Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Elements of 2011

Big news! (Or at least what passes for big news in the world of chemistry.) This year saw the naming of three new elements on the periodic table. As is customary, the scientists involved in the discovery got first crack at coming up with a new moniker, much like naming a puppy. In the case of element 110, they called it Darmstadtium, after the town in which it was discovered. For 111, they went with Roentgenium, in tribute to the discoverer of X-rays. And 112 will be known forever as Copernicium, after the Polish astronomer Copernicus, who proclaimed that Earth was not the center of the universe.

In fact, a number of other unusual elements have also been created this year, just not in a lab. But they too have strange behaviors and structures, and can be hard to pin down. Herein then is a look at those that streaked across the sky in 2011, some to be around for a while, some to never been seen again.

Gaganium: A fast moving particle which almost continually changes its appearance, cloaking itself in bizarre coverings of other elements, including ME(at), SP(andex) and BU(bbles). Has never been seen at rest.

Romnimium: A particle originally discovered in limited amounts in Massachusetts in 2002, there had been talk of the discovery of a large supply in 2008, though that proved incorrect. Again this year there is talk of a large find, though scientists are having a hard time confirming it is the same element as sighted in the past, as many of its properties have almost completed reversed themselves.

Euronium: A particle discovered in 1999 that is actually a combination of a 23 other unique substances, this element was reasonably stable until this year. But as one substance has been decaying, then another, the entire particle has become unstable, with the result that it may disintegrate violently. Scientists in Germany are working to shore up the weakest links, the so called Greek force, to prevent an explosion.

Weddingarium: Discovered in Britain, this particle was created with great fanfare by the joining of two very minor particles, Williamonium and Katium. While the combined particle itself is expected to have little influence on anything at all, the actual melding of the two produced a cataclysmic light show that was blinding in intensity. This intensity also revealed a heretofore hidden substance, the so-called Pipa particle.

Newtonium: A particle once thought to be decaying to extinction, now threatening to render a number of other similar elements inert, notably Bachminium, Perronium and the aforementioned Romniunium. Highly charged, it has been known to attack so called "looker" cells. In its former state it was known as a particle that caused disruption deep inside the complex Beltway molecule, but now appears to act the same way from outside.

Osaminium: An elusive particle thought to be found only in caves in Afghanistan, it was finally discovered in Pakistan in front of a television. Due to its highly toxic nature, scientists destroyed it and disposed it at sea.

Packerarium: A particle characterized by its green and yellow wavelengths, this particle seems to smother most other particles with which it comes in contact. Consisting of 11 quarks at any given time, the one at the center of its structure, dubbed the Rogers boson, may be the most pure boson ever discovered.

Bieberarium: A very new particle discovered in Canada, it creates a strong force attraction for other similarly aged particles, who cluster around it whenever to appears. Interestingly, older particles have no attraction to it. Scientists have no idea of its half-life, and whether it will last another year or decay quickly.

Debatorium: A particle formed briefly when 6 or 7 highly similar quarks, each virtually indistinguishable from the next, come together. Once assembled, it exhibits a very agitated state, throwing off a high level of energy in waves. After a series of these waves, the particle disintegrates, typically reforming far away several weeks later, after which the process repeats. Seen most easily through a Foxscope.

Obaminium: A particle discovered with great fanfare just 4 years ago, it was originally characterized as one with limitless energy and ability to bind with all types of disparate particles. As it has decayed over time, scientists have been puzzled by its move to a lower energy state and its inability to meld with other substances.

There are reports that scientists are experiencing fatigue trying to chart these new discoveries, with their fleeting and complex tracks. Or as one chemist was heard to say, "In the new year, I'd give anything for a good old piece of lead."


Marc Wollin of Bedford is looking forward to new scientific discoveries in 2012. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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