Thorium, from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#90. Th) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Thorium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#90. Th)
7/1/14

Think of how many times
you’ve heard scientists say
(or maybe you’ve heard it
from people on daredevil tv)
“do not try this at home” —
knowing that someone,
somewhere
won’t heed this advice
and end up
with an unintended explosion
instead of a fantastic discovery
from their radical experiment…

Well, good thing one Swedish chemist
didn’t decide to “not try this at home”,
doing groundbreaking experiments
in his kitchen flat.
Though Jöns Jacob Berzelius < !—(yens yoke-ub bear-zeal-ee-us)—>
discovered a few elements,
he seemed so psyched
to name one new element
for the Scandinavian god of thunder, Thor.

And it’s kind of funny
that with his affinity for Thorium,
he never understood
Thorium’s radioactivity
(because, well,
when he discovered Thorium,
radioactivity hadn’t
even been discovered yet).

But after Thorium was discovered,
Thorium was used
for powering gas lamps
back in the day
when the world’s light
disappeared at nightfall.
But wait, Thorium’s radioactive,
and back in the day
they didn’t know this,
so did people get cancer
from radiation poisoning?

Well, maybe if
there was enough Thorium
in those gas lamps,
and maybe if that Thorium
wasn’t stopped from
getting to humans
by the glass surrounding the lamps…
Because only if you’d
eat Thorium (and maybe
only the supernatural God Thor
would eat Thorium)
maybe only if you ate it
only then might it make you sick.
        I mean, they still sell it
        today in camping lamps,
        unless you actually look for a lamp
        that’s Thorium-free…

But even when it came
to eating Thorium,
some people would do it
back in the ‘30s with x-rays
for detecting their cancer,
because at the time Thorium
was perfect for saving lives
thanks to those x-rays.
So with Thorium for cancer x-rays,
the new cancer risk
seemed like a fair trade-off
before they could find
a safer x-ray detection agent.

So yeah, there’s no way
a Swedish chemist
could have guessed it
when he discovered
the element Thorium
and wanted to name it
after the God of Thunder,
but Thorium can bring
some light into our world,
as long as we use Thorium
in just the right way.

Rutherfordium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Rutherfordium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf)
7/3/14

And when I get that engagement ring…
I don’t want Zirconium, I want a diamond!
I want something stronger!
Even the band,
everyone wants Gold,
but Platinum is stronger,
even Tungsten
(which has a cool goth sound to it)…
What’s the strongest element out there – Iridium?
Hey, that’s the stuff that was in the asteroid
that killed all the dinosaurs!
‘Cuz that stuff’s so strong that it’s brittle
and can’t even be bent into a wedding band…
But I want the biggest, strongest ring on my finger
because I want EVERYONE to know
that I’m gonna be the bride!

Because I’ve really had my heart set
on this one amazing man, Ernest.
(Isn’t that the coolest name, Ernest?
I mean, I’m being earnest with you,
that’s his name, and it sounds so cool!)
You see, he’s from the Rutherford family
and I’m so taken with him.
Oh, and get this, he was born in New Zealand
and now lives in the U.K. — this man
must know the world,
and I think I’m gonna melt!
But the things is, whenever he’s around
he’s only around for fleeting moments,
he mixes with friends
and his isotopes are around for as long as an hour,
but sometimes only for ten minutes,
and sometimes just for a minute or two…
So I ever get the chance to be with him
long enough to tell him how I feel.

My friends tell me not to bother,
because his radioactive personality
(that I’m so drawn to)
means that if I get too close
he might be trouble for me.

Well, I may not be the smartest girl
if he is such a strong and intelligent man,
but I’ve been doing all the research I can
about him. When it comes to researh,
I want to work with him,
and I want to learn.
I only hope he’ll let me.

Protactinium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, (#91, Pa) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Protactinium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#91, Pa)
7/1/14

Wanted to talk about P A,
element ninety one,
but gotta keep this brief,
because the first people
who discovered an isotope
of element ninety one
found it had had an
insanely short half life,
so they wanted
to name it “brevium”.

Than again,
after a German scientist
found another isotope
with a much longer
half life,
they figured that maybe
they’d try “protoactinium”,
because this element
is the progenitor of element 89,
Actinium, because
when element ninety one decays
and loses and alpha particle,
Actinium (element 89) is created.

But proto-actinium?
That still sounds
a little long,
maybe we can remember
that brevity
of the one isotope’s
short half life
and call it
Protactinium
instead.

But really,
this stuff’s radioactive
and highly toxic,
and no one has found
a single use for this element
besides maybe scientific research.
But right now they’ve discovered
when measuring the ratios
of Protactinium and Thorium isotopes
in ocean sediments, they can
reconstruct the movements
of bodies of North Atlantic water
during the melting of the last ice age.

Kind of cool.
But an ice age can take
millions of years.
Hardly brief,
like the first isotope
discovered of Protactinium.

But who knows,
maybe if Protactinium
is only good to us humans
for scientific research,
maybe we will
start to learn some cool stuff
about Earth’s past —
and maybe Earth’s future —
thanks to a brief little element
we otherwise have no use for…

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.

