Cold welding is the phenomenon of two pieces of metal fusing on contact. It's a big problem in space, but it can even happen on earth at room temperatures with the right metal, as Cody demonstrates. Read the rest
Gallium is a metal that melts at 86 degrees F. It's more fun than playing with mercury, and probably safer, too (it *will* temporarily stain your skin gray though, because it's "wet" when liquid and will adhere to the crevices of your skin). My daughter's friend brought some over a couple of weeks ago, and it was such a hit at our house that we had to get some of our own. This 20 gram sample is just $(removed) including shipping on Amazon. Read the rest
The periodic table of elements will soon be updated with four new names, including three that honor Moscow, Japan, and Tennessee. A total of four new names were recommended Wednesday by an international scientific group, and the fourth is named for a Russian scientist. Read the rest
Two days ago, a truck carrying a container of radioactive cobalt-60 (enough to make a dirty bomb) was stolen by carjackers off a highway near Tijuana. Today, authorities found the truck. The thieves probably aren't terrorists, just some guys who wanted a truck with a crane attached to it. But, at some point, they opened the container of cobalt-60 and will now almost certainly die from radiation exposure. Read the rest
Rare earth elements aren't actually rare, but right now the vast majority of them (97%) come from a single place — China. Given how important these elements are to the making of everything from computers to cars, that gives China quite the monopoly. With that context, here's the news: Japan just found a big supply of rare earth elements in mud at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Of course, what may be good news for manufacturing is not necessarily good news for the health of oceans. Read the rest
A fascinating visit to the Bank of England bullion vault, which stores $315 billion in gold. The narrator is kind of sad because he says gold is useful for many things and it's just sitting here. Read the rest
University of Kentucky chemistry professors John P. Selegue and F. James Holler are collecting comic book references to chemical elements. On their Periodic Table of Comic Books site, you can click through the standard periodic table to see pages from comic books that mention specific elements. The samples seem to be weighted pretty heavily to classic, Golden and Silver Age stuff — there's a lot of 1940s Wonder Woman and miscellaneous anthology series from the 1960s.
They don't have all the elements accounted for yet. In particular, the lanthanides and actinides — aka, those two rows at the bottom where everything ends in "ium" — are lacking comic book shout-outs. Maybe you can help!
Thanks to Jennifer Ouellette!