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Six Atoms of Element 117 Produced 213

Posted by kdawson
from the that's-ununseptium-to-you dept.
mr crypto writes "A team of Russian and American scientists has produced six atoms of a new element, number 117, that has long stood as a missing link among the heaviest bits of atomic matter ever produced. The element, still nameless, appears to point the way toward a brew of still more massive elements with chemical properties no one can predict. The researchers say that the discovery bolsters the idea of an 'island of stability' among still heavier elements."
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Six Atoms of Element 117 Produced

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  • No name yet (Score:5, Funny)

    by tedgyz (515156) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:12PM (#31755708) Homepage

    In Soviet Russia, elements name you

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:17PM (#31755764)

    "still more massive elements with chemical properties no one can predict."

    I bet one of them will look great on the tiara for Mrs. Universe pageants.

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:27PM (#31755850) Homepage
    AIUI, once you know where an element fits into the Periodic Table, [wikipedia.org] you have a good idea as to what its properties are based on the other elements in its group. In fact, that's one of the table's most valuable properties.
  • Hey chemists (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:27PM (#31755854)

    still more massive elements with chemical properties no one can predict.

    Why can't this be predicted? An element is defined by the number of protons in the nucleus, right? So why is it difficult or impossible to predict what happens when you add another proton? We already have a known sequence of over a hundred elements we can look at to see what changes as the number of protons increases.

    Thanks for answering the stupid question of the day.

    • Well yeah, that is what the groups in the periodic table are for. When the periodic table was "invented" there were even holes in it and eventually elements where discovered with predicted properties and element number. However it seems that predicting the half life is non-trivial. Also while some things can be predicted there is still a lot of room for error or whatever.
    • Re:Hey chemists (Score:5, Informative)

      by modrzej (1450687) <m.m.modrzejewski@gma i l .com> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:48PM (#31756056)
      Light elements, say, those you can find in first three rows of the periodic table, can be qualitatively described using hydrogen atom-like model. Basically, it says that properties of elements are periodic, when you go through the periodic table in a consecutive manner. But then you got heavier elements. The hydrogen atom-like approximation breaks down here, the properties are still periodic, but there are many exceptions from set of simple rules that were valid for lighter elements. In some cases even quantum-mechanical methods fail to describe heavier elements, for example gold wouldn't have gold color if not treated relativistically. One can expect that going towards extremely large Z well established techniques won't prove successful.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PatDev (1344467)
      I am not a chemist, but I'd wager its because this constitutes extrapolation. The periodic tables I just looked up online only go up to 103. Extrapolating > 10% off the end of your data set is a risky proposition, likely to produce incorrect results.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by spvo (955716)
      People have predicted some of their properties. Since these super heavy elements are difficult to produce, and the isotopes produced are generally short lived, the only thing that can really be observed is the elements half-life.

      The models that exist for the currently known elements seem to work pretty well, but they also predict the island of stability mentioned in the summary. Basically a region of very heavy and very stable elements. So, if these elements are discovered and actually are very stable
    • Re:Hey chemists (Score:5, Informative)

      by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:13PM (#31756252)
      Why can't this be predicted? An element is defined by the number of protons in the nucleus, right? So why is it difficult or impossible to predict what happens when you add another proton?

      Because most of the interesting properties of an element are not defined by the number of protons but by the number of electrons and which orbitals they are found in in the ground state.

      The orbitals are not simply layers like a layer cake and they don't fill up in a strictly one-two-three kind of order. The way the lanthanides stick up out of the periodic table is due to the fact that an outer orbital fills in before one of the inner ones does for those elements.

      The fact that sodium behaves like potassium is not because of the number of protons for each, for example, it is because the number of electrons to balance those protons results in one electron in the outermost 's' orbital. The atom prefers to get rid of this electron, making the + ion. The inert elements are all due to the fact that they have the right number of electrons to completely fill the outer shell. Chlorine and the elements in that column lack completeness by one electron, so they prefer to pick up one electron and form the - ion.

      H2 is stable because the two H atoms share the two electrons, making a complete outer shell. Na2 is not stable, because even though they'd share the outer electron and make a complete 's' orbital, the outer shell of Na has more than an s orbital.

      It's all an electron thing, not proton.

      • Because most of the interesting properties of an element are not defined by the number of protons but by the number of electrons and which orbitals they are found in in the ground state.

        However, those interesting properties can be derived from the number of protons.

      • Because most of the interesting properties of an element are not defined by the number of protons but by the number of electrons and which orbitals they are found in in the ground state.

        Can you infer properties about the electrons from just the number of protons? Is it possible to have two distinct elements with the same number of protons in the nucleus, but different configurations of electrons?

        Most of my questions are based on the apparent fact that for any given number of protons in the nucleus, there is exactly one element with that amount. If that were true, it would seem that given the number of protons, you would be able to deduce certain properties about the element (if there was

        • Re:Hey chemists (Score:5, Informative)

          by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:02PM (#31756596) Homepage

          Most of my questions are based on the apparent fact that for any given number of protons in the nucleus, there is exactly one element with that amount.

          That's the definition of an element, yes.

          If that were true, it would seem that given the number of protons, you would be able to deduce certain properties about the element (if there was only one possible configuration of electrons for a given number of protons).

          There is one set of possible electron orbitals, yes, but the problem is that with large elements like this the number of orbitals is very large and their behavior is non-obvious. You can't just look at element 117 and say that oh, the outer-most shell (the one that matters most with regards to chemical behavior) is one electron short of being full in the non-ionized element, so it's going to behave like Florine. There's a lot more going on in this element.

