Saturday, October 18, 2014

Elemental Affection

 The names of the elements always captured me with their unpronounceable, unpredictable, onomatopoeic, simple, or comical names. My favorite five of all of the element names are:
1.      Aluminium
2.      Krypton
3.      Molybdenum
4.      Gold
5.      Chromium

Aluminium is the chemical element with atomic number 13, a light silvery-gray metal.
Aluminium is found in Bauxite ore. Aluminium is used in aluminium foil, cans, cars, metal sheets, buses, bicycles, and coins. Aluminium is not rare, but it has an exceptional ring to its name. Aluminium is a unique word to me. It has two different spellings, Aluminum, and Aluminium. I prefer Aluminium, because when I say words with an ending “-ium” I feel satisfied. It is a very simple name, but simple is sometimes better.

Krypton is the chemical element with atomic number 36. Krypton is highly unreactive because it is a noble gas, and is used in some light bulbs. All noble gases are inert. It is also used for photographic flashes and for krypton fluorescent lasers. Krypton always reminds me of Superman. I am not into comic books and super heroes, but one of the first super heroes I ever knew about was Superman. Krypton reminds me of Superman because Kryptonite poisons Superman, and I thought Krypton sounds extremely similar to Kryptonite, and perhaps Kryptonite was based on it. Krypton is very “comic”al. Despite Krypton being a noble gas, kryptonite can kill Superman. I don’t see anything noble about that. Krypton is very rare, and is obtained by distillation of liquid air.

Molybdenum is the chemical element with atomic number 42. Molybdenum has the sixth highest melting point of all metals, and has low solubility in water. Molybdenum is used in fertilizer for cauliflower, and is used to make armor, aircraft parts, electrical contacts, industrial motors, and filaments.

Normally, on Monday, I go to fencing class. One Monday, I was a little early, and there was a book on the elements, just sitting in the fencing lounge. I grabbed it, sat down, and the first page I opened was to Molybdenum. I tried in vain to pronounce it. “Moleee-beedeenom, Molybb-db-dnum.” My fencing teacher saw me struggling and brought the entire class over. He made a challenge. Anyone who could pronounce the word, would get a prize. After everyone’s feeble attempts, mine included, we started a second round. I was tense, and I quickly gathered all of my knowledge about pronunciation. I broke the word into syllables. Finally, it came to me. I impatiently waited for my turn. I pronounced every syllable carefully. “Mol-ib-de-num” My fencing teacher reached into his pocket, grabbed the prize, and said, “Here is a Molybdenum bar.” Everyone sighed or said, “Aw!” The bar was black and emitted a cold feeling. From that moment, Molybdenum was embedded into my memory, and I started to have affection for strange unpronounceable words. I like the word Molybdenum, but the actual metal engenders no special affection.

Gold is the chemical element with atomic number 79. It is a rare element. Gold never tarnishes and is inert. It is precious and shiny. It is magnificent and bold. It is my favorite element of all. Gold is a prized valuable item. Gold doesn’t sound very bold nor like a luxury thing. This is because you hear it too much. On the other hand, the metal is prestigious. It is used to describe heroes, and used to make important statues. When you win something, you get gold medals, or gold ribbons, or something gold colored! Gold is used for dentistry such as gold teeth. It is also used in aerospace, electronics and computers, finances, and investing. It was the basis of currency for thousands of years. However, scientists treat it like any other metal, experimenting with it like they would with iron or copper. It is so rare that approximately 181,881 ordinary tons of gold have been mined out of the Earth from the beginning of history to 2011. In comparison, 2 billion tons of iron ore are mined annually.  

Chromium is the chemical element with atomic number 24. Chromium also has a nice “–ium” at the end, but it shines distinctively. It can be polished to a mirror finish, and is used in motorcycles, school bus paint, and used in lasers. It is the twenty-second most abundant element, making it mildly rare, and I love how it is shiny and bright. It is magnetic, and above thirty-eight degrees Celsius it becomes paramagnetic, meaning it attracts only certain objects. Chromium has many special properties which are amazing. It is a very onomatopoeic word for me, because when I say Chromium, I think of chrome, a very shiny object like Chromium.

These words gave me a great affection for the elements.

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