The remainder of our elements on the chart are radioactive, synthetic elements that are created through the process of fission or fusion. I won’t go through naming their names because their properties are similar, and they have names that are difficult to pronounce.

hydrogen atom


To understand the properties of these elements one must first understand what radiation is and what is does.  When radioactivity occurs as the decay of elements found naturally in the environment, it is called background radiation. Radiation can also be produced by fission or fusion of Hydrogen atoms, as in when a star explodes, or a quasar emits a gamma ray burst.


All radioactive elements give out one of the three types of radiation.


Alpha Radiation is the least penetrating and can be absorbed simply by a sheet of paper.


Beta Radiation is able to penetrate air and paper, but can be stopped by aluminum. Test pilots can be exposed to this type, but are protected by aluminum shielding in the aircraft.


Gamma Radiation is what a quasar emits, and can only be shielded by lead and concrete. Astronauts that traveled to the moon needed special shielding to protect them from Gamma rays. Our magnetic field protects a great deal from these rays. This will be a major obstacle in deep space missions, and planets not protected by magnetic fields, such as Mars.


When an atom emits alpha or Beta radiation, its nucleus changes, and becomes a different element.                                                                              Fusion is when two nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus.


Fission is when a heavy nucleus is split to form two smaller nuclei, such as in an atomic bomb.



Radiation is useful as a treatment for some forms of cancer. Too much radiation, however, can kill healthy cells as well, as is not beneficial. After effects of the people who lived on Bikini Atoll has shown up years later in several forms of cancer derived from radiation.


Well, that’s the end of our element series; I hope I didn’t bore you death to much with it. Tomorrow and Friday, I’ll have a couple of special posts; one on the recent discovery of flowing water on Mars, and the other on the science of making the film “The Martian” which came out last Friday. Until then, here is a special tidbit on Bikini Atoll:

 Greek statue


Today and all this week, we’ll be dealing with some elements with rather strange names, some Greek, some Roman, and some just plain complicated.  Three of the elements belong to a group called Lanthanides.  Most of this group are soft, silvery-white metals.

CesiumCaesium in mineral

But first, we’ll discuss two elements that are alkali metals, Caesim,  and Barium. Caesim has an atomic number of 55, is a silvery gold metal, and only one of five elemental metals that are liquid at room temperature.  It is extremely reactive and pyrophoric, and explodes when placed in water. It is used in vacuum tubes in televisions, photoelectric cells, and is used in highly accurate atomic clocks.

Atomic clock using Caesium

Barium has an atomic number of 56, is soft and silvery, and comes from the Greek word Barys, meaning “heavy.” It is used to scavenge air in vacuum tubes, and is a component in high temperature superconductors.  It is added to fireworks to give them a green color, used in X-ray radiocontrast agent for imaging of the human gastrointestinal tract, and also used as a rodentcide.

Barium_unter_Argon_Schutzgas_AtmosphäreBariumXrayBarium Fireworks_1

The rest of our elements today are called Lanthanides, and are Lanthanum, Cerium, and Praseodynium, respectively. Lanthanum is the first, and the group is named after this element. It has an atomic number of 57, is a soft, ductile, silvery-white rare earth metal, and oxidizes rapidly when exposed to air. It is used as a catalyst in glass, and also used in carbon and studio lighting, as well as projection. It is also used as an ignition element in lighters and torches, in electron cathodes, gas lantern mantles, and for treatment of renal failure in the medical field.


Cerium has an atomic number of 58, and soft, silvery, ductile metal that oxidizes in air.  It is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture, and is the most abundant of the rare earth elements. It is also used as catalyst, in fuel additives, to give glass a greenish color.  It is also used for flints in lighters. In a biological role, trace amounts act similar to calcium, and are also found in tobacco plants, barley, and beechwood.


Praseodymium is perhaps the one with the strangest name. It was named by its discoverer, has an atomic number of 59, and is a soft, silvery, malleable, and ductile metal. When artificially prepared, it develops a green oxide coating . It is used as a steel alloy with magnesium in aircraft engines, in high powered magnets, and is also used in studio lighting, projectors, and to color glass.


Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more of the Lanthanide series.  It’s nothing like “Gotham” or “Under The Dome”, but chemistry is an area of science that is not everybody’s cup of tea.  Until tomorrow, here are today’s links:



Today we’ll talk about more of the lanthanides, specifically those used in nuclear applications, and in yes, speaker magnets. Our first is Neodymium, which has the symbol Nd, and has an atomic number of 60. It is a soft, silvery metal that tarnishes in air.  Even though it’s classified as a “rare earth” metal, it is as common as Cobalt, Nickel, and copper. Most Neodymium is mined in China.  First used for glass dyes, it is still used for this purpose, as well,  in lasers, computer hard disks, and speaker, microphone, and headphone magnets.


Promethium is a radio-active, man-made element, and has atomic number of 61. It is used in luminous paints, and in atomic and nuclear batteries.


Electrical readout of an atomic battery.

Samarium is a moderately hard, silvery metal that oxidizes in air, and has an atomic number of 62. It is most commonly used as a cancer drug for lung, prostate, and breast cancer. It is also used in magnets, and can withstand temperatures above 1292° F, as well as in the control rods of nuclear reactors.


Europium has an atomic number of 63, and was first discovered in 1901, and named after the continent of Europe. A moderately hard, silvery metal that oxidizes in air and water. It is one of the rarest elements in the universe, and is the product of nuclear fission.


Gadolinium has an atomic number of 64, is a silvery-white malleable and ductile rare earth metal, and is used as shielding in neutron radiography and nuclear reactors.  Well, that’s today’s list; short and sweet. Tomorrow, we’ll look at some more Lathanides, and their uses.

WAR MEMORIAL BOOK SIGNmargerette collection

I would like to thank publicly the Lyman Frank Baum Association for having me at their event last Saturday.  It was interesting to see the various Oz items on display, and network with other authors during the event.  I would also like to tell everyone about a book you can Preorder for free until September 30th through Inkshares by a good friend of mine who uses the pen name Erin Kelly. It is a werewolf story, called Tainted Moonlight, and is set right here in Syracuse, NY.


It is about a man named Korban Diego, who survived an attack during a supernatural virus outbreak by vampires and werewolves, only to struggle with the fact that his lover becomes infected. I especially love her last line of her blurb-Korban must face his fears and accept his fate in order to help her-if he can keep her from eating his roommates!

Until tomorrow, here are today’s links:

power plant


Most of the Lathanide series are Earth metals that are highly reactive and radioactive metals that are silvery white in color, and  are commonly used for nuclear applications.  I won’t bore you with all the properties and atomic numbers of each one, as I have been doing, because this series has overextended itself, and I don’t want to lose an audience due to a boring lesson on chemistry. I like to keep things interesting.

Terbium-2                  Holmium2            Dy_chips

         Terbium                                         Holmium                      Dysprosium

Erbium-crop                       Thulium_sublimed_dendritic_and_1cm3_cube                 Ytterbium-3

         Erbium                                   Thulium                                    Ytterbium



So as a quick overview, listing in chronological order according to their atomic structures, the remainder of the lathanides are: Terbium, Dysprosium, holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, and Lutetium. Terbium is often used as a crystal stabilizer of nuclear fuel cells, which permeate at elevated temperatures, and in actuators, and in naval sonor systems, and submarines.  It is also used in fluorescent lamps and TV tubes. Dysprosium is used as a catalyst in control rods of nuclear reactors.


holmium, which is another rare earth element, iin nuclear reactors. Erbium is used in medical and dental laser surgery, and Thulium is used as a radiation source in portable x-ray devices named after the city of Stockholm. It is used for certain laser and glass colorant applications. It has the highest magnetic permeability of any element and are used for the strongest static magnets, and is also used as a burnable poisons, and in solid state lasers. Yyterbium is used as a dopant of stainless steel and as a gamma ray source. Lutetium is used in determining the age of meteorites, and in metal alloys.

nuclear process

Nuclear processes can create new elements, as well as use elements already in existence. The splitting of atoms through fission create new isotopes to already existing substances. Most of the newer elements are either extracted from compounds, or created this way.


Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at some more transition metals, their properties, and applications. Until then, here are the links:



Today we’ll be talking about transitional metals, which are usually silvery-gray, bluish-gray , silvery-white or some derivative thereof, with the exception of Gold, which is considered “The King of all Metals”. Transitional metals are usually highly corrosion-resistant, and used in metal alloys or as conductors.


Hafnium is used as a metal alloy, and in filaments and electrodes in light bulbs, and in control rods.


Tantalum comes from the Greek word “Tantalus,”an anti-hero from Greek mythology. It is a valuable substance used in laboratory equipment, and as a substitute for Platinum. Medical implants, bone repairs, and capacitors for mobile phones, DVD players, video games, and computers all contain some form of Tantalum, due to its high corrosion-reistance.


Tungsten is hard and brittle, and often used for filaments in incandescent lighting, x-ray tubes, electrodes, superalloys, or radiation shielding.


Rhenium is one of the rarest and most expensive metals in the earth’s crust, and used in superalloys in combustion chambers, turbine blades, and exhaust nozzles of jet engines.


Osmium is hard and brittle, and the densest naturally occurring element.  It is used in fountain pen tips, and electrical contacts.

Iridium-2Willamette_Meteorite_AMNHcretaceous boundary

Iridium is the most corrosion resistant metal, even at temperatures of 2000° F. It is used in high performance spark plugs, semi-conductors, and radioisotope thermoelectric generators.  It is commonly found in meteorites, and large traces of it in the Cretaceous-Palogene boundary of rock.  It is believed this is proof that the dinosaurs died 66 million years ago from a massive asteroid or meteorite.

Platinum_crystalsplatinum record

Platinum is considered a precious metal, and has a variety of uses, including jewelry, catalytic converters, , thermometers, dentistry equipment, and the famous Music Industry’s Platinum record.


Gold, in its pure form, is a bright, slightly reddish-yellow, dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal. It is thought to have been produced on Earth as the result of supernovas. It has been used for coins, jewelry, and architectural design since the beginning of civilization. It is also one of the best superconductors, and used in telescopes and in the CERN collider.


Mercury is a bit different from other metals, in the respect that it is the only one that is liquid at room temperature. It is very bad for living organisms and poisoning is usually the result of water exposure, or eating contaminated seafood. It is used in thermometers, barometers, manometers, float valves, switches, and relays.


Well, that’s our list for this week. Next week, I’ll return with the Actinide series. Until then, have a good weekend, and enjoy the first weekend of fall. Here are today’s links:



Today we’ll be discussing some metals that are used in electronics and nuclear medicine. Most are grayish-blue in color, and radioactive. They are used in imaging products, and for pharmaceutical products.


Our first is called Thallium, has an atomic number of 81, and is a soft, gray post transitional metal that discolors when exposed to air. It is so soft it can be cut with a knife at room temperature. 60-70% of it is used in the electronics industry pharmaceuticals, and in glass manufacturing, as well as infrared detectors.


Lead is a well known soft, malleable and heavy post transition metal. With an atomic number of 82, it tuns a dull grayish color when exposed to air. Once used in pencil tips and lead paint, it is now used in lead-acid batteries, bullets, weights, pewter, and in radiation shielding in reactor cores, and for x-ray vests. It is poisonous to animals and humans.


Bismuth chemically resembles arsenic and antimony, and is a brittle metal with a silvery-white color, which turns a pink tinge when oxidized. It has one of the lowest values of thermal conductivity among the metals. It is used in cosmetics, pigments, and pharmaceuticals, such as Pepto Bismol, and considered a safer alternative to lead.


Polonium was first discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie, and is a rare and highly radioactive. It is used as a fuel for interplanetary space probes, and as sources of neutrons and alpha particles in the process of particle acceleration.

