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

Erbium

Janet Kuypers

(poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #68, Er)
6/27/14

On the east coast,
shopping once
with a gay friend of mine,
we walked past a guard
at the empty clothing store
to browse for clothes.
My friend held up
a pink shirt,
asked my opinion.
I looked at it,
then at him
and said,
“I’m not a pink person,”
and we both turned
to the clothing racks.
I walked to a farther rack
and pulled out
this goth girls’ color of choice,
held up the black shirt
for his opinion.
Since he was farther away,
he responded loud enough
to confuse the large
African-American guard
when he said,
“I’m not a black person…”

And I don’t care if “PINK”
is the largest ad campaign
of a national lingerie company.
And okay, the pink ribbon
is an honor to my mom
and breast cancer research.
But I’ve never had
a love of the color
until I heard of metals
glowing in a brilliant
pink luminescence.
Because in the science of spectroscopy
(analyzing light from chemicals
through a prism), scientists discovered
stunning pink crystals that glinted alluringly
that would glow even more brilliantly
under fluorescent lights.
That has to be the element Erbium…
And any Erbium compounds
are invariably a faint pink, and —
wait a minute,
why am I going on
about Erbium
and it’s very distinct pinkness?
Well, there were spectroscopic bands
in the infrared part of the spectrum
of Erbium, and these allow Erbium
to not scatter light (or data)
in optical fibres
(the kind for all phone calls
or all Internet data transfer).
Optical fibres are gossamer thin
threads of glass, and they are
a rare optical perfection
that needs just the right element
to carry our voices,
or carry all data
without losing it to the atmosphere.

And if that element has to be pink,
then I guess Erbium
can give me another reason
to like the color pink too.

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

G Block

Janet Kuypers

(from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #119-184)
8/31/14

While researching cold fusion
to learn about my latest periodic table element,
I see a sentence to a link for
“Approaches to element 120 (Ubn, unbinilium)”,
and I think,
‘oh no,
this can’t be,
the periodic table only goes to element 118,’
so with dread
I follow the link
and realize
that scientists can’t be happy
with the elements they’ve discovered,
of course not,
so even though there’s no place
in the periodic table
for any new elements…

Well, wait a minute,
if they’re talking about element 120,
there has to be talk about element 119,
so I looked it up, and of course, Uue,
ununennium has a wiki web page too,
so I look at their supposed location
in the periodic table,
and they’re off to the left of the table
in two separate additional rows.
119 is in period 8, the s block,
just like its neighbor, 120.

Whatever that means.
(I mean really, haven’t I
done enough research
on these elements already?)

Oh but wait, they’re just to the left
of Hydrogen, which is also in that s block.

So the periodic table contains four blocks,
the s, p, d and f blocks, giving you
details about the atoms therein.
But then I see a link there
for the “extended periodic table”.

Of course. An extended periodic table.

So I look, and because all of these
are super-heavy elements, the theoreticians
(including Seaborg, who theorized about
many of these now postulated elements)
dropped this new set of twelve
121 and up elements
into the “g block.”

Yes, the g block.
Ask any prisoner in the g block,
and they’ll swear
the prosecution made everything up
to put them behind bars.

I wonder, if all of these elements
are still undiscovered,
how much of these g block elements
are these chemists really making up?

But as far as they can hypothesize, this g block
in the periodic table contains eighteen elements
with partially filled g-orbitals in each period…

I’ve read documents postulating
the first g block element’s at 121
that claim the hypothesized element
126 would be within an island of stability,
resistant to fission but not to alpha decay.
They’ve tried to create 119, 120, 121, 124, 126 and 127,
and some scientists once claimed
discovering an isotope of 122 occurring naturally…

But wait a minute, let me think about this:
if the g block is made of twelve elements,
that would mean the edge of the g block
is element one thirty two, and still
I’ve seen that “extended periodic table”
has Superactinides and Eka-superactinides
listed all the way up to one hundred eighty four.