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

Berkelium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#79, Bk)
(started 8/15/14, finished 8/22/14)

The streets of town were paved with stars,
it was such a romantic affair
and when we kissed and said good night
a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

A nightingale sang in Berkeley square.
Berkeley. B, E, R, K, E, L, E, Y.
You see, on the other side of the pond
the Brits have a different way of saying things,
including the name of the Anglo Irish
philosopher George Berkley.
That’s B, E, R, K, L, E, Y, like
you’re barking up the wrong tree,
but when a city and University in California
was named after this philosopher,
well, the pronunciation changed
after it crossed the ocean.
And because of scientific work done
at the University of Berkley,
they decided to name element seventy nine
after the University (it’s actually
only one of two elements in the Periodic Table
named after a university).
So, I don’t really know
how you’re supposed to pronounce it,
should I say berk-lee-um like the States,
or the British ber-keel-ee-yum,
because I’ve been trying to learn
a thing or two about Berkelium.
And the thing is, it’s never found
in it’s pure form,
because this transuranic radioactive
and artificially produced element
is a soft, silvery-white, actinide metal
that sometimes has long half lives
through it’s isotopes
(that range from microseconds to several days,
to three hundred thirty days, to nine years
to one thousand three hundred eighty years).
So maybe I’m only meant
to learn about parts of it
by these fleeting dances
scientists have with Berkelium…

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

Strontium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#038 Sr)
7/2/13

People seem to think
that they need to eat
a ton of red meat
in order to be strong.

They think eating slaughtered
animal is the only way
a human being is capable
of getting themselves protein.

And I know it may be a tightrope walk
to get what you need —

I know how you
can turn a flame
into satan red
(but that means
we use you
in red flares, or
even red fireworks)…

I know how a part of you
can turn radioactive
(like when the Chernobyl explosion
threw Strontium 90 into the air:

but yeah, we’ve learned,
and can use that Strontium 90
in cancer therapy)…

And since Strontium
can get into your bones
(since it’s similar to calcium),
salt Strontium ranelate
treats osteoarthritis.

The thing is, plants are higher
in Strontium than meat,
and because it’s like calcium
it stays in our bones.

Because when we tested
ancient bones,
Austrian researchers
suggested
that Roman gladiators
were
vegetarians.

(Actually,
they ate
mostly barley,
beans, and
dried fruit.)

So yeah,
the strong,
ruthless
Roman gladiators
(the confident,
self-assured
Roman gladiators)
were
vegetarians.

Sorry, but I’ve heard
of how run down firemen
started feeling better
after they cut out meat
(metaphorically, I mean,
they didn’t actually cut any meat,
no animals were harmed
in this experiment
in making people healthier)…

Because if just the right Strontium
can help your bones,
and it is more common
in plants than animals,
maybe people can realize
that they don’t need to eat
a ton of red meat
in order to be strong.
Because with a plant-based diet,
a little Strontium
can go a long way.

Curium, “Periodic Table od Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Curium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#96, Cm)
10/23/13

Searching through storage
for my wedding clothes,
I ignored my white wedding dress
and reached for the wedding veil.
It might not be true
to my Halloween costume,
but I had to wear something
to show that my black long-sleeved dress
was actually a wedding dress.
I’ll carry a small bunch
of white flowers
to make what otherwise
seems like a “goth wedding”
look complete, but still,
I’ll have to explain
that my Halloween costume
is my interpretation
of Marie Curie
on her wedding day.

I mean, I had to wear this
for my Halloween costume,
I mean, I’m writing poetry
for every element
in the Periodic Table,
and I know that Marie Curie
discovered a few of these
elements herself, and one
was even named after her.

And maybe it’s wasn’t goth,
but a diligent work ethic
that caused Marie Curie
on her own wedding day
to wear a black dress —
so she could wear the same
black dress later for her work.

And yeah, when she worked
she was getting messy with her
radioactive elements
(ergo the black dress, I suppose),
but when she studied
the radioactivity
of some elements
seeming higher at times,
she deduced that there
must be something else
causing the radiation.

And there was;
she even coined the
term “radioactivity,’
while she discovered
the two radioactive elements
radium and polonium.

But looking back on her life,
maybe wearing the black
dress was appropriate,
because she soared
in all the schooling
she could legally take
(at the time, she couldn’t
enroll in a higher education
because she was female) —
so she eventually had
to go underground learning
for higher education
in makeshift classrooms
that lasted only a few days
before a government raid
would cause the “schooling”
to have to move again.
She then left Poland for Paris,
was able to go to school,
but was still penniless and hungry.

But after her second degree,
she met her Pierre,
who worked with her
even after their marriage
(where they gave each other
bicycles as wedding gifts).

I know, I know, I’m going
on and on about Marie Curie
for my Halloween costume,
and there’s even an element
named after her, but she
didn’t discover that element,
so does Curium have any
relationship to Marie Curie?
Well, other than the fact
that Curium’s radioactive
(Curium is actually one of the
most radioactive elements),
Curium is now used to help
scientists learn and discover,
much the way Marie Curie did.

Curium helps people, to help
power artificial pacemakers.
But it’s even used in alpha-particle
X-ray spectrometers that are
installed on lunar and Mars rovers
like the Sojourner or the
Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
It’s even used on a spacecraft
to probe the surface of a comet.

Hmmm… Because it’s radioactive,
Curium is dangerous to us humans,
even though it really does have
a certain glow to it…
But it is nice to know that,
like Marie Curie,
we can use this element
to research and learn.
Besides, both being a goth girl
and loving to dive into my work
is really making me take a shine
to this black wedding dress idea…

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

Darmstadtium

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,
Darmstadtium,
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
Ununnilium.

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,
Darmstadtium.
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
oon-un-nihilation
before we truly
learn a thing
or two.