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


Janet Kuypers

(from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #107, Bh)

This isn’t boring.
You won’t be bored with the details —
anyone interested in different kinds of attraction
should listen close…

Because Bohrium isn’t boring
if you find fusion fascinating.
Think about it for a minute —
what are the conditions
that bring two bodies together
so they join to create something new?


Think back the the times of year
when you have met people you later dated.
Was it in the summertime,
when the temperature was high,
when you were feeling all hot and bothered
when you saw that special someone
that you were instantly attracted to?
Maybe you were taking a break from school
or going to the beach to relax,
make yourself look just perfect
for that one chance encounter
that will lead to so much more…
        (Hate to tell you this,
        but that hot weather attraction
        is a lot like a hot fusion…
        Chemically speaking, after atoms are split apart,
         “fusion” is the art of getting different parts
        to come together to create something new.
        The sun’s a natural fusion reactor.
        Nucear reactors perform fission to split atoms,
        nuclear fusion, or “hot fusion” uses all it’s energy
        to slam those elemental atoms into each other,
        so they’re more likely to break apart
        and their parts can create new elements or isotopes.
        This is how scientists discover synthetic elements.)

But sometimes, sometimes, that attraction can come
not when the temperature is sizzling hot,
but when things seem bitter cold
and warm bodies have a tendency
to group together to conserve their heat.

I suppose you can say I     am “bonded” with someone now,
and when we met on a train commuting from work
it was the middle of January in a cold Chicago winter,
I was fully adorned in a winter coat, a hat,
gloves, a headband for my ears,
boots, a scarf covering my face.
Who knows, maybe that not-so-hot weather
gave us more of a reason to bond,
since it was only three months after we met
that we became engaged for marriage.

        (And I hate to say this, but scientifically
        there is a method of fusion for this as well.
        Cold fusion is technically the fusion of things
        merely at room temperature
        and not after nuclear super-excitement.)

And as I said, I didn’t want to bore you with these details,
but there are a lot of ways fusion like that
can even help in the discovery of new elements,
like Bohrium.
Because back in eighty one, element one oh seven
was discovered after bombarding bismuth two of nine
with accelerated nuclei of chromium fifty four.
They only produced five atoms of Bohrium 262,
but man, were they excited…
They were so attracted to Niels Bohr
that they wanted to name their element
nielsbohrium for the Danish physicist.
But wait, Russian scientists originally
wanted to name element one of five nielsbohrium,
so the Germans here at one of seven said
hey, we wanted to give props to Neils Bohr
for his work in cold fusion (since that was used
for the discovery of this element).
So the Russians relented,
but the element naming commission
said, wait a minute, we’ve never
named an element after the full name of anyone,
so, after they temporarily called it unnilseptium
(Uns, Latin for one oh seven),
they settled for just the last name
and crowned this new gem Bohrium.

And yeah, there are tons of isotopes of Bohrium
from all that atom smashing and bonding
with half lives from a quarter millisecond
to ninety minutes,
but there aren’t many atoms of the stuff,
so all of it’s properties are only extrapolated
from knowing it’s place in the Periodic Table.
But still, know how fusing things together
is the only way to make this new element,
makes you put a whole new spin on bonding,
attachment, creating something new,
that almost puts a glimmer in your eye
and makes you smile again.

Lutetium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#71, Lu)

When I was little
and first fell in love
with the stars in the sky,
it was always easy
to spot the constellation
Cassiopeia at night —
just look for five dots
that looked like the letter “w”
as the throne for Cassiopeia,
queen of Aethiopia.
But apparently the Germans
had a thing for Cassiopeia too,
because an Austrian,
a Frenchman and an American
all independently discovered
the element Lutetium
at the same time…
After years of debate,
the Frenchman won
the naming rights for Lutetium,
but the Germans still
stuck with Cassiopeia
for their name-of-choice
through the nineteen fifties.

But I don’t know, maybe
this element Lutetium
was the perfect thing
for queen Cassiopeia,
because although it is
more common than silver
here on Earth,
it’s hard to separate
from other elements,
and it’s harder and denser
than it’s counterparts
(even costing ten thousand
dollars per kilogram).


If I could have photographed
queen Cassiopeia,
I may have wanted
Lutetium aluminum garnet
as the liquid element
in immersion lithography
for added depth-of-focus
in my photo journalism travails…
Though maybe I should just
savor the connection
between queen Cassiopeia
(with her throne in the sky),
the mother of Andromeda
(goddess and galaxy),
and Lutetium —
something that has always
been so strong,
and has also worked
with others, to help us see
everything so much better…

lutetium electron structure
    * Germans used cassiopium (Cp), after the constellation Cassiopeia, as the name for element 71 (Lutetium) until the 1950s.
Lutetium is not a particularly abundant element, though significantly more common than silver in the earth’s crust; it has few specific uses, but is found with almost all other rare-earth metals but never by itself.
Lutetium is very difficult to separate from other elements, and pure Lutetium metal is very difficult to prepare. Even though it is more common than silver, it is one of the rarest and most expensive of the rare earth metals with the price about US$10,000 per kilogram, or about one-fourth that of gold. Lutetium also has the highest density, melting point, and hardness of the lanthanides.
For an application for Lutetium: Immersion lithography is a photolithography resolution enhancement technique for manufacturing integrated circuits (ICs) that replaces the usual air gap between the final lens and the wafer surface with a liquid medium that has a refractive index greater than one. Currently, the most promising high-index lens material is Lutetium aluminum garnet.