Nitrium, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series – based on the original name (before Natrium) for Sodium, #11, Na – by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Nitrium

Janet Kuypers

(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series)
based on the original name (before Natrium) for Sodium, #11, Na
started 1/16/15, edited and completed 1/29/15

I’ve been studying elements
in the Periodic Table, and when
I heard the word “Nitrium,”
it made me laugh
(thinking of Nitrous Oxide).
So I looked it up online…
The only thing I could find
was from the Memory Alpha
in Star Trek Wikia,
and they could only guess
that Nitrium was either an alloy
or a metallic element.

But the history buff in me
remembered that Nitrium
is a variant of natrium,
and it was the original name
for the element Sodium.

(I mean, doctors even call
low sodium levels in the blood
hyponatremia…)

So as I read up
at my Star Trek Wikia —
I suddenly realized how
essential this Nitrium really was:

If you remember basic chemistry,
sodium reacts violently with water,
disintegrating, or even exploding
(no no no, you’re thinking of salt,
that’s not straight sodium,
that’s why it mixes with water…)

And as I read, Nitrium
(which was the first name
for Sodium)
was prevalent in asteroids
and it was used
in so many places
in the construction
of Federation starships.

Now, when it comes to our own bodies,
Sodium (or should I say Nitrium)
controls blood pressure
and blood volume —
it’s essential in our bodies
to keep them running smoothly.

So it makes total sense
that Galaxy-glass vessels
used Nitrium in their ships,
from computers, to engines
to their life support systems.

Nitrium was so crucial
to the Cost of Living —
you see, I expanded my research
from Star Trek Wikia
to straight-up Wikipedia
and discovered that parasites
were eating the Nitrium
all over the Enterprise,
jeopardizing the ship’s integrity.

Because as I’ve learned,
with every Periodic Table
element out there
there’s a good side
and a bad side:
if Nitrium is used
all over the Enterprise,
something could easily come along
to destroy it as well.

I mean, think of it
in our own bodies:
when Sodium (or Nitrium)
reacts with water
and forms Sodium Hydroxide,
but this reaction
gets the Hydrogen so hot
that it burns.

And if Nitrium
was the original name for Sodium,
that probably explains why
you never see
a Galaxy-class starship
entering a planet’s atmosphere,
where there’s water in the air.
Because really,
the people at Star Trek learned
that even just a little water in the air
would be enough
to make their starship
disintegrate
around them.

…Really, whenever the Enterprise
actually goed to a planet,
they never land on the planet
with their big Galaxy-class starship,
they send a shuttle,
or they beam someone down,
because in this case,
the water in the air
that’s embedded in the atmosphere,
that water could react
with the Sodium —
oops, I mean,
that water could react
with the Nitrium —
and it might actually
do the Enterprise in.

As I said,
with all the elements
I’ve studied,
there’s a good side
and a bad side to them.
We might desperately need them,
but they also may somehow
do us in
if they’re mixed
in the just the right way.

Because if you sit in a lab
in the twenty-first century,
you can watch this element
react with water in a beaker —
and if you’re going
where no one has gone before
in the twenty-fourth century,
you might have to be sure
your Nitrium-rich ship
finds no water in space,
and finds no parasites
that may eat you
out of your only way home.

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.

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

Mendelevium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#101, Md)

“Once, there lived and existed
a great learned man,
with a beard
almost as long as God’s.”

Daniel Posen wrote that,
about Demitri Mendeleev,
a Russian scientist
who created the
Periodic Table as we know it.

There’s even a sculpture
outside the Bratislava, Slovakia
University of Technology —
in the center is Mendeleev’s head,
fully adorned with metallic curves
for his flowing name and beard,
as rows of elements
emanate from his head.

Because while other scientists
tried to come up with ways
to order the known elements,
Mendeleev predicted
a system of elements,
based on their weights
and explaining their properties —
this idea showed the spaces
between the atomic weights
of discovered elements,
and explained the properties
of elements that would only be
discovered in the future.

It’s good to know
that just a few years after
the American Civil War ended,
that scientists globally
were able to understand
the relationship between
the elements, thanks to Mendeleev.

And it’s sad
that the science community
waited for nearly half a century
after this God-like scientist’s death
to mane an element after him.

#

Mendeleev did many odd jobs
during his life,
not unlike Albert Einstein,
with an element named after him
only two spots away
on Mendeleev’s Periodic Table.
And the thing is,
Mendelevium is only created
after smashing Einsteinium
with alpha particles…

But it’s sad,
that with all of the research
the world has done
to learn about this element,
we still know so little.
Mendeleev taught us
how to research and discover more,
but now that we found
only trace amounts of Mendelevium,
we still don’t know what to do…

#

Because once we’ve found you,
if you don’t give us enough
so we can learn,
we’re forced to wonder:
will you be more like Einsteinium,
silvery-white, radioactive —
but with an estimated enthalpy
that underlines your danger to us?
Because I imagine that you,
like Mendeleev,
will show us how to learn
then leave us alone
to struggle for you.