Razzin frazzin.
Mumble grumble.
Can elements even exist with that heavy a weight?
Isotopes of some synthetic elements
last only milliseconds, and as far as I know,
the only way these super-heavy synthetic elements
can be created is by smashing an atom
with a ton of neutrons into an atom
of a synthetic element (you know, like one
with a half life of only milliseconds).
Can scientists even be able to try
to create these only predicted
super-heavy synthetic elements?
Because it’s really unknown
how far the periodic table extends
beyond the discovered element 118.
But some predict that it ends at 128.
Some predict that it ends at 155.
Some first guessed
that the table couldn’t go past 137,
then later calculated the end was 173.

Oh, razzin frazzin,
with all these guesses
I can’t hear myself a-speechin’…
But I’m not quite sure any of these chemists
are sayin’ the right answers, either,
when everyone can only guess
if any more elements can even be created.

Okay, fine, I’m just a poet
trying to learn a thing or two,
to refresh my memory
on the periodic table
and keep my science know-how up to par.
Maybe I’ll just have to wait
until they actually discover
new elements,
and be content
when they discuss elements
in astronomy and science shows,
when I can actually understand
what they’re saying and think,
“wait, I think I knew that…”

Because okay, I’m only a poet,
but I’ll keep my scientific mind open
and welcom every new discovery as it comes
with open arms.

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‘Old Star, New elemental Tricks’, bonus “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Old Star, New elemental Tricks

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, with Arsenic (#033, As) and Selenium (#034, Se)
7/24/13

When the Big Bang first exploded,
the only elements it could muster
were hydrogen and helium
and a smidgen of lithium and boron.

Higher elements were only created
after the creation of stars.

But scientists have now discovered
that in an ancient star
in the faint stellar halo
surrounding the Milky Way,
astronomers have detected
the presence of Arsenic and Selenium.

Now, I’ve only known Arsenic
as highly toxic, and scientists
pulling phosphorus from the sextet
of life while down at the Arsenic-rich
Mono Lake to fill DNA with Arsenic.

And Selenium is used for horses,
but can kill a person if ingested
regularly (even leaving a garlic
taste when given to victims).
Hmmm, and I like garlic so much…

But these two elements,
sitting right next to each other
in the Periodic Table, transition
from light to heavy elements,
and have never been found
in old stars — until now.

You see, stars like our sun
usually make the lighter elements
(like, up to oxygen),
and heavier stars can make
elements as high in the Periodic Table
as iron. Any elements
heavier than that
(like Arsenic and Selenium)
have to be made by
neutron-capture nucleosynthesis.
So, thanks to the nuclear reaction
from inside the heaviest of stars,
scientists found Arsenic and Selenium
in a 12 billion year-old halo star.

And they say the universe
is like 13.77 billion years old,
so when I’m talking old star remanants,
I’m talking infancy of the universe stars.

(And we thought we were the only ones
who know how to utilize these
poisonous elements here on earth,
and now we see that stars
from the ancient history of this universe
have been creating this stuff for eons…)

So they’ve discovered
quite a new trick
from this old star,
which means we now know how to look
for elements in other stars,
and maybe explain why
some elements appear on earth.
Cause, it’s all science,
and we can explain away
the mysteries of what’s good
and bad here on planet earth,
and trace it all the way back
to the toddler years of
this entire universe too…

DNA and Carbon in Asteroids (oh my), bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

DNA and Carbon, in Asteroids (oh my)

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series
3/13/13

You know, us Carbon-based life forms
always wonder where we came from,
how we got here.

And with science on our side,
we’ve looked beyond
guessing and story telling
to find proof in our answers.

And still, we look beyond
what we know around us
to find out how we were formed
here on earth.