Astatine is a very rare radioactive element that occurs as the decay product of heavier elements, and is considered a metalloid. It is mainly used in nuclear medicine.

radon detectors

Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas, and considered one of the Noble Gases. It occurs naturally as a decay product of radium, usually found in shale deposits deep under the Earth. It is the only gas under normal conditions to be considered radioactive. It sometimes leaks in basements, causing lung cancer in humans.

Francium is the second most electro-negative element, and is a highly radioactive alkali metal. It has a very short half life of 22 minutes, and easily evaporates in air. Outside the laboratory, it is extremely rare.


Radium is a radioactive metal which is only used in nuclear medicine, such as imaging machines.

That’s it for today’s list. Not very exciting I know, but we are nearing the end of our list. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the rest of our Actinoids, their properties, and uses.

Over the past week, I’ve been working on the third and final installment of the Dimension Lapse series. I will be continuing the series after as a spin-off, as well as sort of a prequel to the first novel. There are also several other projects that I’ll be publishing in the future, such as a couple of fantasy series, and a couple of stand-alone novels as well.


As I continue to write with considerably less results than I expected, I don’t get discouraged by this; I know over time that my writing will get gradually better. I also realize that there are those who are chain readers, and like to read the whole series at once. I can relate to that, having read books like The Narnia Series, and The Lord of The Rings.

I will continue to offer topics on my blog, and periodically do reviews of movies and books. Lately I haven’t been to the movies much, but I am looking forward to the new Bond film, Spectre, as well as The Martian. I’ll be seeing both, and giving my review of each.

We’ll see you again tomorrow; no links today other than Wikapedia, if you want more information on each element.



Today we’ll discuss the Actinide series; a group of synthetic elements that are the product of nuclear fission, and some that occur naturally as well.  Most of the metals are a silvery-white color, with the exception of Thorium, which turns a black color when exposed to air. The first is called Actinium, the element that the group is named after. It has no significant industrial use, and is only used as a neutron source and agent for radiation therapy targeting cancer cells in the body.


Thorium was once  used as a light source in gas mantles, an alloy material, and on TIG welding electrodes.  It is also predicted to replace Uranium as a nuclear fuel, but only a few reactors have been completed.


Protactinium is a dense, silvery-gray material which readily reacts with Oxygen, and there are no uses for it outside of scientific research. Uranium is used mostly in nuclear applications, including material for nuclear missiles and bombs, and fuel for reactors.


Neptunium is named after the Roman God Neptune, God of the Sea. It is used as a precursor for the formation of Plutonium-238, which is used in radioisotope thermal generators, used in nuclear spacecraft. Americium is widely used in commercial ionization chamber smoke detectors, as well as a nuclear fuel for space ships with nuclear propulsion have been proposed.


Curium is named after Marie and Pierre Curie, and is used in pacemakers, and as an A-source for Alpha particle X-ray spectrometer installed on space probes.


The other elements within the group are synthetic, and were discovered as by-products of nuclear explosions. Californium is used as a start-up reaction to nuclear reactors. Einsteinium and Fermium were named after famous scientists, and are the components for debris of the first Hydrogen bomb in 1952. mendelevium is named after Dimitri Mendeleev, the father of the table of elements.


Most of the later elements are man-made elements, and derived from nuclear particle acceleration, thus giving them  radioactive properties. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the remainder of the transition metals, a Halogen and one more Noble gas to close our series.


I haven’t spent much time of some dramatic developments in the world of Astronomy recently, such as the night of the Super moon eclipse, and the recent discovery of free flowing water on Mars, because I’ve been working on a new project. It involves as much research as my first novel, and involves a section about the International Space Station.


Water on Mars is nothing new; we’ve known for a while that there is water in the polar ice caps. But to actually find evidence of it in the soil is a significant find, and the basis for survival on the red planet. From water, we can sustain the systems needed for colonization, and ultimately a permanent base there.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue conclude our element series, and I’ll conclude the rest of this week with a couple of individual blog posts of an interesting nature. No links today, other than Wikepedia.




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