, it’s not just teeth
that Fluorine can help…
I mean check this out,
Because of the stability
of the carbon-fluorine bond,
many drugs are fluoridated
to stop their metabolism
and prolong their half-lives
(I always wondered how they made
time-release drugs work..)
And now over twenty percent
of commercial drugs use Fluorine.
I mean, scientists have even used
the radioactive isotope fluorine-18
when performing PET scans —
and it’s amazing that liquid fluorocarbons
can hold gas in solution,
and can even hold
more oxygen and carbon
that our own blood…

Wow, I didn’t realize
how useful Fluorine was
for helping humans out.

But the thing is,
Fluorine’s actually really toxic,
some isotopes are used for insecticides,
and Fluorine attacks the eyes,
lungs, liver and kidneys,
and Hydrofluoric acid
is a pretty nasty contact poison.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
have even been strictly regulated
through international agreements
for fear of our environment
and the depletion of the Ozone…
I mean, the U.S. Government
even has a slew of signs
for the dangers of this element:
It’s a toxic gas.
It’s corrosive.
It’s an inhalation hazard.
(wait a minute,
I thought it was so good for me,
how can it also be so bad?)

So too much of Flourine
in the right way
can be devastating for you,
and in other ways
it can help your bones
or help your medication.
Fascinating. I guess this is another way
we have learned to take
the bad with the good
(or is it that we have learned
to take the good out of the bad?).

Maybe I won’t start to gargle with water
because of the Fluorine,
and maybe I should just deal
with everyone’s inherent fear
of the dentist, and just go,
and come out of it
with cleaner teeth
for the next six months…

Zirconium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

So I was at the Gem and Jewelry Show
with my girlfriend, and a man
I thought would ask me to marry him one day,
and my girlfriend stopped at a booth
amongst the rows and rows of vendors
and told me to look at a huge engagement ring.
Well, I didn’t want to look, I didn’t want
to get my hopes up, but seeing the brillance
of the awe-inspiring stones made me ask
for the price of one particular ring.
They told us it was three hundred seventy-five
dollars. And we were confused, this ring
should be at least two grand, but then we saw
that this was a booth of cubic zirconia jewelry.
How disappointing, we thought, we want
the real thing. But looking back, I had to admit
that the Zirconium was unmistakably breath-taking.

I don’t know if Zirconium is as short-lived
as that relationship with the man that went with me
to the Gem and Jewelry Show in Chicago
that I thought would ask me to marry him one day,
but if nothing else, at least some Zirconium
would have been a nice gesture…

Although the element Zirconium’s
most common oxide is zirconium dioxide
(also known as zirconia), used
as a common diamond substitute,
the metallic element Zirconium is a lustrous,
grayish-white, soft, ductile and malleable element.

Different from a diamond, I suppose,
but also different from the cubic zirconia isotope.
I just have to keep remembering
that cubic zirconium is not all Zirconium is used for:
it is used for not only in nuclear applications,
but also in Space and aeronautic industries.
Zirconium is used for cladding nuclear reactor fuels,
and materials from Zirconium metal and its oxide
is even used in space vehicle parts
for their resistance to heat.
A Zirconium isotope has been recently used
in positron emission tomography (PET) cameras…
So ductile or not, maybe Zirconium
is pretty strong, and exactly at times
what I need.

Uranium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

The sun really is an explosive thing.
With primarily hydrogen,
reacting with helium, carbon,
nitrogen and oxygen,
we can think of hydrogen bombs
and understand why the sun
has been able to keep us so warm
at such a far distance for so long.
But because we’ve got a powerhouse
at the center of our solar system,
our sun can even support
the heavier elements,
like gold or Uranium.

With the element Uranium named
after the planet Uranus,
the only planet named
after Greek mythology
for the god of the sky,
it’s aqua blue hue matches the sky
from it’s methane atmosphere…
Fluctuating seasons
from it’s 97 degree axis tilt,
this potentially dangerous planet
matches the metal element’s
danger to us here on earth.
So yeah, it makes sense
tat we use elements
like Uranium or Hydrogen,
elements the sun feeds off of,
to cause so much destruction
so close to home.

From hydrogen bombs
to the U.S. and the U.S.S.R
and third world countries looking
for Uranium for nuclear bombs,
even to depleted Uranium
as military ammunition
in “high-density penetrators”,
we’ll still look for ways to kill each other
with the elements at our disposal.


Wondering why our planet
has suffered mass extinctions
every 26 billion years or so,
with upwards of five extinctions
in this planet’s history
from dinosaurs to reptiles
to 96 percent of marine life
at one mass extinction event,
scientists can only guess
that comets traveling through space
caused these mass extinctions,
but no one knows for sure.

But some scientists theorized
that if comets have have long orbits,
hundreds of years,
Than a twin star to our sun
can have one even more immense.
Imagine our sun actually having
an undetected companion star
in a highly elliptical orbit…
They’ve called this as-of-yet
undetected red dwarf “Nemesis”.
And it would be our nemesis,
with an orbit so large, it would
periodically send comets
from the Oort cloud
into the inner Solar System
say, every 26 million years.

And it’s funny to think,
that if this were true,
this “Death Star” theory,
our “Nemesis”, this red dwarf star,
would travel through space,
but still be so undetectable to us,
because it’s wouldn’t even have the energy
to hold on to those heavy elements
like Uranium.
And even if this “Nemesis”
was a brown dwarf star,
it would then even be too low in mass
to even sustain hydrogen fusion.
But still, with just the right orbit,
it could send smaller
comet soldiers our way,
to let the little infantrymen
help do us in.

So, as I said before,
we’ll keep pointing our telescopes
to the night sky,
trying to keep ourselves safe
beyond our global borders,
while we use these same elements
like Uranium,
so we can threaten each other
out of existence,
in our little skirmishes
right here on earth.

Neon, poem by Janet Kuypers


by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Walked toward the entrance
of the now-closed dance club
I used to go to every weekend.

(You see, I’d get the free
weekly newspaper, with coupons
for free admission for girls before midnight.)

Now I go to the Vortex
look for Shelter
and only see broken neon signs.

It reminds me that neon
is common in the universe,
but rare on Earth —

and the only way we get neon
is by liquefying our air,
then actually distilling the neon out.

So I guess it’s fitting,
seeing the broken neon signs
of the once-popular dance clubs,

knowing that all I can do now,
everywhere I go,
is just breathe the neon in.