The Disappearing Spoon: Chapter 18

Tools of Ridiculous Precision

Chapter 18 Synopsis

In the world we live in today we measure everything. We measure things when cooking, rearranging furniture, and basically everything we do. Without the elements mentioned in Chapter 18 of The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, measuring would be completely different. This chapter mentions eight elements and all of them relate in one particular way, measuring. They are all known for that. Platinum, krypton, cesium, uranium, samarium, chromium, fermium, and magnesium. Of course these elements are known for other things as well, but measuring is what they are best known for. Without them our world would never be the same.

Platinum (Pt)

Atomic Number: 78

Atomic Mass: 195.085

Period: 6 Group: 10

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2) 3p(6) 3d(10) 4s(2) 4p(6) 4d(10) 5s(2) 5p(6) 4f(14) 5d(9) 6s(1)

Classification: Transition Metal

Geographically Found: Can be found in nature, usually found in deposits of gold-bearing sands. It is mainly found in the Ural Mountains, Columbia, and the western United States,

Why it is Important: Platinum conducts electricity extremely well, and is also what makes up the Kilogram.

Discovered: A scientist is not credited for discovering Platinum.

Interesting Fact: Platinum is also used to make jewelry.

Krypton (Kr)

Atomic Number: 36

Atomic Mass: 83.798

Period: 4 Group: 18

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2) 3p(6) 4s(2) 3d(10) 4p(6)

Classification: Noble Gas

Geographically Found: May be found in minerals, mostly found in the atmosphere.

Why it is Important: Because it is so rare, it does not have many uses. It can be used to make florescent lights and high speed photography.

Discovered: In 1898 by Morris M. Travers and Sir William Ramsay while studying liquefied air.

Cesium (Cs)

Atomic Number: 55

Atomic Mass: 132.905

Period: 6 Group: 1

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2) 3p(6) 4s(2) 3d(10) 4p(6) 5s(2) 4d(10) 5p(6) 6s(1)

Classification: Alkali Metal

Geographically Found: It is hard to find pure cesium because most of the time it is mixed with rubidium. They are chemically similar and can be separated through fractional distillation.

Why it is Important: Cesium is mainly used in atomic clocks.

Discovered: In 1860 by Robert Wilhelm Bunsen and Gustav Robert Kirchhoff. Named after the blue lines in its spectrum.

Uranium (U)

Atomic Number: 92

Atomic Mass: 238.03

Period: 7 Group: None

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2) 3p(6) 3d(10) 4s(2) 4p(6) 4d(10) 5s(2) 5p(6) 4f(14) 5d(10) 6s(2) 6p(6) 5f(3) 6d(1) 7s(2)

Classification: Rare Earth Metal

Geographically Found: Uranium can be found in rocks, soil, and water.

Why it is Important: It is used to power reactors which make electricity.

Discovered: In 1789 by Martin Heinrich Klaproth.

Interesting Fact: It is very toxic to humans and can cause a higher risk cancer because of it's radioactivity.

Samarium (Sm)

Atomic Number: 62

Atomic Mass: 150.36

Period: 6 Group: None

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2) 3p(6) 3d(10) 4s(2) 4p(6) 4d(10) 5s(2) 5p(6) 4f(6) 5d(0) 6s(2)

Classification: Rare Earth Metal

Geographically Found: Can be found in monazite and bastnasite, found in Hungary and Greece.

Why it is Important: It can be used to make studio lights and the flint for lighters.

Discovered: in 1879 by Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran.

Interesting Fact: Can be used to treat some types of cancer.

Chromium (Cr)

Atomic Number: 24

Atomic Mass: 51.996

Period: 4 Group: 6

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2) 3p(6) 4s(2) 3d(4)

Classification: Transition Metal

Geographically Found: Almost all of it is found in Africa and Zimbabwe.

Why it is Important: Can be used to make stainless steel and to harden steel.

Discovered: In 1797 by Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin.

Fermium (Fm)

Atomic Number: 100

Atomic Mass: 257

Period: 7 Group: None

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2) 3p(6) 3d(10) 4s(2) 4p(6) 4d(10) 4f(14) 5s(2) 5p(6) 5d(10) 5f(12) 6s(2) 6p(6) 7s(2)

Classification: Rare Earth Metal

Geographically Found: Never found naturally, only found in radioactive fallout of an atomic bomb test.

Why it is Important: It us used for scientific research. That is almost all they can use it for because of it's high radioactivity,

Discovered: In 1952 by a group of scientists led by Albert Ghiorso, they were studying debris from the first atomic bomb.

Magnesium (Mg)

Atomic Number: 12

Atomic Mass: 24.305

Period: 3 Group: 2

Electron Configuration: 1s(2) 2s(2) 2p(6) 3s(2)

Classification: Alkaline Earth Metal

Geographically Found: Found in the Earth's crust.

Why it is Important: It is needed for the life of plants and animals. It is also used to help humans with the structuring of bones and teeth and the nervous system.

Discovered: In 1755 by Joseph Black.

Interesting Fact: Magnesium can also be used for flares and bombs,

Summary of Chapter 18: Tools of Precision

In chapter 18 Sam Kean gives us eight elements that all have to do with measuring. It starts off with talking about the NIST and BIPM, which are two bureaus that are obsessed with making sure all measurements are as precise as they can be. Kean starts off with the kilogram. The International Prototype Kilogram is a cylinder made out of platinum that weighed exactly one kilogram. Everyone around it went to very serious measures to keep it this way. Of course it did not stay that way and started changing. When that happened they started emailing instead of trying to take it to each and every scientist. He then moved on to talk about cesium and talked about how scientists use it to measure time and get it to be as precise as they can. It then talks about how no one could figure fermium out. Basically the whole chapter talks about how all eight of these elements are related by measuring. Even though they come from different places and are not related at all, they are brought together through measuring. It is pretty significant.

Resources:

Jefferson Lab. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2016, from

http://education.jlab.org/search/


Minerals Education Coalition. (n.d.). The Periodic Table-Magnesium. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from

http://www.mineralseducationcoalition.org/elements/magnesium