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

Cerium

by Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#58, Ce)
including the poem “Jumping from the Skyline to the Clouds”
8/6/13

Joining commuters driving
toward the Chicago Loop,

I watched majestic skyscrapers
frame the skyline,

as I witnessed over Lake Michigan
early morning clouds —

thin at the top, each cloud looked
like a snow-capped mountain,

framing this flat-land city, and
surrounding the skyscraper skyline…

But all those clouds
were only formed in the mornings

by the early morning weather,
pulling water daily from Lake Michigan.

When the water from the lake
is warmer than the dew point,

water rises until the air is cold enough
so that lake water forms those clouds.

But the thing is, Lake Michigan
is more than hydrogen and oxygen —

at times they even warn the public
to not go into the unsafe water

(the same water Chicago filters
for everyone to shower in, or drink).

So I checked some of the studies
on what foreign compounds

Lake Michigan actually contains —
at times you can find everything

from cadmium, mercury, lead or zinc,
to copper, chromium, even selenium.

That list included harmful elements,
but the numbers that were really

off the charts came from Cerium.
Cerium acts like calcium

in the human body, and you can
find a lot of Cerium in tobacco plants —

and with Cerium’s moderate toxicity,
prolonged exposure can lead to

itching, heat sensitivity or skin lesions.
And wait a minute, Cerium can

spontaneously ignite if the air
is hot, and you may be thinking

that if Cerium’s in water it should
be safe, but water can’t be used

to stop a Cerium fire, since Cerium
reacts with water to make hydrogen gas.

Well, if Cerium fire fumes are toxic,
then so much for Lake Michigan being

good for you — even when Chicago
has multiple water purification plants.

Because Cerium in the water
that forms those morning clouds

is one thing, but no matter the toxicity
of Cerium, remember that us humans

are over seventy percent water.
With all the compounds

that Cerium goes into,
it’s probably best if Cerium’s left

to it’s industrial uses, instead
of working it’s way in our water…

And besides, it’s nice to think
that those beautiful morning clouds

framing the Chicago skyline
with snow-capped mountains

are actually more than just hydrogen
and oxygen, because every once

in a while, look at that morning sky.
Because in just the right way,

a little Cerium
can really go a long way.

Astatine poem by Janet Kuypers

Astatine

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#085, At)
(with references to the poem “Fantastic Car Crash”, 7/3/98)

Everything shatters with you, you know.
I am left picking up the pieces
after dealing with only fractional amounts of you.

I’ve only been able to infer what you’re like
by knowing your brethren, as everyone around me
and all the gapers gawk, as the decay grows.

In your twisted way, you come from the decay
of others… And what do you leave in your wake?
More radioactive destruction, as all around you

slows down to stare, until your instability
corrodes you down to the basics in the world.
And yeah, what was left of you after you were gone

was so much more stable that you were,
but it was only after so much of your destruction
that you left blood dripping down to the street.

So, all I can think is that this continual decay
is your contribution, this radioactive
short-term flash of decay, is you.

I’ve tried to learn, I’ve tried to study these
microscopic parts of you to make sense of you…
But whether or not you ever leave enough,

well, from what you’ve shown me, I have to keep
reminding myself that despite your destruction,
despte this decay of yours, I have to keep going.

Because, when it comes to you,
when it comes to what you do…
This happens all the time.

Arsenic poem by Janet Kuypers

Arsenic

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Arsenic.
Just the name sounds poisonous.
I know it’s an element
in the Periodic Table,
but this odorless, tasteless demon
can work its way into our water
and eventually kill us
from the inside out.

And the thing is, Arsenic
occurs naturally everywhere,
and we even use this poison
as a wood preservative,
it’s even used in paints, dyes, metals,
drugs, soaps. And even more frightening
for all you meat eaters,
high arsenic levels are in
animal feeding operations.

We seem to hunt down ways
to kill ourselves,
don’t we.

I read about Arsenic poisoning
and Napoleon’s death.
Breathing it in or ingesting it,
Dukes to Kings were poisoned…
Even impressionist painters
used the pigment Emerald Green
which contained Arsenic, causing
diabetes, blindness, neurological disorders.

Scary stuff, this Arsenic.

So then I heard NASA announce
that Arsenic-based life forms
were discovered on Earth.

Strange stuff, this Arsenic.

I mean, how could something that kills
actually help produce life?
How could this happen?

Okay, go back to my science book:
in order for life to exist,
we need these six elements:
carbon,
hydrogen,
nitrogen,
oxygen,
phosphorus
and sulfur.
So, where does Arsenic
fit into the picture?

Well, it looks like NASA scientists
were trying to see if any bacterium
could ever live
in an Arsenic-flooded environment.
So they went to
Mono Lake, California,
to see if anything could thrive
with a surplus of salts
and excesses of Arsenic.

