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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#67, Ho)

Got a set of poetry word magnets
(so you could arrange words on your fridge
to write a message, or write a poem),
and even though I remembered
that magnets have two sides with two poles,
I still took one of the magnets
(I think the word on this magnet was “stick”)
and turned it around, to see
how it wouldn’t stick to the fridge.

Now, Holmium has the highest
magnetic strength of any element,
so I thought about this magnet’s poles —
but I didn’t know that scientists
have been using Holmium
to try to discover the widely theorized
and avidly debated “magnetic monopole”
(a magnet that only has one pole).
Grand unified and superstring theories
predict their existence, and these
magnetic monopoles could explain a ton
about space, time, and the laws of physics.
But the theory is that there’s so little of it,
and nobody’s been able to even find it,
so they’ll keep using this magnetic Holmium
to try to find this hypothetical particle…

And it’s strange, when it comes to Holmium,
I mean, it’s used to color cubic zirconia…
And when it comes to that magnetism,
Holmium can even absorb nuclear neutrons.
But the cool thing is that Holmium
is used for dental and medical purposes,
and it’s even used with solid state lasers
to remove some early stage cancers
with only a local anesthetic.

Wow, that
and it can help scientists
understand more about the universe
(even if it’s only on a quantum level).

I guess there was a reason why
I was so drawn to these qualities….

Boron from the Big Bang, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Boron from the Big Bang

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#005, B)

The Higgs boson,
the Higgs particle.
The God particle,
as some have called it.
It’s an elusive
elementary particle
theorized about
for nearly half a century.

They call it the God particle
because it might have created
all matter.

You see, scientists
are trying to figure out
how the Big Bang
started to evolve.
You see, the theory
is that all of the universe’s energy
was created
from this massive explosion
But the question remains:
how did any
of that energy
turn into matter?

Because during the first
few minutes of our universe
after the Big Bang,
the temperature was so hot,
that it was too hot
for any binding energy
that could have supported
any matter, even hydrogen
or it’s isotope deuterium.
With temperatures so hot,
this bottleneck
delayed the formation of anything
until the universe
was cool enough
to make anything
out of anything.

But just a few minutes
after the Big Bang,
elements burst forth,
because the universe
suddenly got cool enough.
But at twenty minutes
after the Big Bang,
the universe was suddenly
TOO cool for nuclear fusion
or nucleosynthesis,
and THAT is when elemental
abundances were nearly fixed…

That means
hydrogen, helium
and trace anounts
of lithium, beryllium
and Boron
were the elements formed
in those first three minutes
of the Big Bang.
(Sorry, any elements
starting at carbon or higher
were only formed
after stars were around
to create them.)

…So the creation
of matter out of energy
during the formation
of this universe
only happened
in an insanely brief period
of the universe’s history.
Was it just
the insanely hot temperature
in this insanely short period
that did it?

And what does this
have to do with
the Higgs boson particle anyway?

Well, scientists believe
this Higgs particle is a part
of the Higgs field,
an invisible field of energy
throughout the entire universe.
That Higgs particle
interacts with whatever energy
passes through the Higgs field.
And with this interaction,
massless particles,
they trade their energy
to gain mass
when passing through.

And this Higgs field,
in the beginning of the universe,
helped create matter.

Which helped create us.

Higgs helped create matter,
including the first elements
in the universe,
from hydrogen
to the comparatively heavy

five electrons is heavy
in the formation of the universe.

Yeah, Boron,
which helps keep our bones strong.
Boron treats osteoarthritis.
Boron builds muscles,
and when it comes to
trying to understand this science,
it even improves our thinking skills.

We’ve known of Boron
for thousands of years,
from the deserts in Tibet,
or from China in glazes
through to Persia
before it got to Italy,
where it was used
for medical purposes.

Well, knowing how long
we’ve used Borax for cleaning,
or even that Boron’s used
to make the strongest
magnet ever made,
it’s nice to know
that we also understand
how much this
is vital in everything in our lives,
from our muscles and bones
to the very creation of the universe.

Yeah, it’s cool to see
how scientists
are starting to piece together
how matter came to be
in this universe,
because without that Higgs field,
and without that Higgs particle,
energy would never
have turned into
to create any


or even create us.

Iodine, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


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.