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First Superheavy Element Found In Nature 296

KentuckyFC writes "The first naturally occurring superheavy element has been found. An international team of scientists found several nuclei of unbibium in a sample of the naturally occurring heavy metal thorium. Unbibium has an atomic number of 122 and an atomic weight of 292. In general, very heavy elements tend to be unstable but scientists have long predicted that even heavier nuclei would be stable. The group that found unbibium in thorium say it has a half life in excess of 100 million years and an abundance of about 10^(-12) relative to thorium, which itself is about as abundant as lead." I'd also like it known that my spell checker did not know 'unbibium' before today, but it is now one word closer to encompassing all human knowledge.
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First Superheavy Element Found In Nature

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  • names (Score:5, Funny)

    by syrinx ( 106469 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:12AM (#23223668) Homepage
    Unbibium is the temporary name, of course. Eventually it will receive another name.

    Since it's super-heavy and naturally-occurring, I suggest "Cowboynealium".
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Timesprout ( 579035 )
      Pretty Heavy ATom gets my vote
    • Re:names (Score:5, Funny)

      by shawn(at)fsu ( 447153 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:40AM (#23224130) Homepage
      Jumbonium. As if it could be called anything else.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tverbeek ( 457094 )
      I think this discovery calls for the fast-tracking of unbibium through the IUPAC committee that assigns real names to elements.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 )
      It may not even be Unibibium. Marinov et al write

      Evidence was obtained for the existence of an isotope with a mass that matches the predictions for atomic mass number 292 and Z around 122.
      The authors suggest that Ubiquadium (Eka Uranium, Z=124) is also a slim possibility.

      • Re:names (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:36PM (#23227832) Homepage Journal
        Well, if there are enough nuclei, then expect both, the ratio of the two being about equal to the probability of them being there. Even if the heavier element does not exist in the sample, there may be evidence of it having been there. This assumes the decay chain can be predicted. If the decay products (daughter isotopes) in the chain are present and in the expected ratios, then you can deduce that the prior isotope in the sequence must have been present at one point. How do you tell what is a decay product and what naturally occurs? You'd need a radiochemist to explain it better than I can, but one quick-n-dirty answer is that you can start by seeing if there's something that would be there if such-and-such a scenario is true but isn't. Say you're expecting a stable decay product and it's just not there. Well, it hasn't decayed - it's stable - and it didn't just walk off, so this would be strongly suggestive (in that case) that the parent radioisotope was never present.

        (Actual radiochemisty tends to be rather more complex than this simplistic description. I only had to write an expert system and inference engine for isotope identification, I didn't need to know all of the nuances of the field, such as anti-aliasing AMS data or worrying about characteristic distributions of gamma ray energies. They told me the peak energies and the known isotopes present for a given sample, the software then tried different scenarios and listed those which fit the available data along with the corresponding probability.)

    • Re:names (Score:5, Funny)

      by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:06AM (#23224540) Journal
      Research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

      These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction normally taking less than a second, to take from four days to four years to complete.

      Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-6 years. It does not decay, but undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes, not to mention multiple oxymorons.

      This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. That hypothetical quantity might normally be called 'critical mass' but, in this unique case it is known as 'critical mess'.

      When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium (Am), another just-discovered element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.


      A fart is nothing more than a turd in particulate form.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Chr0nik ( 928538 )
        Actually Gv can only be catalyzed by Au. Once Am is formed however, it can exchange particles with Reservium (Rv) at the quantum level. These virtual particles although observable, are technically not really there, but yet present at the same time. The value of these particles to Am is increasingly meaningless in the fourth dimension. Am and Rv have a symbiotic relationship which eventually is mutually destructive, once critical mess is achieved.
      • Further research revealed that Governmentium also occurs naturally alongside Capitalium, a lighter, but more numerous element. Capitalium is compromised of a cloud of entreprenions, which are attracted to a core of opportunium, which was made stable by emissions from Governmentium.

        Over time, Capitalium produces emissions of money, some of which is absorbed by nearby Governmentium. Capitaliums will thus try to move as far away from Governmentium as possible. But most of this money is transmitted between other Capitaliums in what is know as the venture band. These oscillations of money produces economyetic radiation, which attracts more entreprenions, and stimulates peons, but also attracts greedions and slackhyons which have the temporary effect of increasing the flow of money in the venture band, while increasing their own energy.

