Lanthanum, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #57, La) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Lanthanum

Janet Kuypers

(poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #57, La)
6/27/14

When I went to the after party
of a recent Chicago live play,
an actor from the play
asked me if I was an actor.
I said no, I write,
I run a poetry open mic,
occasionally do features,
and the actor told me,
then you are an actor.

And my story has not
been produced as a play,
and directors aren’t
knocking down my doors
to offer me a starring role.
At my open mic
I applaud other readers,
collect money for features,
and although I perform
in a show sometimes,
a day or two after my show
I am quickly forgotten,
and I still,
otherwise,
seem to slip into the woodwork.

#

You know, I was thinking about it:
if you look at the Periodic Table,
you know elements are grouped
by weight and therefore by properties,
but there’s this block of elements
sticking out at the bottom of the Table.
It’s like scientists didn’t know
what to do with some of these elements,
so called them Lanthanides,
from the Greek word “lanthano”
(meaning “to escape notice”),
and then moved them out of the way
on the Periodic Table.

And that first element in the series
has the name from the series, Lanthanum,
and maybe it is like an actor
who appears in film after film
always portraying different roles
but not often taking the lead. ..
Lanthanum’s joined with metal elements
to make them stronger, because
even when added to lenses
or the accuracy of radio carbon dating,
everything is sharper, stronger and more accurate —
Lanthanum’s supporting role
makes everything stand proudly
in the lime light.

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

Dubnium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Db)
(8͏23͏14)

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

ink

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,
right?
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.

Thulium, “Periodic Table” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Thulium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#69, Tm)
7/18/13

Scroll to Medieval times,
and see a classical map.

Look over the Carta Marina,
because there you can find
what some theorized
as an island of antiquity —
through for those who traveled
by boat around Britain,
the Thule was the most northerly
of the Britannic Islands.
In ancient literature, however,
the Ultima Thule
was the symbol for
a far-off land,
something unattainable.

And when Thulium was discovered
in the late eighteen hundreds
(named after Thule,
as a mythical region
in Scandinavia),
the element was so rare that
it’s qualities were unattainable…

But even though this is
the rarest of the rare,
and despite the high cost,
it’s in the YAG laser, used
for laser surgery, for work
unattainable by the human hand.
It’s even bombarded
in a nuclear reactor
for it’s use in portable
x-ray devices,
so we can see
what was otherwise
unattainable to the naked eye.

I mean, because of
Thulium’s fluorescence,
it’s even inside euro banknotes,
to prevent counterfeiting.

Because Thulium fluoresces
with a deep blue hue,
we’ll sail the oceans
to learn, we’ll go to
the farthest places we know,
just to see trace glimpses,
because we want to go beyond
what we see…

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

Terbium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#65, Tb)
7/17/13

Looking for better sound
remains at the top of the list.

Having better stereo speakers
at all group parties, meetings or settings,

having a portable sound system
anyone could take with them,

even using sound while in the car
to reduce traffic noise, hear better music,

or talk hands-free on your smart phone.

The possibilities seem endless,
but stereo speakers take up space —

so we need to use science and technology
to even help us meet our audio needs.

Companies create better and better
sound systems, earbuds for iPods

have grown smaller and smaller,
even with noise-canceling technology…

There has to be a way to use the world
around us to get us exactly what we have

decided we need.

So, after just a little research,
I discovered an element twice as common

as silver on this planet, and when it is mixed
into a compound, Terbium can help create

a “Soundbug” speaker that can turn
any flat surface into a flat panel speaker.

(Any flat surface, like an office window,
or your dining room table at home.)

You see, the Terbium-filled Soundbug
can be plugged into a headphone socket

and then suction to any flat surface —
literally turning that surface into a speaker.

Now, this Terbium-rich Soundbug
is only the size of a computer mouse,

and retailing at less than fifty bucks,
they’re targeting this to the youth market;

but a wide-range of technology users
are going to love this little gadget

that can re-purpose everyday flat surfaces
into speakers for all sorts of sound needs.

