The Political Elements (12)

Cm, Po, Lu, Hf, Pa, La, and Mt (Caleb Deal)

Synopsis

This chapter discusses elements related to political maneuvers, such as Polonium, named by Marie Curie for Poland at a time when the country was fighting for its independence. Nobel prize snubs, stolen work, The Holocaust, and WWII all play a strong role in this chapter.

As far as elements go, this chapter discusses Polonium, Lutetium, Hafnium, Curium, Protactinium, Lanthanum, and Meitnerium. Marie Curie and other well known figures in chemistry, like Pierre Curie or Charles de Hevesy are featured in this chapter.

Polonium (Po)

Polonium was discovered by Marie Curie in 1898. Named for the country Poland. However, due to the properties of Polonium, the name could be viewed as an insult to its namesake. Polonium is not very useful and decays rapidly. It also has been linked to lung cancer, as it seeps into tobacco plants very well. In addition, it was a major factor in her daughters leukemia (Kean, pgs. 109-110). Polonium is element 84 and has an atomic mass of 209. Polonium has the electron configuration: [Xe] 6s24f145d106p4, and is in period 6, group 16 (Gagnon, "The Element Polonium").

Protactinium

Protactinium is number 91 on the periodic table and is a radioactive metal. It is part of the Actinide series of elements. Protactinium has an atomic mass of 231. This element was discovered in 1913 by two scientists who were studying decayed uranium. Protactinium has no true known uses, as it is very rare and expensive. In addition to being those two things, Protactinium is highly toxic. It has the electron configuration: [Rn] 5f26d17s2. Protactinium is in period 7 (Gagnon, "The Element Protactinium"). Its name means "Parent of Actinium", the element that Protactinium decays into (Kean, pg. 113).

Curium (Cm)

Named for Marie and Pierre Curie, Curium was discovered in 1944. Curium is radioactive and is not found at all in the natural world. It has the atomic number is 96, its atomic mass is 247, and it is classified as a metal. It has a valence of 2 and the electron configuration: [Rn] 5f76d27s2. It is in period 7 (Gagnon, "The Element Curium").

Lutetium (Lu)

Lutetium is a rare earth metal. Discovered in 1907, Lutetium is element number 71 and has an atomic mass of 175. In relation to element number 72, Hafnium, there was some argument as to whether number 72 would be a rare earth metal like Lutetium or have similar chemical characteristics to Zirconium (Kean, pg 111). Lutetium has the electron configuration: [Xe] 4f14 5d1 6s2. It is in period 6, group 3 (Gagnon, "The Element Lutetium").

Hafnium (Hf)

Number 72, Hafium was discovered in 1923 by Charles de Hevesy and Dirk Coster. It has an atomic mass of 178. Hafnium is named for the Latin word for "Copenhagen" (Dirk Coster was Dutch) (Kean, pg 111). Hafnium is used in control rods for nuclear reactors and as an alloying agent for other metals like titanium or iron. It has the electron configuration: [Xe] 4f145d26s2. Hafnium is in period 6, group 4 (Gagnon, "The Element Hafnium").

Lanthanum

Number 57, Lanthanum is a rare earth metal (Kean, pg 111). Lanthanum is obtained from a type of sand (monazite sand) that can contain other rare earth elements. Lanthanum has an atomic mass of 139. It is used in making projector lights, like those used in the film industry. Lanthanum is the start of the Lanthanide series of elements. It has the electron configuration: [Xe] 5d16s2. Lanthanum is located in period 6 (Gagnon, "The Element Lanthanum").

Meitnerium

Number 109, Meitnerium was discovered in 1982 and subsequently named for the Austrian scientist Lise Meitner (Kean, pg 115). Meitnerium is a radioactive metal and is not a naturally occurring element. It has an atomic mass of 278. Meitnerium decays very rapidly, having a half life of at most only 8 seconds. Due to this it is not really used for anything as of now. It has the electron configuration: [Rn] 5f14 6d7 7s2. It is found at period 7, group 9 (Gagnon, "The Element Meitnerium").

Summary of Elements

In all, several of these elements are radioactive and artificially produced. However, they did serve a more political purpose, or were in some way related to a political maneuver. Polonium's name is one example. Meitnerium as well was named for a political reason (to make up for Lise Meitner not receiving a Nobel Prize). Hafnium helped make quantum physics "popular", as Niels Bohr predicted its chemical characteristics before its discovery. Thus, while these elements may not be incredibly useful or common, they have still had an impact on our world in a political way.

References

The Element Polonium. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2016, from

http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele084.html


Gagnon, S. (n.d.). The Element Curium. Retrieved January 16, 2016, from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele096.html


Gagnon, S. (n.d.). The Element Lutetium. Retrieved January 16, 2016, from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele071.html


Gagnon, S. (n.d.). The Element Meitnerium. Retrieved January 16, 2016, from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele109.html


Gagnon, S. (n.d.). The Element Lanthanum. Retrieved January 16, 2016, from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele057.html


Gagnon, S. (n.d.). The Element Protactinium. Retrieved January 16, 2016, from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele091.html


Gagnon, S. (n.d.). The Element Hafnium. Retrieved January 16, 2016, from http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele072.html