#

A couple of asteroids
just flew
perilously close to the earth.
Asteroid 2012 DA 14 intersected the iridium constellation,
flew through all of our global communication satellites.
An asteroid turned meteor blew up in the atmosphere
above the Ural mountains;
every Russian on the road
filmed the sky explosion
with their dashboard cameras,
before the sonic boom shattered windows everywhere
and injured over a thousand people.

And over two thirds of our planet
is covered in water,
just think of all of the impacts
we’re missing out on;
I mean, our news feeds
don’t come from the middle of the ocean…

So we seem to think that these stellar explosions
are becoming more and more rare,
because our planet is pocked with massive impacts
from the earth’s early history.
But now that these scientists
have been scanning the skies
and studying the meteors buried in Antarctica,
they’ve learned that many asteroids and meteors
colliding with our planet’s crust
actually carry atanine and guanine.

Asteroids carry major structures that form DNA.

It’s very possible
that throughout the early history of earth,
asteroids collided with this planet,
leaving their Carbon-rich DNA structures behind
to help start life, and populate the earth.

I mean, Scientists have always wondered
how the elemental sextet of life:
Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorous, nitrogen, calcium,
how did these elements got together
in just the right way
to eventually create earth’s Carbon-based life forms.

I guess it would help that primordial soup
if some asteroids brought along
a little bit of DNA,
so some of our building blocks
came ready-made.

Astronomers say that we’re all made out of stardust,
because all of our atoms
originate from the explosion of stars,
but for this Carbon-based life form,
it’s cool that some of these asteroids and meteors
carried our Carbon —
and some of our DNA —
here to planet earth,
to jump-start our creation
and get our genetic gears going.

Iodine, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Iodine

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#053, I)

I saw a science fantasy show once
where a man made entirely out of tumors
could only regenerate himself to survive
by submerging in a bathtub of Iodine.

Now I’m not a tumor, I’m only human,
but I have to remember that you’re good for me,
you and you violet vapors,
we’ve just got to find out ways
to keep you with us as long as we can…

you’re rare throughout this Universe,
but lucky us, here on planet earth,
we’re the one with the water,
and you seem to be all over our oceans.

Lucky us, we need your nutrition,
and we need you to help us heal…

But as I said, you’re rare in the Universe,
which means you’re rare on this land.
And if we can’t get enough of you,
it might be an intellectual disability.

But you help me see right down to my bones,
and I don’t want to lose my faculties —
or what makes me me —
if I don’t have you.

You’ve disinfected my cuts and sores,
we’ve used you in medicines,
and… I’m sorry.
You may be rare in this Universe,
but I know how good you are to me,
and I don’t want to let you go.

 

Argon poem by Janet Kuypers

Argon

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Argonne National Laboratory (the first U.S. science
and engineering research national laboratory).
was started because Enrico Fermi’s Manhattan Project
was to create the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction.
They constructed “Chicago Pile-1“, which achieved criticality
(a sustained nuclear fission reaction) December second
nineteen forty two, under the University of Chicago’s
Stagg football field stands. But since this experiment
was too dangerous to conduct in a major city,
it was moved to a spot nearby in Palos Hills,
and named “Argonne“ after the surrounding forest.

You know, when I was trying to learn
about the element Argon,
I was really hoping that Argonne Lab,
so close to where I grew up,
would have something to do with Argon
(and not a nearby forest preserve)…

Now, the element Argon got its name
from the Greek word meaning “lazy“,
but that’s because Argon atomically is stable
and resistant to bonding with other elements.
And because Argon has about the same solubility
in water as oxygen, Argon often displaces oxygen
and moisture-containing air in packaging materials,
to extend the shelf-lives of the contents.
You know, other noble gas elements
would probably work as well as Argon for this,
but Argon is the cheapest
(so I guess the cheap one wins).

Since Argon is colorless, odorless, and —
this is the important one —
does not satisfy the body’s need for oxygen,
Argon is therefore an asphyxiant.
And since it’s hard to detect,
it’s highly dangerous in closed areas.