The thicker the flat material surface, the
better the sound quality of the Terbium-laced

Soundbug speaker, and yeah, the resonance
of the speaker material (wood, glass, metal)

can effect the final sound quality,
but in theory you could daisy-chain

a few of these Terbium Soundbugs together
to excite multiple electrical currents of the music

players, to excite the mock speakers,
to bring every party to life in richer stereo.

Now, I know Terbium is like a
“Swiss Army knife” for cancer diagnosis,

and I know it’s green luminescence
gives color enrichment to tee tees

and is even used in fluorescent lamps,
or lasers, or semiconductor devices…

But this whole “using what we have
to multi-purpose what we have” idea

is really beginning to stick with me.
This audio technology can work with

magnetostriction, like, in a car instead
of in a business meeting or a party:

in a car, the Terbium Soundbug
could create noise-insulating windows,

blocking out the excessive sounds of traffic
(and you know how I hate the sound of traffic…).

But to business workers in a car,
the mobile phone version of the Terbium

Soundbug could be stuck to a car windshield,
to allow hands-free, headset-free talking.

(Well, that may cost a little more
than the indoors Terbium Soundbug,

but no price is too high to stop people
from staring at their phones while driving,

right?)

So yeah, although it is more common
on earth than silver, Terbium may still be

hard to get sometimes — but if we can find
this many uses for this element,

I’m sure it’s demand will increase, because
pretty soon, Terbium will be desired

more than anything.

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

Roentgenium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#111, Rg)
7/2/13

Being in just the right place
at just the right time
is what getting what you want
is all about.

#

Thirteen nuclear researchers
bombarded Bismuth two oh nine
with Nickel sixty four ions
to make the Nickel penetrate
the Bismuth nucleus,
so they’d come together
to make a bigger atom.

So the Nickel had to go fast enough
to penetrate the Bismuth nuclei
(not too fast, but not too slow),
and still, you’d lose a lot of atoms
to
space.

Enough experiments,
enough times,
created more atoms
of element
one one one.

They looked for so long,
and no one knows for sure
what Roentgenium looks like,
so the researchers started
predicting it’s properties
because it has such a short
half life.

#

And on the anniversary
of when this all came together
in just the right way,
at just the right time,
that’s when John Hinckley,
after stalking the rock star
and watching his habits,
that’s when he walked
from the sidewalk
and shot John Lennon.

Because as I said,
you have to be
in just the right place
at just the right time
to make everything
come together,
don’t you.

#

But if we got enough
of one one one,
we’d love this precious metal —
even if only for a short while.

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

Rhodium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#45, Rh)
10/15/13

When you say the word “menthol,”
images probably crop up in your head
of women holding a cigarette stick
like she’s using her smoke
as an orchestra wand,
tracing the line of smoke
like she’s conducting a symphony
with her mint-tasting cancer stick.

But menthol’s also used in lip balms
(I really like that stuff, too,
I like the minty flavor on my lips) —
it’s even used in cough medications.
It can be used in those Icy Hot patches,
menthol’s in decongestants
like Vicks VapoRub, it’s in
aftershaves to relieve razor burn.
Yeah, and speaking of the taste
in cigarettes or lip balm, menthol
is in mouthwashes, toothpastes,
even chewing gum.

So really, now that you know how
widely it’s used now, you can see
how menthol’s demand is now so huge
compared to the natural supply.
So in Japan, one man even won in 2001
the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for
a process to meet the demand
for more menthol worldwide.
This Japanese team used Rhodium
based catalysts for menthol synthesis.

And yeah, Rhodium is used in catalysts
for anything from automobile
catalytic converters, or making
certain silicone rubbers. And sure,
Rhodium is used for jewelry,
coating sterling silver to stop tarnishing
or electroplating white gold and platinum,
making it white and reflective.

I mean, the Guinness Book of World Records
gave Paul McCartney a Rhodium-plated disc
in 1979 for being history’s all-time best-selling
songwriter and recording artist.

Not gold. Not titanium. But Rhodium.

