The Disappearing Spoon: Chapter 17

By Mckenna Haislip, Group A

Chapter Synopsis

In the seventeenth chapter of Sam Keane’s The Disappearing Spoon, it speaks about the many applications and discoveries that involved the use of bubbles. He begins by explaining how Nobel Prize winning physicist Donald Glaser achieved a bubble science breakthrough, and how he came to discover and invent the bubble chamber. He decided that he could aim a atomic gun at a bottle of beer and discover subatomic particles, such as muons, kaons, and pions. However, he found that using beer was unsuccessful, and eventually Luis Alvarez refined the process to use hydrogen instead. Next, the author talks about the chemist Ernest Rutherford and how the discovery of alpha decay changed the outlook on atomic chemistry. After, Earth's age is discussed. It begins very small and inaccurate, but after many theories came out about heat given off by the Earth we reached 4 billion years old. This is the accepted age today, but could change possibly in the coming years due to new advanced research. Then, Kean describes the theory of quantum foam, which is also referred to as space-time foam, and how it could have attributed to the Big Bang. Lastly, the author talks about the physicist Seth Putterman and how through work with fluid dynamics he discovered how bubbles react to sound waves, specifically in a liquid.

The Elements

What Is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen

  • It's Atomic Symbol: H.
  • It's Atomic Number: 1
  • It's Atomic Mass: 1.01 AMU.
  • The Electron configuration is 1s1.
  • It is located in Group 1 and Period 1.
  • It is classified as a nonmetal or non-metallic.
  • Hydrogen makes up two of the three atoms in water and is present in all organic compounds and the Earth's atmosphere.
  • Places found: the Universe, the Sun, meteorites, crustal rocks, the ocean, streams, and even in humans!
  • Hydrogen is important because it is necessary for all life and may become a replacement for oil as an energy source due to its ability to burn in the air and form only water as a waste product, which is much more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
  • Uses: Making ammonia for agricultural fertilizer, to remove sulfur from fuels during the oil-refining process, to hydrogenate oils to form fats, as a protective atmosphere for making flat glass sheets, as a flushing gas during the manufacture of silicon chips, and filling balloons and airships (discontinued).
  • It was found/discovered as an element in London, England by the English chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish in the year 1766.
  • It is named for the Greek words "hydro" and "genes" meaning "water" and "generator."
  • It is a colorless, odorless, and extremely flammable gas and the lightest element in the periodic table.
What is Calcium

Calcium

  • It's Atomic Symbol: Ca.
  • It's Atomic Mass: 40.078 AMU
  • It's Atomic Number: 20.
  • The electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2.
  • It is located in Group 2 and Period 4.
  • It is classified as an alkaline earth metal.
  • Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, but however it is never found free in nature because it often forms compounds by reacting with oxygen and water.
  • It is commonly found in the compound calcium carbonate which is used to make white paint, cleaning powder, toothpaste and stomach antacids.
  • Calcium does not occur as the metal itself, but is found in various minerals including as limestone, gypsum and fluorite.
  • Calcium is important because it is an essential constituent of leaves, bones, teeth, and shells. It also forms part of cell walls and bones and is important for blood clotting.
  • Calcium was discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy in England during the year of 1808.
  • It comes from the Latin word "calx" meaning "lime".
  • It is a reactive metal and forms a white coating of calcium nitride when in contact with air.
Rutherfordium - Periodic Table of Videos

Rutherfordium

  • The Atomic Number is 104.
  • The Atomic Mass is 261 AMU.
  • It is in Group 4 and Period 7.
  • The electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 4f14 5s2 5p6 5d10 5f14 6s2 6p6 6d2 7s2.
  • It is classified as a transition metal.
  • Rutherfordium is a transuranium element. It is created by bombarding californium-249 with carbon-12 nuclei. Therefore, it does not occur naturally, but is created in a lab.
  • Rutherfordium is important because it is needed in research. This happens to be its only current use.
  • It was discovered Georgy Flerov and colleagues in Dubna, near Moscow, Russia, and independently by Albert Ghiorso and colleagues in Berkeley, California.
  • It was named in honor of the world-renowned chemist Ernest Rutherford, one of the first to explain the structure of atoms.
  • It is a radioactive metal, and as of today only a few atoms have ever been made.
What is Radon?

