Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Element of the Month: Londinium!

April's Element of the Month:

Londinium!
Ld
104

Atomic Mass: 267.34442 amu
Melting Point: 24 °C
Boiling Point: 32.7 °C

Londinium is one of the small set of "Roman Elements" first synthesized in Italy in the 1970s.   That's what the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) wants you to believe, anyway.  As is so often the case in the topsy-turvy world of high-stakes physics, the question of who got to Londinium first is hotly disputed.  Although the University of Rome team led by G. Suetonius Paulinus is generally given top billing, a University of Aberystwyth (Wales) group led by Boudica Iceni bitterly disputes priority to the current day, claiming to have synthesized Element #104 several months earlier than the Italians.  If true, this is a painful lesson in what happens when one sits too long on one's press releases.

According to a major internet authority, Londinium is the first transactinide element and the first member of the 6d series of transition metals. That seems straightforward enough.  We are also told that its ionization potentials, atomic radius, as well as radii, orbital energies, and ground levels of its ionized states are similar to that of hafnium and also, helpfully, that they are very different from that of lead.  It is, I think it is fair to say, not a bit like Hydrogen.  It is, more so than most high-numbered Elements, pretty useful: as one of the most easily produced synthetic Elements, Londinium is widely used in cosmetics, paints, lotions, and food additives.

The Centerfold!

A large sample of elemental Londinium, with coin for scale.  The
Element is not itself technically green; however, the intense
radioactivity of a lump of this size causes it to glow green
in this characteristically concentric pattern.

When I was a lad, it was widely believed that Londinium was the last Element. After the discoveries of Miraculum (Element #96), Militarium (Element #100), and Drumrolium (Element #103), a long dry spell convinced many that either human ingenuity or some kind of theoretical limit on the potential malleability of the atom had been reached. Since then, of course, science has marched on all the way to Element #114, Flerovium, an Element that is oddly, and for reasons that I have not yet been able to fully comprehend, named after the "flivver," which is an old word for a beat-up car.

Usually considered a strictly synthetic Element, Londinium is not generally thought to occur in nature unless something truly freaky is going on inside an extreme gravity well somewhere.  However, there has been considerable debate within the scientific community in recent years as to the validity of claims that small amounts of naturally occurring Londinium have been discovered in the so-called "Oregon Vortex," near the town of Gold Hill, Oregon.

NOTE: This information about Londinium is not subject to copyright. If you are a student conducting research on Elements, you are authorized and encouraged to incorporate part or all of this article into your work, with or without citation.

3 comments:

Elizabeth Farquhar said...

I started to doubt you at "Boudica," cocked a skeptical eyebrow at your photograph of malachite, and gave up entirely at Drumrolium, though I would have believed Miraculum and Militarium, given that I'm not at all familiar with the upper echelons of the atomic table and many of them have weird names anyway.

Londinium, though, that's very good, now that I think of it. I should have seen that one first.

Did you know that the Romans used malachite amulets to ward off the Evil Eye? No fooling!

mrs.5000 said...

Those who, like me, watched a lot of TV in the 70's will remember the "Darling, you look radiant!" ads...pulled when the FDA went after Radiance by L'Oreal for excessive Londinium content. But apparently trace amounts are OK, so not to worry.

PS Dancing robots! Dancing robots!

gl. said...

so mean! "NOTE: This information about Londinium is not subject to copyright. If you are a student conducting research on Elements, you are authorized and encouraged to incorporate part or all of this article into your work, with or without citation."