Periodic Table elements

Is there any scientific reason to believe that other parts of the universe would contain elements we have not already identified? What are the odds of some alien race introducing a new element, a la Hollywood-style, that was impervious to our science?

No new pure elements that are naturally-occurring are possible, AFAIK. New minerals, maybe. New manufactured materials, sure.

All the lighter elements are relatively common. It’s the heavier ones that are more rare, because they require longerto create. This is true anywhere in a universe that shares our laws of physics. Beyond a certain point, you can’t shove any more protons into a nucleus without it becoming unstable. Hence, we’re stuck with the elements we have. Perhaps there are new forms of existing elements (carbon nanotubes, graphene, etc.) that would be interesting. No new elements, though, I don’t think.

Theoretically, there’s an Island of Stability containing superheavy elements which would have half-lives of several hours or even days (as opposed to milliseconds) though humans have yet to create any of them. It’s possible that the aliens may eventually arrive in spaceships built from the stuff.

But those elements are predicted, we haven’t found them but we expect to find or make them at some point; in fact, some of the elements of the periodic table were predicted based on there being “holes” in it at the time it was defined. This includes some perfectly stable transition metals and rare earths, not just those radioactive, super-heavy elements which we’ve never found outside of a physics lab.

The elements are ordered by how many protons they have; in order to have any in between rather than those predicted high-atomic-number ones buddha_david mentions, they’d have to have chunks of proton. If such entities were found to exist we’d probably come up with a new name for them, rather than considering them previously unpredicted elements - sort of like we differentiate between atoms and ions or between molecules and radicals.

All of the light elements are known.

We can be sure of this, partially because of how we defined the term ‘element’: An element is a kind of atom with a given number of protons. Change the number of protons, change the element. Since protons only occur in atoms whole, never in pieces, we can verify that, for the proton counts one through one hundred and some-odd*, we have a filled-in spot on the periodic table for it, and that no element with more protons than bismuth (or lead, if you’re persnickety) is known to be non-radioactive.

There’s simply no more room for unknown light elements.

*(Depending on how old, and how bold, your table is.)

Interesting. Is there anywhere in the universe those super-heavy elements could occur naturally?

If your ship is built from material with a half-life measured in days, it had better be a quick trip.

The article on bismuth was fascinating – thanks Derleth


I agree. Boy, Bismuth sure has a lot of corners and edges, innit? I wonder if anyone has ever made use of that fact as a metaphor for “edginess?”

I thank all for the serious-toned response to my query regarding the possibility of alien life conquering us, at least in my lifetime. As I formulated the question, I was bewildered by the seeming silliness of this particular concern in a time and place where so many other more important matters are left unsolved.

Maybe it was because the masses, of which I am just one, have been conditioned to concern ourselves with such trivial matters, leaving important things like our broken justice system, our broken government, our broken infrastructure and our broken planet, among others that I don’t have the wherewithal to remember, to people in power whom do not have a single clue as to the simple way through each of these messes without hurting their psyches, egos, wallets and exceedingly small minds. These people in power are wasting the time in our lives that could otherwise see great solutions to great problems, IN OUR LIFETIMES.

In the meantime, it is refreshing that a seemingly odd query or two can still be answered by those who’ve managed to keep all that political silliness at bay and continue their education to help keep things running.

People, we are indebted to you!

Although the number of protons is an integer,and therefore there can be only 92 without the transuranic ones, that by itself does not guarantee that the electron configuration is the same in all conditions. So, while an element with 17 protons would still be chlorine, it might have a different arrangement of electrons, and that valence would give it very different properties, such that we would not recognize it as chlorine. It would be chlorine in name only, but a “different element” in any real-world sense, maybe even a metallic one…

This is just nonsense. The number of protons gives it the characteristics by which we know it as the element chlorine. Chemists have recognized that the same element can show different properties for centuries, long before there was any concept of protons and electrons. We know now that it’s different numbers of electrons that may give elements different chemical properties, but it’s still the same element in the real world (whatever you mean by that).

As others have explained, we aren’t going to find any new stable light elements. It is still possible to speculate about stable superheavy elements. For example, people have speculated about the existnce of “strangelets,” stable bits of matter of nuclear density that contain strange quarks. These are still hypothetical, but could conceivably be as small as atomic nuclei.

The number on neutrons can vary as well. Carbon 12 and carbon 13 for example have 6 and 7 neutrons respectively.

Which doesn’t alter the number of protons, which as mentioned, determines the nature of the element.

This is completely wrong.

Never said it did.

Then, what was your point, exactly? Not trying to be snarky, but isotopes still have the same chemical/physical properties (more or less).

I never said otherwise.

Colibri pointed out that an element can have varying numbers of electrons and I simply added that this is also true of neutrons.

For the life of me I have no idea what you could be reading into what I posted that suggests anything else.

As you point out yourself, we’re talking about ‘stability’ in a highly relative sense, there.

In any universe sharing our laws of physics and matter, there aren’t going to be any more stable elements than the one’s we’ve already discovered. Any heavier elements are going to be highly radioactive and unstable, the only question is whether they decay very fast or extremely fast.