Radon

  • The Atomic Number is 86.
  • The Atomic Mass is 222 AMU.
  • It is in Period 6 and Group 18.
  • The electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p6 4f14 5d10 6s2 6p6.
  • It is classified as a noble gas.
  • Radon comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases, well water may also be a source of radon. Radon fluoride is a compound in which radon is often found in.
  • Radon has been used in some spas for presumed medical effects, though no research has proven that it is especially beneficial. Additionally, radon is also used to initiate and influence chemical reactions and be used as a surface label in the study of surface reactions.
  • The compound radon fluoride uses are limited because of its intense radioactivity.
  • Radon was discovered by German chemist Friedrich Ernst Dorn in 1900 while studying radium's decay chain. It is named for the Latin word nitens, meaning shining.
  • It is an colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. It is also the heaviest known gas. Radon inhalation is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the United States. Being a single atom gas, it can easily penetrate common materials such as paper.
Zirconium

Zirconium

  • The Atomic Number is 40.
  • The Atomic Mass is 91.22 AMU.
  • It in in Period 5 and Group 4.
  • The electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d2 5s2.
  • It is classified as a transition metal.
  • It is found in about 30 mineral species, the major ones being zircon and baddeleyite. More than 1.5 million tonnes of zircon are mined each year, mainly in Australia and South Africa, while most baddeleyite is mined in Brazil.
  • Zirconium is very important because it is used extensively by the chemical industry, and zirconium oxide is used in ultra strong ceramics. It is also used in cosmetics, antiperspirants, food packaging and to make microwave filters. Zircon is a semiprecious gemstone, found in many colors but the most desirable variant is a golden hue.
  • It was discovered by Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1909. Its name comes from the Arabic term zargun meaning gold coloured.
  • Zirconium does not absorb neutrons, making it an ideal material for use in nuclear power stations. It is an silvery metal that is very resistant to corrosion.
Periodic Table: Xenon

Xenon

  • The Atomic Number is 54.
  • The Atomic Mass is 131.293 AMU.
  • It is in Period 5 and Group 18.
  • The electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p6.
  • It is classified as a noble gas.
  • Xenon can be found in the atmosphere at a concentration of 0.086 parts per million by volume. It can additionally be found in the gases that evolve from mineral springs. It is commercially obtained by extraction from liquid air.
  • Xenon is important because it is used as a specific light source that is used by photographers and in assorted lamps used in food processing and preparation.
  • It was discovered by Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers in 1898. The name derives from the Greek word xenos meaning meaning stranger.
  • It is a colorless, odorless, and very unreactive gas. At room temperature, it is a gas.

The Importance of Elements

All of the elements have an important role in the universe, us, and the world.


Hydrogen is important because it is makes up 75% of the Earth's matter, and makes up the majority of the stars in the form of hydrogen gas. Therefore there would be no history of humans, because it is essential to atomic fusion, our sun would not have existed and neither would we. Hydrogen was essential for any and all discoveries of subatomic particles (17, 153). Calcium is important because it the major building block in our bones and it also plays an important role in muscle contraction and the release of hormones. Calcium is the one element that readily forms bubble as well as foam and it has shaped empires and world economics (17, 154). NASA has actually used special foams for shuttle re-entry! Calcium is historically important because without it, our bones would deteriorate or even cease to exist.Rutherfordium is important because it showed that chemists were able to make an extremely radioactive metal in a lab successfully. The scientist is was named for, Ernest Rutherford, made immense discoveries, one in particular was that one element could mutate into another (17,155) . It is historically important because it showed that the capabilities of scientists were immense because they were able to chemically create an extremely radioactive element. Radon is important because it is used to treat cancer which makes it a literal lifesaver. It was Rutherford who initially thought that pure radioactivity was actually an unknown gaseous element with its own radioactive properties ( 17,155). Frederick Soddy, using Rutherford’s radioactive bubble samples, quickly proved the radioactive bubbles were in fact a new element, radon. Due to its discovery, it was concluded that one element could in fact, mutate into another (17, 155). It changed elemental history. Zirconium is important because it is used in nuclear power plants, which makes a valuable energy source. We would not have much energy to use if not for it, especially more recently in history. Zirconium rocks have helped answer the question that is "How old is the Earth?". Scientists use zircon-uranium bubbles to date what they claim to be "the oldest rock" (17,158).

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Zirconium. (2013, March 7). Retrieved January 10, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fix8ebljX_4

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