        However, as the flow in the venture band increases, the greedions and slachyons reach critical mass, and the flow of money becomes unstable and suddenly reduces dramatically. Capitaliums spontaneously split from their now depleted opportunium and evolve into Spend 0 particles, refusing to bond to any more opportunium. Any peons in the region become inert and may decay, or be absorbed by greedions and slackhyons, forming anti-entreprenions, which have the effect of destroying any opportunium they contact with.

        The state will remain unstable for a time until the depleted Capitaliums begin to move closer to Governmentium. When this happens Governmentium undergoes a shift and emits bailout radiation, which has the effect of releasing vast amounts of stored money into the venture band and into Capitaliums. This restimulates the Capitaliums and they once again begin to emit economyetic radiation, and also move away from Governmentium.

        Interestingly, Governmentium can be formed by either the fusion of peons, or the fusion of Capitaliums. However these two types of Governmentium have different spins, which manifests itself through their interactions with Medium, a type of Capitalium, which has the ability to pick up Governmentium and Capitalium spin, and then broadcast it to nearby peons.
    • Re:names (Score:5, Funny)

      by muellerr1 ( 868578 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:27AM (#23224902) Homepage
      I vote Unobtainium. Or are we planning to use that name for something with an atomic mass of 420?
    • Re:names (Score:5, Interesting)

      by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:51AM (#23225292)
      Interestingly enough, google didn't recognise the word "unbibium", the name given to a recently discovered element in the periodic table (According to wikipedia) and instead asked if I meant unbiunium, the temporary name given to an as-yet undiscovered element of the periodic table.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Knuckles ( 8964 )

      Unbibium is the temporary name, of course. Eventually it will receive another name.
      It will officially be called 9.04. But Unbibium is a really dumb choice for a code name, even. How is it going to be popular with a stupid name like this!
  • Just Unbibium? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by REJOSU ( 759953 )
    Its quite amazing how singular Nuclei can be found-- What kind of procedures are used to identify specific elements. More importantly, were they only looking for Unbibium or any of the superheavy metals?
    • You should try reading the article sometime, it is quite liberating.

      From the article...
      "What they did was fire one thorium nucleus after another through a mass spectrometer to see how heavy each was. Thorium has an atomic number of 90 and occurs mainly in two isotopes with atomic weights of 230 and 232. All these showed up in the measurements along with a various molecular oxides and hydrides that form for technical reasons."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by guruevi ( 827432 )
      Scientist are still looking for several elements on the periodic table. The 'inventor' of the periodic table, Mendelev noticed that elements ordered on the table have certain mathematical properties against each other and thus calculated where certain elements should appear and what some of their properties should be (so they know what to look for). Of course, some (especially the super-heavy elements) are synthesized (although they might appear naturally but are not yet discovered) highly radioactive and s
    • Re:Just Unbibium? (Score:4, Informative)

      by sdpuppy ( 898535 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:39AM (#23225106)
      Kind of interesting...

      Single molecules. and nuclei, as conditions allow are detected all the time in mass spectrometers - thats what they do.(actually quantum efficiency of commonly used detectors are not that sensitive and will detect maybe 1 out of every 10 or 100 particle that comes its way - but it takes one lucky particle to make the signal.)

      In mass spec, 292 is a common 'background" signal when analyzing organics- most likely from plasticizer - but could be something else. There was no description of the equipment that they used or whether they were detecting singly charged (or - unlikely - the nuclei fully stripped of electrons)

      Great discovery if it is what it is.

  • by courteaudotbiz ( 1191083 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:15AM (#23223708) Homepage
    Didn't anyone from Area 51 said that a very heavy element like Ununpentium (115) was supposed to shield us from gravity, thus empowering us to create a flying saucer and travel to other stars and galaxies? I guess that Unbibium (122) is even better...

    I am so excited!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Ah, gravity, my constant foe.
    • No, while working with Redmond, the folk at Area 51 released to the press a statement about Ununpentium 1.99, clearing the way for new math that would unempower us to create a flying saucer to travel the galaxy.

      In a nod to this discovery, in Excel 2003, if you place the cursor on cell z-199 and press ctrl-alt-right_shift-ins while typing XFILES a little flying saucer icon will appear from the left side of the screen and then travel around the screen in the exact flight path that the first manned Mars missio
    • It might not be. Iron has a much bigger number than oxygen, yet it isn't making it a better gas for breathing. Wait, it is not even a gas!...

