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


Janet Kuypers

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

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


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,
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.

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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#43, Tc)

You’re named from the Greek word for “artificial”,
because you were the first element man ever made…

We wanted to discover, we wanted to find you out —
we’d even create you if this was the only way.

We can only find you after your brethren
have been broken apart to reveal you. But the thing is,

your name is a bit misleading, though, since
you can be found naturally, albeit in trace amounts.

Though it’s funny, we searched for you for so long,
and now we discover that you’re a by-product

of our nuclear power stations. Then everyone thought
we wouldn’t know what to do with nuclear waste.

You’ve been put into the environment as
“low-level-waste” for nearly half a century,

but what I’ve learned is that doctors inject
small amounts of you into patients with tumors,

so they can see exactly where they need to heal people.
People wondered what we’d do with our nuclear waste,

but now you’re used in 20 million medical procedures
each year, because your short half-life makes you safe

and the way you decay helps doctors see
exactly what they need to do to save a life.

And yeah, you’re nuclear waste injected into a human,
but they need such a small amount that radiation is low.

It’s hard to believe that we searched for you for so long,
and now that you’re injected into 20 million patients —

in North America alone — every year,
it’s good that we finally found you out.

Darmstadtium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#110, Ds)
started 10/14/13, finished 10/15/13

Element one one zero
in the periodic Table,
originally didn’t have a name,
so when the scientists
gave a space-filler name
to element one one zero
they gave props
to the Greeks and Latins
by calling it

I’m sure it’s said
oon – un – nil – ee – um,
or maybe oon – un – neel – ee – um,
but knowing a thing or two
about the town of Darmstadt
during the Nazi regime,
I’m tempted to call it
oon – un – nile – ee um.

Oon – un-nihliate.
Get that heavy water
into the hands
of Nazi Germany,
and you’ll understand
the word play.


When Nazis took power in Germany,
Darmstadt was the first city
to even force Jewish shops to close.

German scientists knew
they could use “heavy water”
in an effort to make a nuclear bomb…
And when the allies bombed
the Nazis in nineteen forty-three
the air raid forced Nazis to move
all of their “heavy water”
to Germany for protection
(at places like Darmstadt,
where the super-heavy element
Darmstadtium was later discovered).

Then again, prominent members
of the German resistance
against the Nazis
were citizens of Darmstadt.

And Darmstadt is where the
big German accelerator is situated…
The GSI Heavy Ion Research Centre
is in Darmstadt, and elements
are discovered there
(like Darmstadtium). You see,
they had to make Darmstadtium
in this big machine
just to discover it, because
this synthetic element
isn’t even present
in the environment at all.
I mean, we’ve only been able
to make just a few atoms
of the super-heavy Darmstadtium…

But then again,
from what we could tell,
it’s insanely radioactive,
has an insanely short half life,
and no stable isotopes.
With all going against the nature
of Darmstadtium, it’s no wonder
that there isn’t even much concern
over guessing it’s potential physical
and chemical properties.

With such a short half life,
there’s no point in wondering
about the effect it might have
on the human body
or even on the environment,
because it just instantly decays
into lighter elements instead.

With such a short half life,
we’d have to slow down time itself
to even confirm it’s potential
silvery-white luster.

Hmmm, slowing down time itself.
Maybe that’s what we’d have to do
to learn a thing or two
about you,
Because with your
history of instability,
with such short amounts of you
creating only a flash of damage,
we’ll let others wonder
about the potential for
before we truly
learn a thing
or two.