So, in that elemental sextet of life,
they pulled out phosphorus,
to see what any bacteria species
might do.
Lo and behold,
the extremophilic species GFAJ-1
just decided to use Arsenic
instead of phosphorus,
and with all the Arsenic around them,
the bacteria thrived quite well.

And the name “GFAJ-1”
actually stands for
“Give Felisa a Job”.
Really.
So I guess it’s not hard to believe
that in their search
they we able to find
even more bizarre life in California
than we were used to.

And Mono Lake has always had
a productive ecosystem.
And many bacteria can tolerate
the high levels of arsenic,
or even take it in their cells.
But they just now proved,
that when starved of phosphorus,
some species could even grow
with Arsenic.

Hmmm.
Perplexing stuff, this Arsenic.

I don’t know if we want to create
Arsenic life forms here on Earth,
but knowing this is possible
increases the probability
of finding life elsewhere in the universe.

Spooky stuff, this Arsenic.

And who knows,
Arsenic in place of phosphorus on Earth
may date back to the origin of life,
where it may have occurred
in arsenic-rich hydrothermal vents.

Fascinating,
this speculating
about Arsenic.

And Darwinism may show
that species can adapt to survive —
I mean, we have found that bacteria
can adapt to artificially stringent
environmental conditions.

And who knows, maybe the NASA claim
that arsenic had been incorporated
into the backbone of DNA is not
ultimately true, I mean, Arsenic
just stepped in for the missing phosphorous,
so there may be no Arsenic in the DNA at all.
So give NASA a break,
they’re trying…
Because scientifically supported
statements or not,
it’s nice to know
that we’re looking at all possibilities
when looking for what is ultimately
good for life in this universe.

Copernicium poem by Janet Kuypers

Copernicium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#112, Cn)

It was my love of you
and what you believed in
that made me try to get you.

With your Renaissance ways,
you taught me that I’m not
the center of the Universe,

but I’ve learned since then
to go beyond the sun, because
there is too much out there

to see.

As a scientist, I know you
changed our views of the world.
So science must create you, again.

I know that mathematics
can explain the Universe,
but you were more than a

mathematician, you were
a physician, a translator,
an economist, an astronomer,

an artist.

I know you were a founder
in your time, and the half-life
of what we create may be small…

but I would have to throw
any metal I could into any
isotope I could, like zinc to lead,

just to see if you would
come out for us again. Let us
find you, let us experiment

with you.

Let us accelerate these processes,
cause just the right reactions
to synthesize you and your genius.

I don’t care how we get you,
whether what we do is cold or hot,
when we fuse to create you,

and through all of our work
you may only come to us
after the decay of others

around you.

We’ve learned that only now,
now that we have you, we can
try to work with any part of you,

no matter how unstable
you say you now are. I don’t care.
You’re the last member

transitioning in this series — so now
I can only reflect on your relativity
to planets, like Mercury, as well as

your nobility.

I miss what you’ve done
for how we think in this world.
I miss clear scientific minds.

I only hope that what we’ve done
in your honor does you justice.
Even though we’ve only created you,

I want you to remember
that it is because we wanted
to learn, too, and we wanted you

to guide the way.

Krypton poem by Janet Kuypers

Krypton

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

So, riddle me this, Batman…
(Wait a minute. That’s the wrong
superhero reference.
Let me start over again…)

Hi there. I’ve been trying
to wrap my head around this one,
maybe you can help me out.
Now, I don’t know a ton
about superhero mythology,
but Superman — he’s from
the planet Krypton, right?
And from what I’d infer,
Krypton would have a lot
of Kryptonite — Kryptonite
comes from Krypton, right?
So if Superman is from Krypton,
why would Kryptonite
be his weakness?
I mean, that’s like saying
the planet Earth has Oxygen,
but humans have an adverse
reaction to it. I don’t get it.

Okay, okay, i’m sure Kryptonite
is the ore form of a radioactive
element from Superman’s home,
but really, if they’ll name
this bad-for-residents thing
a version of the panet’s name,
it really makes you wonder
why.

And when it comes to this planet,
Krypton is colorless, odorless, tasteless…
and our own air, the stuff we breathe,
even contains fractional amounts of Krypton.
And if on Superman’s home planet
it was the radioactive ore of an element,
I guess it makes sense that here on earth
Krypton is used for fluorescent lamps,
or even in high-powered gas lasers.

But the one thing I thought was cool
was that Krypton is also used
in small photograph flashes,
and in high-speed photography
(you know, for a brilliant white light
source – good for the photo minor
who even had the license place
“J PHOTO 1” for her first car)…

And if I so got into the brilliant
white light Krypton creates in flashes,
I also then thought it was excellent-cool
that the different colors in neon signs
are often all Krypton, too…

So whether or not Krypton
is where Superman came from,
all I can say is that
Krypton has a certain brilliance
right here on earth too.