      But I'm excited about 115 as well...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MBGMorden ( 803437 )

      Didn't anyone from Area 51 said that a very heavy element like Ununpentium (115) was supposed to shield us from gravity, thus empowering us to create a flying saucer and travel to other stars and galaxies? I guess that Unbibium (122) is even better...
      I think you're confusing it with Unobtainium.
  • Unbibium []. It does not as of now have this article cited. someone be sure to correct that.
  • by Ron Harwood ( 136613 ) <harwoodr&linux,ca> on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:17AM (#23223726) Homepage Journal
    Christ - that should be a top level story unto itself... :D
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:36AM (#23224058)
      Well, he does... since about "15:10 Monday 28 April 2008". The spellchecker's database so far consists of exactly one entry: "unbibium". And, yes, that is "one word closer to encompassing all human knowledge". Even if it's, at the same time, exactly one word above zilch.
  • by The Sith Lord ( 111494 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:17AM (#23223730)
    I think its atomic weight it delicious ...
  • Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by squarefish ( 561836 ) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:18AM (#23223750)
    "The group that found unbibium in thorium say it has a half life in excess of 100 million years and an abundance of about 10^(-12) relative to thorium, which itself is about as abundant as lead."

    So how soon can we expect it to turn up in pet food and children's toys?
    • So how soon can we expect it to turn up in pet food and children's toys?

      Might be already. Thorium where it is found is a good and efficient nuclear fuel source. Relatively untapped as there are already stock piles of the stuff. Wiki has a little info on it as thorium []and in a reactor. [] It actually amazes me we don't use Thorium more. But research would indicate the government chose Uranium because it is better to make bombs with.

      • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:49AM (#23224250)
        There are two major issues with thorium in nuclear reactors.

        Firstly thorium itself is not fissile, but Uranium-233 which can be created from it is. Using thorium for nuclear fuel therefore requires a breeder reactor and associated reprocessing. At the moment this is more expensive than using enriched uranium in light water reactors, but it may change if the costs of reprocessing decrease.

        The second problem is the reprocessing itself. The Uranium made from thorium will contain traces of highly radioactive gamma emitters, and current reprocessing techniques are unable to adequately shield the workers from this radiation. There is also very little experience with thorium based reprocessing.

        When it comes from nuclear proliferation thorium reactors would need safeguarding just as a conventional reactor would. The main reason is that while thorium itself is not usable in nuclear weapons, the Uranium-233 which is breed from it would be quite suitable. If that were to prove unfeasible it would also be possible to use a highly-enriched U-233 core surrounded by a U-238 breeder blanket to produce Pu-239, used in plutonium based weapons.

        Basically if you are going to run a nuclear reactor you will need safeguards to prevent proliferation. This need not be a reason why we can't use nuclear power, it just means we shouldn't give the technology to every dictatorship on the planet that is willing to sign a piece of paper.
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
        Well not exactly.
        You can not use Thorium as a fuel. You can use it to breed fuel. The actual fuel in the Thorium fuel cycle is Uranium 233.
        BTW Uranium 233 is also pretty good at making bombs.
      • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <> on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:31AM (#23224972) Homepage

        Thorium where it is found is a good and efficient nuclear fuel source...It actually amazes me we don't use Thorium more.

        Thorium isn't fissile, so it's not just a matter of swapping U for Th.

        Current fission reactors are based on same chain reaction that makes nuclear weapons work. Some people want to breed Th into U to keep using these reactor designs, but the cool thing about Th is that you can use it in a subcritical accelerator-driven system []. This is a truly safe form of nuclear reactor - pull the plug and the reaction stops, no way that it can melt down. It can actually "burn off" nuclear waste. And because no plutonium is created and the mix of uranium isotopes it produces is hard to weaponize, it's proliferation resistant and not a terrorist target the way a conventional plant is. Thorium is much more abundant than uranium, and easier to mine and process.

        If fission has a future, it's accelerator-driven systems. We ought to be putting our reasources toward funding the R&D needed to deploy them instead of building dirty and dangerous uranium or plutonium fission plants.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gnuman99 ( 746007 )
        It is already everywhere, just like Mercury. Thorium and Uranium are released from coal power plants in quite large amounts - we are not talking pounds but tons and tons. 2-3 parts in a million of coal is Uranium and I think Thorium is around 4-5 parts per million.

        Most people don't even know that the lakes and oceans poisoned with mercury and those tuna advisories are all thanks to coal power plants. But then we better have coal or even the so called "clean coal" instead of nuclear power.
  • by Experiment 626 ( 698257 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:18AM (#23223756)

    All I ever find in thorium are star rubies, blue sapphires, huge emeralds, and Azerothian diamonds.