But on the plus side,
liquefied Argon is used in cryoablation
to actually destroy cancer cells
with Argon plasma beam electrosurgery.

And the thing is, Argon can also be used
to create incandescent lights
looking like blue neon
(and you can just add a little mercury
to make the light more electric blue).

I wonder if that blue light Argon can emit
looks anything like what we see in the night sky,
because the one tidbit about Argon that really got to me
was that Argon is used (primarily in liquid form)
as the target for direct Dark Matter searches.
The interaction of a hypothetical WIMP
(a “weakly interacting massive particle“)
with the Argon nucleus produces scintillation light,
and Argon gas can detect the ionized electrons
made during the WIMP-nucleus scattering.

#

Okay, okay, when I was playing cards once,
we decided to place bets
on what the winner of each hand would get.
Since we didn’t have any money
and we on an astronomy kick,
the first winning hand won the Moon,
then the Earth, then more of the planets,
then the Asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt,
the Ort Cloud, the Solar System,
then the Milky Way Galaxy.
We may have even bet on the Andromeda Galaxy,
or constellations like Orion
(even though the stars and the nebula
in the constellation are nowhere
near each other in the Universe)…
Then my opponent suggested
the winner of the next hand
would have dominion over Dark Matter.
Alright, they won that hand, but the winner
of the next and final hand won the Universe,
and since I won that hand, I wanted to say
that I therefore ruled over the Dark Matter as well…

Now, you can’t see Dark Matter directly;
scientists believe that this hypothetical Dark Matter,
which neither emits nor absorbs light or radiation,
can take up to eighty-four percent
of all of the matter in the Universe.
Since Dark Matter can’t be seen,
scientists can only infer the existence
of Dark Matter by its gravitational effects
on other matter in the Universe.

And they assume the corresponding particle
in Cold Dark Matter
is a weakly interacting massive particle.
A WIMP.

Now, this is all hypothetical,
But think about it:
if the Dark Matter within our galaxy
is made of WIMPs, then thousands of WIMPs
pass through every square centimeter
of the Earth
each second.

Kind of cool.

And if Argon is used to help detect
these hypothetical WIMPs,
that’s kind of cool too…
Because this stable noble gas
might be difficult for people
trying to breathe in confined spaces
when Argon can easily displace oxygen,
but Argon can help remove cancer
from our bodies,
can light the way,
and may even help us learn more
about some of those undiscovered details
in the Universe too.

Copernicium poem by Janet Kuypers

Copernicium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#112, Cn)

It was my love of you
and what you believed in
that made me try to get you.

With your Renaissance ways,
you taught me that I’m not
the center of the Universe,

but I’ve learned since then
to go beyond the sun, because
there is too much out there

to see.

As a scientist, I know you
changed our views of the world.
So science must create you, again.

I know that mathematics
can explain the Universe,
but you were more than a

mathematician, you were
a physician, a translator,
an economist, an astronomer,

an artist.

I know you were a founder
in your time, and the half-life
of what we create may be small…

but I would have to throw
any metal I could into any
isotope I could, like zinc to lead,

just to see if you would
come out for us again. Let us
find you, let us experiment

with you.

Let us accelerate these processes,
cause just the right reactions
to synthesize you and your genius.

I don’t care how we get you,
whether what we do is cold or hot,
when we fuse to create you,

and through all of our work
you may only come to us
after the decay of others

around you.

We’ve learned that only now,
now that we have you, we can
try to work with any part of you,

no matter how unstable
you say you now are. I don’t care.
You’re the last member

transitioning in this series — so now
I can only reflect on your relativity
to planets, like Mercury, as well as

your nobility.

I miss what you’ve done
for how we think in this world.
I miss clear scientific minds.

I only hope that what we’ve done
in your honor does you justice.
Even though we’ve only created you,

I want you to remember
that it is because we wanted
to learn, too, and we wanted you

to guide the way.