Eka-Thorium

Now, this is neat: A superheavy element (Z=122, A=292, tentatively named “eka-Thorium” or “unbibium”) which is relatively stable (t1/2 ≥ 108 yr) has been observed in nature, in natural Thorium samples. (It’s called eka-Thorium because it would sit directly below Thorium on the periodic table; as a result, it’s chemically very similar to Thorium, which means it can mix in to Thorium ores and stick there because it doesn’t separate very easily)

This is a whole 30 atomic numbers above the next-largest naturally occurring element, Uranium. (Z=92, A=238) It’s the first empirical proof that superheavy nuclei can actually exist and be stable.

Edit: Some history – the last time an element was discovered in nature was Francium (Z=87), which was discovered in 1939 by Marguerite Perey. It was thought highly likely that that would be the last time anyone ever did.

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Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 10:43  Comments (26)  
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26 Comments

  1. !!!

  2. !!!

  3. I’ve been showing this to people and talking about how ridiculously cool it is. Nobody seems to agree with me 😦
    But, I mean, new stable elements

  4. I’ve been showing this to people and talking about how ridiculously cool it is. Nobody seems to agree with me 😦
    But, I mean, new stable elements

  5. Dude. Seriously. But while writing this post it became clear to me just how hard it is to explain how cool this is to a general audience.

  6. Dude. Seriously. But while writing this post it became clear to me just how hard it is to explain how cool this is to a general audience.

  7. I think the best way to explain it in terms of legos.
    Imagine that you had a bunch of legos, and you could order as many more as you wanted . . . but only of the types you already had. No new special shapes, no new gizmos, just the same stuff. For years. And then someone shows up with entire new types of legos.

  8. I think the best way to explain it in terms of legos.
    Imagine that you had a bunch of legos, and you could order as many more as you wanted . . . but only of the types you already had. No new special shapes, no new gizmos, just the same stuff. For years. And then someone shows up with entire new types of legos.

  9. definitely the best way to explain it!

  10. definitely the best way to explain it!

  11. Unbibium sounds like it should be Bib-Man’s secret weakness.

  12. Unbibium sounds like it should be Bib-Man’s secret weakness.

  13. To me, it just sounds undrinkable…

  14. To me, it just sounds undrinkable…

  15. astonishing. thank you!

  16. astonishing. thank you!

  17. that’s usually my line. 🙂

  18. that’s usually my line. 🙂

  19. Oh, my.

  20. That totally rocks (pun intended).
    Of course, it’d rock even more if it was more common than 10^-12 relative to Th. Still, one wonders if the stuff can be refined.

  21. I just typed “eka thorium” into Google search and your journal was link #12. That was rad. Almost as rad as Unbibium. I think your journal is more common in nature than Unbibium, though.

  22. Sweet! I’m famous! 🙂

  23. Apparently scientists have big doubts about this eka-thorium discovery. Amnon Marinov, who led the team who claimed to have found the stuff, has said he submitted the article to Nature and Nature Physics, but both turned it down without sending it for peer review.
    Best,
    John Baez

  24. Apparently scientists have big doubts about this eka-thorium discovery. Amnon Marinov, who led the team who claimed to have found the stuff, has said he submitted the article to Nature and Nature Physics, but both turned it down without sending it for peer review.
    Best,
    John Baez

  25. Sigh. Another lovely idea shot down by unfortunate experimental issues. Their explanation of how they distinguished isotopes from ion combinations seemed a bit too pat; it seemed to rely on being able to predict the interaction energies of nuclei with a great deal of precision. I guess that the experts in that field don’t seem too impressed.
    Good to see you around here, though! Do you read here often?

  26. Sigh. Another lovely idea shot down by unfortunate experimental issues. Their explanation of how they distinguished isotopes from ion combinations seemed a bit too pat; it seemed to rely on being able to predict the interaction energies of nuclei with a great deal of precision. I guess that the experts in that field don’t seem too impressed.
    Good to see you around here, though! Do you read here often?


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