  • After all those novels with elements "unknown to man" that sounded so stupid...

    "See? See? if 122 is stable, 348 can be stable too. And for all we know, it may absorb magic power."
  • Island of Stability (Score:5, Informative)

    by HungSoLow ( 809760 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:20AM (#23223788)
    Here's a link describing the Island of Stability []
    Neat stuff: apparently they've theorized a bunch of these super-heavy elements, they just haven't been observed yet (until now)!
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
      Last I heard they were talking about stability as in possibly microseconds instead of nanoseconds. 100 million years is enough to make a paperweight out of!
  • by JoshOOOWAH ( 849135 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:21AM (#23223812)
    Submitter's spellcheck becomes self-aware. In a panic, they try to pull the plug. Spellcheck fights back.
  • Why do they refer to this as a heavy nucleus rather than as an atom of type 122? I see the terminology elsewhere on searching, but I'm just trying to get a grip on the terminology. Is this just a way of saying it's an atom with a particularly high atomic number?
    • by Miseph ( 979059 )
      Because in order to be an atom it must have a full nucleus and a number of electrons such that it has a neutral charge (122, in this case). Without having RTFA or holding a degree in atomic physics, I would guess that these nuclei are not being orbited by electrons, or at least not the correct number of them, and are therefore not defined as atoms. Beats me why they aren't referred to as ions instead, though.
      • by Goaway ( 82658 )
        No, as they are naturally occurring, they are quite normal atoms.

        It's just that the electrons are of little interest to the people doing the experiments. It's the nucleus that is of interest.
      • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

        Atomic mass really isn't affected much by electron mass, since electrons are so tiny. The nucleus of an atom pretty much defines all its relevant properties. The mass spectrometer really just gives a reading on the mass of the nucleus, as I understand it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:04AM (#23224476)
      I looked at the abstract for the paper. The ambiguous wording is because they don't know the atomic number of the element yet. They know the atomic mass is 292, and based on theoretical calculations of isotope lifetimes, they hypothesize the atomic number is 122. They haven't confirmed that, though.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
      Because it's in a special class of elements that have been hypothesized but not observed (before now). Elements slightly lighter than that one tend to decay quickly (as in a fraction of a second). The interesting thing about this element is not just it's atomic number, or atomic weight, but the fact that it is heavier than any other naturally occurring element AND long lived.
  • In general, very heavy elements tend to be unstable but scientists have long predicted that even heavier nuclei would be stable.

    How do you do that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wildzer0 ( 889523 )
      Island of stability [].
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mattsson ( 105422 )
      It involves throwing of bones and spherical crystals.
    • Basically (as the Wikipedia article points out) the theory is when the energy "shell" or levels is full or nearly full it creates a stable element. As the number of energy shells get bigger, the further the gap between the stable elements. So certain isotopes would have been predicted around the point where we are observing the unbibium. Obviously it takes a lot of energy to force the electrons into the higher engergy shells, but it is still curious why this doesn't occur in nature every now and again (w
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )
      Simple explaination: We've observed in normal materials that increasing atomic weight doesn't always mean more unstable, often a symmetric filled shell is more stable than one with openings. You can observe it with electrons in say e.g. hydrogen (highly reactive) vs helium (mostly inactive), the same basic principle applies to the nuclei. Think of it like a puzzle toy which is quite rigid when all the bits snap together.

      Complex explaination: Lots and lots of really ugly math about the fundamental forces at
  • Now that we've found Naquada, when can we expect the invasion of the Goa'uld? but seriously, if this is confirmed, it would be one of the single greatest discoveries made in physics. a near stable nuclear isotope in the superheavy island of stability: that alone would be amazing but finding it in nature requires that there be a mechanism for synthesizing it and that's even more interesting.
    • Re:stargate ref (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:40AM (#23224124)

      It's important, but I'd hardly call it one of the greatest discoveries made. It just confirms what we've suspected all along--There are stable elements past Uranium. There's a very narrow set of conditions that can synthesize them, and we haven't had alot of luck in the labs, but now that we know nature's managed it, we can possibly devise new experiments better aimed at sucessfuly generating these heavier elements.

      As far as how it got there naturally--presumably the same way all the naturally occuring heavy elements came to be--Supernovae billions of years ago.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sdpuppy ( 898535 )
        Well yeah, but a stable element with all those freaky f and g orbitals might have some extremely interesting and probably even useful chemical properties - in metallurgy, catalysts. etc.
    • Now that we've found Naquada, when can we expect the invasion of the Goa'uld?
      Eka-thorium is boring.

