Not surprising at all. In science, our reach exceeding our grasp is the rule, not the exception. That’s why everything has to be recorded in fine detail and the experiment laid out precisely beforehand; you never know if you’re about to uncork a boring set of data or unleash pure chaos.
“It tells us about how an element is going to be behaving when it’s surrounded by other atoms and how it’s going to form chemical bonds.”
Science is my copilot too.
Kind of makes you wonder what happens in the cores of dying stars and supernovae? How many super transient ultra heavy elements are created that simply pop in and then out of existence…
A rare color photo of Albert Einstein, inspiration for Einsteinium.
Huh. I always thought it was named after “ein stein,” which is of course German for: “one large beer mug.”
Presumably all of them. I’m not a cosmologist or a chemist (just a fan) but my understanding is that all the upper heavy elements exist briefly during nuclear explosions, which is how we know about them. The higher on the periodic table, the less stable they are. Copernicum is, I believe the shortest-lived, with a half-life of only 5e-19 seconds (0.005 femtoseconds). I think some of these elements have also been seen in particle accelerators, but not sure.
I guess a better way to explain my point is that what happens in cosmic events is on a scale that we can’t even begin to replicate in our earth bound devices. Do conditions exist within a supernova or colliding neutron stars where these elements aren’t so transient? Do they ever combine during their short lives, and make ultra heavy elements? What heavy elements get created in cosmic events that we haven’t even considered.
Things on this scale boggle my biology trained mind… (there’s definitely a reason why I’m not a particle physicist…)
The interesting thing about theoretical physics is that the math comes first. The existence of particles and reactions is predicted by the math, then we (humanity, not me) go looking for them in particle accelerators or in space. So we already know what’s out there, we just have to prove it, in a sense. That’s oversimplifying, but you get the idea. I’m not totally up on the latest, but I don’t believe any new elements are expected to exist. Certainly none that are stable. We’ll likely never know anything about the elements north of Einsteinium because there’s likely no way to stabilize them long enough to even look at them. It’s an old science fiction trope that advanced races build their spaceships or fuel them with some amazing new element that we don’t have. That ain’t gonna happen because we’ve known since about the 19th century or so what all the stable elements are. The periodic table isn’t a list of the score so far, it’s a predictive tool that told us where to look for everything (and we found it all long ago).
I remember reading something about an “island of stability” that was theorized to exist beyond the transuranic elements. That was years ago, though
So, the funny shape of the periodic table comes from the fact that electrons group themselves in shells, and adding an electron to one type of shell is subtly different than others.
It turns out nucleons have the same shell grouping behavior, and nuclear stability peaks when you have full shells of protons and neutrons. It falls off as you get further from a fully packed shell. Once you know the shell patterns, which isotopes are stable and which are not start to make sense.
So, the island of stability is a proposal that there’s another shell that we don’t see filled, and it’s bigger enough from the observed shells that there’s a big gap of highly unstable particles.
The reason to suspect it doesn’t exist is the range of the strong force is very short, and the largest nuclei we’ve seen are possibly pushing the maximum size possible for the strong force to overpower the electromagnetic force.
(This was working from memory, if any real physicists want to correct me, please do.)
This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.