          • Ah, so you really can't predict what the electron configuration will be based on the number of protons. It's true that there is only one configuration possible, but there's not a formula to predict what it would be.

            • by Chris Burke (6130)

              I honestly don't know the details but I think the types of orbitals for a given element are predictable from QM, but that no there is no formula for determining the chemical behavior that results. These elements especially have a large number of electrons in the valence shell and some of the orbital types are mostly understood through theory because the only elements we know that have them are so short lived.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jacix (1597247)
          An element is defined by the number of protons in the nucleus but its properties are largely determined by the number and configuration of electrons around that nucleus. Remember that the definition of an element is entirely made up by and for humans. Physical properties couldn't care less how we categorize them. Roughly speaking the more electrons there are the more possible configurations there are for them so the larger the element (and hence the more electrons) the harder their behavior is to predict
  • Maybe... (Score:5, Funny)

    by actionbastard (1206160) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:32PM (#31755900)
    Jumbonium? [theinfosphere.org]
  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:50PM (#31756084) Homepage Journal

    The chemical properties are determined by the electron cloud around the atom. (Which is ofc determined by the number of protons in the core)

    Nevertheless the chemical properties are completely predictable as the element will behave similar as the other elements in its group.

    Best Regards

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:59PM (#31756148)

      What I mean is, starting with element 119 you are in to a new, 8th period of the periodic table. Ok well each two periods adds new blocks due to the electron shells. Starting at element 121, you are in that new block. As such there isn't anything to compare it against. You are now dealing with g-block elements, which don't exist in lighter elements.

      • The article also mentions shells of protons and neutrons in the nucleus helping to determine stability, something which I don't recall learning in chem. Is that an error in explanation, or something that gets discussed when you get a dedicated nuclear chemistry class? Our nuclear chem sections only involved a chapter or two, and largely dealt with the byproducts of decay.

        • by Sir Holo (531007)
          There is a huge amount of knowledge, so your classes can't teach you everything. Just enough to get started, really. Modern or Nuclear Physics courses probably touch on it.
        • Your chem (or physics, depends a little) class never dealt with the island of stability when discussing the periodic table?

          I think it's one of the first things we were taught here - although I do admit it was in the very first year and it was never touched upon again (simply because we wouldn't be likely to ever have to deal with it, and knowing the hypothesis was good enough).

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_stability [wikipedia.org]

          • My last chem class was in 1992, and nuclear chemistry was a very small part of it. The Island of Stability was mentioned, but not delved into with any great depth.

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      Not quite. The periodic table gives rough predictions. And yes, we understand what those should roughly be. But even given that the complexity of the interactions in the electron clouds mean we can only make rough estimates about how something would behave. For example, we barely understand why certain metals make certain types of allows and certain other metals don't. Or to use another example, many metals are superconducting at very low temperatures but we can't work out more than a very rough approximati
  • Well one of its isotopes seems to have a longer half-life than my ping time, I guess that makes it stable! They can even make more than one atom per month!

  • Repeatable? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wiscocrew (1254242) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:02PM (#31756180)

    Pics or it didn't happen, scientists.

  • Island of stability (Score:3, Informative)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:26PM (#31756346) Homepage
    Although there is a predicted island of stability (due to being nearer to a nice magic number http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_number_(physics) [wikipedia.org]). However, TFA's statement about these elements lasting days or years is wildly optimistic. By most estimates it isn't likely that we will have elements which are stable for more than at most a few minutes. However, that doesn't sound sexy so everyone talks about the island of stability a lot. A lot of scifi has had fun with the idea of very stable elements in the island being not only stable but having really weird properties (allowing warp drives, wormholes and other fun stuff). However, more likely than not even if we can make these larger these elements they won't more than a few seconds. And we will only be able to make them in very tiny quantities. Of course, they certainly won't allow stargates and all that fun stuff either, but that's at least fun to dream about.
  • 3D Table is Required (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Plekto (1018050) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:04PM (#31756612)

    http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/03/05/163226/First-Creation-of-Anti-Strange-Hypernuclei [slashdot.org]

    This was on Slashdot a few weeks ago. And it shows us that the periodic table is without a doubt in need of a major revision from what we've always assumed to be correct.

    http://www.meta-synthesis.com/webbook/35_pt/pt.html [meta-synthesis.com]
    Dozens of (the major) alternate versions are listed here as well. I personally like the Dufour Periodictree myself, as it has a nice symmetry to it that's similar to the circular one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by glwtta (532858)
      And it shows us that the periodic table is without a doubt in need of a major revision from what we've always assumed to be correct.

      What do you mean? The point of the story was that if you create exotic matter, you can't just plop it down on the periodic table; doesn't mean it's not correct for normal matter.

      I didn't see a single version on that page that wasn't obnoxiously difficult to read.
  • As anyone who has read about Bob Lazar and the "Sport Model" UFO knows, it's Element 115 that is the prize. That is the element that allegedly powers UFOs. Can't wait for that one. Laugh all you want but that's supposedly the actual fuel source for the gravity warp drive [gravitywarpdrive.com]
  • The Federal Reserve is manipulating element 117! Fools! The six atoms are not even there. We sold them to China already. Shut off the MSM, and listen, sheeple. How can you keep using your worthless paper money? Element 117 is unique, rare, and unlike fiat can't be crea... oh... wait. Ummm.... buy my book!

  • Names (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dirtside (91468) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:53PM (#31757282) Journal

    Name ideas:

    - Yetanotherium
    - Unremarkablum
    - Irrelevantium
    - Onehundredseventeenium
    - Instantlydecaysium

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

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