Chapter 18

Tools of Ridiculous Precision

Joe Hamby

Synopsis of Chapter 18

Measuring has had a very large impact on the world we live in today. The discovery of the eight elements mentioned and analyzed in Chapter 18 of The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean would change the way people would measure forever. The elements mentioned in the chapter are platinum, krypton, cesium, uranium, samarium, chromium, fermium, and magnesium. This chapter primarily begins in the 1950's and continues in chronological order from when the element had it's largest breakthrough. Most of the elements mentioned have other uses than just being used for measuring, but measuring is what they are mainly known for. Without these elements being discovered and used for measuring, the way we would measure would be completely different and would change the world we live in today

Platinum (Pt)

Atomic Number: 78

Mass:195.085 amu

Period: 6

Group: 10

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p6 4f14 5d9 6s1

Classification: Transition Metal

Platinum was used by pre-Columbian Indians in South America before being noticed in 1735 by scientists. The name platinum comes from the Spanish word platina, which is translated into "little silver." Platinum can be found in a majority of the items that we use in our everyday lives. A few of these would include jewelry, wires and vessels, and the coating used to cover the nose of a missile. An individual scientist is not credited with discovering platinum. Large amounts of platinum can be found in the Ural Mountains of Western Russia. Platinum is a very heavy, soft malleable, which means that it is very easy to bend and shape. Platinum also has a fairly high melting point, and is often described as a noble metal since it is so unreactive.

Krypton (Kr)

Atomic Number: 36

Mass: 83.798 amu

Period: 4

Group: 18

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6

Classification: Noble Gas

Krypton was discovered in 1898 by Sir William Ramsay and Morris M. Travers while the two were studying liquefied air. Sir William Ramsay is a Scottish chemist and Morris M. Travers is an English chemist. Krypton can be found in different minerals, but the largest abundance of Krypton is located in the Earth's atmosphere. Krypton is one of the rarest gases on Earth. Krypton is colorless and odorless, and since Krypton is so rare it has limited uses. These uses include fluorescent lights, high speed photography, and combined with other gases to make luminous signs.

Cesium (Cs)

Atomic Number: 55

Mass: 132.905 amu

Period: 6

Group: 1

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p6 6s1

Classification: Alkali Metal

Cesium was discovered by German scientists Robert Wilhelm Bunsen and Gustav Robert Kirchhoff in 1860. The pair named Cesium after the blue lines they saw in it's spectrum. Cesium can be acquired from pollucite and can be rather difficult to abstract. Cesium can be found in atomic clocks, hydrogenation, and photoelectric cells. Cesium is a soft metal, is silvery-gold, and is the most alkaline metal found on Earth. Cesium is Latin for "sky blue" which is explained earlier in the paragraph.

Uranium (U)

Atomic Number: 92

Mass: 238.029 amu

Period: 7

Group: none

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p6 4f14 5d10 6s2 6p6 5f3 6d1 7s2

Classification: Actinide

Uranium was discovered by Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1789. Klaproth was a German chemist. When Klaproth declared that he discovered Uranium, he had actually discovered Uranium dioxide, which isn't pure Uranium. Uranium can be taken from pure Uranium ore such as pitchblende, uraninite, and carnotite. Uranium is very abundant and is 40 times more abundant than silver. Uranium is used to power reactors which make electricity. Uranium is very radioactive and toxic to humans. Uranium can increase the risk of getting different types of cancer due to it's high radioactivity.

Samarium (Sm)

Atomic Number: 62

Mass: 150.362 amu

Period: 6

Group: none

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6 5s2 4d10 5p6 4f6 6s2

Classification: Lanthanide

Samarium was observed spectroscopically by Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac a Swiss chemist in 1853. Samarium was then discovered by Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1879 in France. Samarium can be used to make carbon arc lights which are used in projectors and studio lighting. Samarium can also be used to make flints for lighters. Samarium is almost 4 times as common as tin. Samarium can be found in monazite and bastnasite. Bastnasite Deposits can be found in Hungary and Greece. The name Samarium comes from the name of a Russian Mine Official, Col. Samarski. Samarium can be used in treatments for different types of cancer.

Chromium (Cr)

Atomic Number: 24

Mass: 51.996 amu

Period: 4

Group: 6

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d4

Classification: Transition Metal

Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin discovered Chromium by accident while he was working with the mineral crocoite in 1797. Vauquelin discovered Chromium oxide, but then later discovered that he could obtain Chromium from heating up the Chromium oxide. Chromium is a blueish white metal that is brittle, hard, and very resistant to corrosion. Chromium has a very shiny surface when polished. Most of the world's percentage of Chromium can be found in Southern Africa and Zimbabwe. Chromium can be used to harden steel, manufacture stainless steel, and produce alloys.

Fermium (Fm)

Atomic Number: 100

Mass: 257 amu

Period: 7

Group: none

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p6 4f14 5d10 6s2 6p6 5f12 6d0 7s2

Classification: Actinide

Fermium was discovered by a group of scientists led by Albert Ghiorso when they went to go study the debris left by the first hydrogen bomb in 1952. The group discovered that Fermium has a half-life of about 20 hours. Fermium is produced when a long chain of nuclear reactions go off then letting the isotope go through beta decay. Fermium is very harmful due to it's radioactivity. Fermium can only be created when a thermonuclear explosion takes place. The only use for Fermium is to use it for scientific research.

Magnesium (Mg)

Atomic Number: 12

Mass: 24.305 amu

Period: 3

Group: 2

Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2

Classification: Alkaline Earth Metal

Magnesium was discovered by Joseph Black at Edinburgh in 1755. Magnesium is a silvery-white metal that ignites in air and burns in bright light. Magnesium is the eighth most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. Magnesium can also be found in minerals such as magnesite and dolomite. Magnesium can be used in items that burn, such as flares, bombs, and a fuse for a thermite. Magnesium can also be found in large amounts in the body.

Summary of Chapter 18

In chapter eighteen, all of the elements are very important to measuring different things. From kilograms to finding life on other planets, each element has a different, yet similar use. Most of the elements mentioned in the chapter were from different points on the periodic table. Most of the elements are very different from each other depending on which group and period they might be in. But all of these elements were connected by how and what they could be used to measure.

Work Cited

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