Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Element of the Month: Rutherfordium!

April's Real Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 267ish amu
Melting Point: possibly around 2100 °C
Boiling Point: possibly around 5500 °C

A few weeks ago, I published a post saying that the Element of the Month was Element #104, Londinium. That post was made in error. Element #104 is, in fact, Rutherfordium.

In the earlier post, I said that the first synthesis of Element #104 was contested between a Roman team led by G. Suetonius Paulinus and a Welsh team led by Boudica Iceni. Actually, first synthesis of Rutherfordium was contested between scientists at the USSR's Joint Institute of Nuclear Research and a team from the University of California. Seutonius Paulinus and Boudica's conflict was for control of the settlement of Londinium, in Roman Britain. I apologize for any confusion my mistake may have caused.

In the next paragraph, I noted that according to a major internet authority, Londinium is the first transactinide element and the first member of the 6d series of transition metals. This statement is actually true of Rutherfordium. We really are told by the Wiki that Rutherfordium's ionization potentials, atomic radius, as well as radii, orbital energies, and ground levels of its ionized states are similar to that of hafnium and very different from that of lead. That "very different from that of lead" part cracks me up. It's like saying "a zebra is shaped kind of like a horse, but not at all like a snake."

The Centerfold!
The Soviet team proposed the name Kurchatovium (Ku) for Element #104, in
honor of Igor Kurchatov (second from left), one-time chief of
Soviet nuclear research. Rutherfordium, the name that
was ultimately selected, was proposed by the American team.
In my previous post, I indicated that so-called Londinium was "widely used in cosmetics, paints, lotions, and food additives." I apologize for any confusion or harm that may have resulted from this misstatement. The synthetic Elements are subject to rapid radioactive decay, which gives consumer products made from them such a short shelf life as to be commercially unpractical.

A final error in the earlier piece was my citation of incorrect names for Elements #96 (Curium), #100 (Fermium), and #103 (Lawrencium). "Miraculum," "Militarium," and "Drumrolium" are in fact names of late Hadyn symphonies, or close enough. Despite pushing back on the theoretical frontiers of physics, modern science has not yet been able to produce a Haydn symphony numbered higher than #104, the "Londinium."  I can only apologize once more to any descendents and enthusiasts of Josef "Papa" Haydn and/or the great physicist Ernest Rutherford, in whose honor Rutherfordium was named, for any pain or anxiety that has resulted from my carelessness.

It is true, as I stated in the original article, that Element #104 is not generally found in nature. It seems very unlikely that it would really show up in the Oregon Vortex, but who really knows what goes on in that crazy place.

In a fiasco brought about by shoddy fact-checking in the Treasury Ministry, New Zealand placed the physicist Ernest
Rutherford on its new 100 dollar note.  Element 100, Fermium, is of course named not for Rutherford, but in honor of
the physicist Enrico Fermi.  Debate over whether to replace Rutherford's portrait with Fermi's, or even to create
an  unorthodox but scientifically accurate 104 dollar note, paralyzed the New Zealand parliament in 2004; public
disgust over the currency debacle led to sweeping landslides for the opposition in the next election.

1 comment:

DrSchnell said...

That Kurchatov also plays a mean guitar!