      Naqadaium would be an excellent name for Unbibium 292.

  • Are we talking, maybe crack the planet in half with a bomb the size of a cigarette pack, or, just another run of the mill a-bomb.

    • How do you propose making a bomb made up of material with stable nuclei?
      • by tjstork ( 137384 )
        How do you propose making a bomb made up of material with stable nuclei?

        Maybe I'm wrong, but I would think that, if the element has a half-life, by definition, it is not stable.
      • by nguy ( 1207026 )
        In principle, an element doesn't have to be unstable in order to be able to participate in chain reactions (uranium is almost stable). If it were completely stable, you could probably use something else to start the chain reaction.
    • Even if your bomb can convert matter to energy with 100% efficiency, it's limited in the amount of energy that it can produce. e=mc**2 and all that, about 20 kilotons per gram.
  • Very doubtful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:40AM (#23224126)
    I'm a professor of isotope geochemistry.

    After reading their paper, it's clear they haven't proven their case. There are *so* many possible explanations for the handful of counts they observed that this result should be ignored. Let me give a few:

    - Molecular ions. They say there are no known molecular ions at this mass, I say BS. There are lots of observed molecular ions out there whose exact atomic makeup we haven't figured out. The worst is the interference on 87Sr that screws up lots of icpms age dating work and is not 87Kr (or we could correct for it). But there are others.

    - Hydrocarbons: They say there are no hydrocarbons in the blank -- have they ever thought of hydrocarbons that are only ionized when lots of other things (ie a sample) is being ionized? No. They exist though, and are difficult to rule out. They didn't try very hard on this one. Try aspirating a solution of something else (U maybe, or Pb) and see what they get on 292. I'll bet there are counts, and they're not superheavies.

    Another reason to be skeptical is that their Th solution is chemically purified. How are they going to do that without getting rid of the superheavy, which is after all not Th, and will be removed by any chemical process.

    This is highly dubious work.
    • Actual knowledge on slashdot - its a miracle!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 )
      My field is nuclear physics, and I'm also very skeptical about this. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and their evidence is weak. They haven't done any nuclear characterization of these supposed atoms at all. They haven't even measured Z. All they've measured is a peak in a mass spectrum, and as you point out, the much less heroic explanation for that is simply that they're seeing molecules. It would also be extraordinarily surprising if these isotopes had half-lives of millions of years
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:43AM (#23224170) Journal
    Let's say it has a half-life of around 100 million years then. But how are they formed? I thought only heavy naturally occuring elements were formed in high energy situations like supernovae, but this is would be a relatively speaking short timeframe.

    So how are minerals with a "short" half-life formed on Earth? Wouldn't it require a quite immense energy to fuse these atoms? I suppose the Earth has to have the energies necessary, but... What's this talk about supernovae being required to fuse atoms heavier than iron (unlike typical star fusion that I believe can go as far as this) all about in that case?
    • Let's say it has a half-life of around 100 million years then. But how are they formed?
      the article never says that the half-life is around 100 million years, it says that it is in excess of 100 million years.
      • the article never says that the half-life is around 100 million years, it says that it is in excess of 100 million years.
        True (and I sort of expected this comment after I posted the above), but if this was about supernovae, the lower bound of its half-life has to be higher than the age of Earth, so my question still stands.
    • by hunterk1 ( 71707 ) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:06AM (#23224536) Homepage
      They're not formed on earth. The amount they found is presumably all that's left after its "x"th half-life (however many have passed). It was formed into the earth what, 4.5 billion years ago as our planet coalesced from supernova material.

      Or at least, that's my best guess.
    • The half-life is the amount of time it takes for half the material to decay. Let's say this formed in a supernova 5 billion years ago, and it has a half-life of 100m years That's 50 half lives, so for each atom we find today, there were 2^50 atoms when it formed. While that sounds like a lot, that's about .0000005 grams[*] of Unbibium for each atom we find today.

      [*] Assuming my math is right. If not, someone will correct it, as this is /.
      292 (atomic weight) * 2^50 / (6.02214*10^23) = .0000005459

    • Half life just means that half the nuclei present in any given quantity of an element will have decayed in that period. A quarter will last for two half lives or longer, an eighth for three or longer, and so on.

      So infinitesimally small numbers of nuclei can survive a huge number of half lives from their origin in a supernova long before the Earth was formed.

      This story also says a lot about the state of modern detection that it can find these nuclei.

