“Diburnium”, bonus sci-fi poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicgo poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #122, Db)

Spending another Saturday night alone,
I watched an old episode of Star Trek.
In this episode, Captain Kirk, McCoy and Sulu
were beamed down to a planet
with no magnetic field.

After the Enterprise
disappeared from their sensors,
Kirk hears Sulu say, “The basic substance
of this planet is an alloy of Diburnium-osmium.”

And my brain stopped
when I heard this elemental scrap.
I wracked my brain, ‘wait a minute,
I know osmium, it’s the densest metal
in the Periodic Table. But Diburnium?’

I know Star Trek mentions many elements
and isotopes when they talk science,
hydrogen, it’s isotope deuterium,
transparent aluminum, even dilithium
(which scientists are trying to use now
to boost speed for long distance space travel)…
So I had to research this elusive Diburnium.

Now, the Memory Alpha at Star Trek Wiki
confirmed that an abandoned Kalandan outpost
was built on an artificial planet
composed of a Diburnium-osmium alloy. And
according to the Starfleet Medical Reference Manual,
the element Diburnium had the symbol Db,
atomic weight 319, and atomic number 122.
Okay, this poet’s paying far too much attention
to the Periodic Table, but I know
that right now 118 is as high as the Table goes,
but like a Periodic Table addict
I still had to look into science fiction
that piqued my curiosity.
The Star Trek Freedom Wiki explained
that Diburnium is a metallic element
with phaser-resistant qualities.
Okay fine, maybe I’ll worry
about these undiscovered elements
only once they’re discovered,
because without actual phasers
to worry about in the present,
I think I’ll stick with the elements
we do know right now…

Osmium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Hearing the word “Osmium” recently
(and not knowing what the word means),
the only thing that popped into my head
was the Osmonds,
Then I had this crazy 1970s flashback
to watching the Donny and Marie Osmond show,
her singing “I’m a Little Bit Country”
and him singing “I’m a Little Bit Rock ‘n Roll”
(and listening to that ‘70s song now,
you’d swear that Donny Osmond
has no Motown in his soul)…
But when I was little, I even had
the Donny and Marie Barbie-styled
dolls and play set, which even had
a stage where they could sing —
they had microphones — and this
is the best part — the Donny and Marie
dolls had holes through their hands
(if only these holes leaked blood, so the
Donny and Marie stigmata was complete)
so microphones could lock into their hands.

I guess Donny and Marie dolls
had the stigmata so they could
have that strong bond
with the microphone,
like their strong Osmond
family bond.

Because I’m sure
a family bond
is harder than anything.

And no, I didn’t know what “Osmium” was,
but Osmium is a blue-gray
to blue-black transition metal,
and as far as elements go,
it’s actually the densest
hard transition metal
in the platinum family,
that actually remains lustrous,
even at higher temperatures.

And you know,
I’ve got a medical bracelet
I have to wear all the time…
If my medical bracelet
was made out of Osmium
it would probably last forever
and look really cool too…

But then again,
because it’s so dense and so hard,
it’s probably too brittle
to shape into a bracelet.
But I’m sure they use Osmium
in applications where durability
and hardness are needed,
like in the constant varying pressure
in fountain pen nibs,
or very repetitive and exacting
electrical contacts.

And the other thing that’s a bummer
about the densest element
in the Periodic Table
is that Osmium is actually
the least abundant element
in the earth’s crust…
So I guess it makes sense
that since it’s only obtained
during copper and nickel mining,
it would probably be used
for such small objects
like fountain pen nibs
and electrical circuitry
when these minute things
need to last.

And yeah, the thing is,
Osmium can also be used
for fingerprint detection,
and it can even stain fatty tissue
for optical and electron microscopy.
So it’s excellent-cool
that Osmium can also be used
on a microscopic level like that
to help us out so much too…

So, maybe if something
as dense and hard as Osmium
is actually quite rare here,
it’s a good thing
we’ve learned to utilize
such small amounts
of this dense element
for so many things
to help us out so much in life.