(And because Rhodium’s so expensive,
that World Records award disc given to
Paul McCartney isn’t even solid Rhodium.)

So I guess it’s kind of interesting that
this expensive decorative jewelry addition
is also used to give our chewing gum
that excellent minty flavor. So yeah,
when you’re worrying about how money
can seem tight sometimes,
don’t worry about the jewelry.
Just pop a stick of mint chewing gum
in your mouth, thanks to Rhodium,
and realize that we all probably
don’t have it that bad after all.

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

Polonium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#084, Po)
including the poem “Eyes are Blurred to the Battlefield”
8/11/13

On the Indonesian island Jawa
large turtle skeletons
litter the plains,

because after the turtles
came in from the ocean
to lay their eggs,

swarms of wild dogs there
got together and
pounced.

Those wild dogs flipped the turtles over,
and stripped them completely
from their shells

before they ate them alive.

Because we have to remember
that life is a constant
avoidance of death:

since later on, many of those wild dogs
who killed the turtles
were prey to the tiger,

who later pounced upon them.
This is the cycle of life,
because every birth

is a prelude to death.
Remember this.
Don’t forget.

#

Keep in mind that elemental Polonium
changes in a nuclear reactor
to form Polonium-210…

Because the former Russian agent
Alexander Litvinenko
was the first man

to be poisoned to death from lethal
Polonium-210-induced
acute radiation.

So yes, because life is a prelude to,
and a constant avoidance
of death,

this Polonium-210 poisoning marked
the beginning of an era
of nuclear terrorism.

#

I know, I know, this is only
a part of Polonium,
and they found

that Polonium’s electrical conductivity
changes with it’s temperature,
making it perfect

for eliminating static electricity.
And because of it’s
short half-life,

it’s decay generates heat, so it’s a
convenient and light source
to generate

thermo-electric power in space
satellites and lunar stations —
because it’s great

that for space no moving parts
are required for power
from Polonium.

Yes, I know it’s radioactive,
Marie Curie discovered
Polonium

(named for her homeland Poland),
she even coined the phrase
“radioactivity” while

working. She even worked so diligently
that on her own wedding day
she wore a black dress —

because she could then wear it
for the work she later
had to do.

#

Marie Curie wore a black dress
to her own wedding;
maybe she knew

that life is a constant avoidance
of death. Life is just
a prelude to death,

because though Polonium otherwise
seems like a relatively
harmless element,

Polonium-210 can still be used
as just the right element
for nuclear terrorism.

#

With Polonium, there’s much to learn.
Because when alloyed,
it can be

a portable neutron source, Polonium
is even used in making
photographic plates.

But then again, Polonium’s
the only component
of cigarette smoke

found in lab rats to produce cancer.
Polonium was produced
in World War II’s

Manhattan Project — it was even
part of the design of the
Fat Man bomb

on Nagasaki. Yeah, Polonium
has many good qualities
to us humans,

but kep in mind that life is still
a constant avoidance
of death.

So despite what good we look for
in Polonium, this element
can also be

the instrument of death.
Remember this.
Don’t forget.

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

Neodymium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#060, Nd)

I am drawn to you, / you pull on me so,
when I think of how / you’re so magnetic.

With your electric charge, / my motor’s going,
you get me charged up / thinking it’s a game…

You use my favorite gems, / Garnet and crystals,
and you make every point / seem laser clear.

You’re focus must be why / I’m so drawn to you
I must come to you / until you’re near.

And now you know how / I love my glassware,
so I was sent to / a glass blowing lathe,

and the glass blowers / were making glassware
with you on their eyes / so they could see.

They loaned me their specs, / I put them on —
and through the green-grey specs / the flame was gone.

I did a double-take — / there was no glare —
leaving me to see / just molten glass.

‘Cause on those glasses, / you weren’t alone —
you worked in pairs there / so we could see.

‘Cause to the Greeks / you are a new twin,
that’s where together’s / how you fit in…

 

And all of this time / I was drawn to you
but now you’ve proven / you can help me see.