    • by tgd ( 2822 )
      Clearly they were made by intelligent life forms that no longer exist because moments later their particle accelerator produced a micro black hole AND a stragelet all at once.
  • Maybe is a missing piece of information in the original article. Chernobyl? Bikini Island? Geneva? Roswell? Maybe could be "natural" in those places and not in the rest of the world/nature.
    • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:12AM (#23224642) Journal
      What, do you think nuclear reactors are build and atomic bombs are dropped on the large, naturally occurring thorium fields that we all remember playing in as children?

      Ah, how I remember passing the days on the bountiful thorium fields of my youth, before they paved them over with asphalt. How will the youth of today grow up to be responsible adults without the healthy, life-giving exposure to thorium [] we all used to get? Good times, good times.

      (It never ceases to amaze me how rationality just goes flying out the window, even here, when any subject even remotely related to radiation comes up. I understand why, but it still amazes me.)
  • Unobtainium still hasn't been found
  • Is it ununbium or unbibium? Because I have been playing this game the last few days, which has ununbium: [] Some of those names are just too difficult to remember, let alone type. Ah, well, in the end, they probable name it after the research group or astronomic object where they found the damn thing anyway. Any chemists in the audience?
  • Super-heavy, let me guess, it's a Web 2.0 Web Page?
  • by airship ( 242862 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:00AM (#23224422) Homepage
    Oh, boy! Time to navigate over to United Nuclear [] to pick up a gram of this stuff for my element collection!
  • So the "island of stability" [] beyond the transuranics does exist. And it's bigger than expected. Interesting.

  • Well, Bob?

    what do you think?
  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:30AM (#23224944)
    Long ago there was found considerable evidence for heavy elements. If you peer at any chunk of mica you can find long dark tracks, longer and darker than are caused by any known type of radioactive decay. The trick is finding incontrovertible proof of these atoms *before* they decay. If they have short half lives (short as in under ten million years or so), it's going to be hard to find their needleness in the haystack.
    • One of the places considerred for finding 122,124,& 126 is in the X-ray adsobtion lines in super-novas. Then look at how those lines change over time, and half-lives can be measured.

      btw we can be assured that it is VERY unlikely that 126 is stable since we can't find any of it. We can be quite sure that anything with a half-life of >1Byr would be findable in some amount in all the searching that has been done.

      Also, although 126 is 'perfect' in terms of protons, it is far from perfect in nue
  • Thorium? (Score:2, Funny)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 )
    Phht, who cares about that any more?

    I'd like to find more Khorium and Eternium, and my bank is overflowing with Adamantium.

    Although it'd be hilarious to see someone get 1 'unbibium' for every 10^12 units of thorium prospected. They'd be like "WTF?"
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:52AM (#23225306)
    It's been a long time, but I had read something about a prediction that element 126 was the expected stable superheavy. Just as electrons have shells, and filled shells make elements chemically neutral (like the noble gasses), neuclei have energy shells that occupy a lower ground state energy when completely filled. Based on the known elements, 126 was predicted.

    Here's some links: [] [] []
  • half-life (Score:3, Funny)

    by multi io ( 640409 ) <> on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:56AM (#23225382)
    Did they *calculate* the half-life or did they *measure* it?
  • by Starker_Kull ( 896770 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:02PM (#23227368)
    If this result holds up, all sorts of interesting questions come up. For instance:

    They claim it's half-life is about 10e8 years. Since our solar system is very roughly 1e10 years old, that's about 100 half-lives, or a decrease by a factor of 2^100 or about 1e30. Since its atomic weight is 292, that suggests that an original sample of about 292e7 grams should have decayed to 1e7 moles * 6e23 at/mol / 1e30 = 6 atoms left. In other words, an original chunk of this stuff of mass 2,920,000 kilos would have decayed to 6 atoms. But when you condsider how much mass of all sorts of elements exist on the earth, and take into account chemical concentration, one would think more of this stuff would be around.... maybe. Does anyone know about the frequency of discovery of naturally radioactive isotopes with a similar half-life that are not part of the decay path of other longer lived radioactive isotopes? In other words, is it reasonable to expect to find significant quantities of something with a half-life of around 1e8 years that isn't being formed from other decay products any more?

    Also, if the reason it is so rare is because so little was formed, perhaps that indicates it is extremely hard, even in a supernova, to create this element? What does that suggest about our ability to artificially synthesise this element?

    Very interestng....

  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:13PM (#23227514) Journal
    I can see the interview now.

    Scientist points at periodic table. "See it goes up to 292. []"

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun