Six atoms of ununseptium: now what?

Two years ago six atoms of ttpthe still-officially-unnamed ununseptium were synthesized (equals “discovered”?–like Columbus “discovered” America?).

Apparently it has “no uses.

Dito the even heavier ununoctium, of which “3 or 4” atoms have been synthesized.

How do they not know how many they’ve found?

How/why did they find 116 and 118 first?

I’ve seen the term “island of stability” but it is definitely over my head.

What are the next steps with these fantastically rare isotopes?

Wikipedia has a pretty good article about the island of stability that should be pretty user-friendly. The idea is that protons and neutrons may have “orbital shells” just like electrons do. If so, you may have some more-stable atoms above what we can currently produce because the shells will be more filled.

Of course, the island of stability is predicting half-lives in the seconds instead of the milliseconds, so it’s not as if these elements are what most people would call stable. They’re just more stable than the stuff around them.

These super-heavy elements are fantastically unstable, and decay quickly. What they do is smash nucleii of more stable elements (which he have in abundance) together really, really fast, using particle accelerators. They have previously calculated that smashing atoms of X and Y together at a certain energy will theoretically yield a nucleus of undiscovered element Z. Further, based on the laws of quantum mechanics, we can predict whether Z will be stable or if it will undergo radioactive decay.

All the elements heavier than lead (like uranium) are unstable to a degree and eventually decay, but the really heavy ones are really unstable and decay so quickly (fractions of a second) that you’ll never see them in nature. So the only way to see them is to try to make them. And since you can’t really examine individual atoms under a microscope, the way you determine that you’ve seen them is by looking for the expected decay products. If you can set up detectors for those, and you detect them, then that proves that something must have decayed into them, proving that you created at least one atom of the new element. But your detectors may miss some decay events, so you can’t be sure precisely how many you made.

The island of stability refers to a hypothesized range of elements, much heavier than any we have yet created, that is predicted to be stable, with half-lives a lot longer than these useless elements that decay right away. Maybe some of them will even last for years or more. We won’t know for sure until (and if) we can actually make them.

What/how on earth could its “uses” be determined?

Is it like the way Uranium was hanging around, minding its own business, when some pretty awesome uses of some of its isotopes were discovered?

I believe the website you linked to just describes current uses. Since we only had 6 atoms and for much less than a second each, there really isn’t much we could have done with them. (In fact, we probably only knew what the atoms were retroactively, by looking at decay products.) There certainly is no ununseptium sitting around waiting to be dug up, like there is with Uranium.

Uranium ore had lots of uses before its nuclear applications were discovered, BTW. It was quite popular for glass coloring, and uranium oxides were highly popular as bright red dyes. They fell out of favor when red Fiestaware started mutating peoples’ broccoli.

The last three times I’ve seen this thread title on the GQ list of threds, I’ve done a double take after reading it as “unobtainium.”

Six atoms of ununennium, HERE WE COME!

On a related note… what’s the point? Do they really get funding for the purpose of creating something that:
a) we know has no use
b) will last seconds at best

what is learned by doing this? Does anything come out of it other than high fives?

We may stand on the shoulders of giants, but giants are standing on the shoulders of ants! Yes…doing stuff just to do it is how we discover MOST things. It’s why I get said realizing most big business is only going to fund research in the direction that makes them money. So much STUFF falls out of the pockets of the weirdest pants when you shake 'em hard enough.


Six atoms of ununennium in the particle accelerator,
Six atoms of ununennium!
Take one away,
Watch it decay,
Five atoms of ununennium in the particle accelerator!

What in the world does ttpthe mean? :confused: I googled it and found a dozen or so hits that contain this (capitalized in various ways), but none (that I noticed) included any definition.

Well, it was formerly unobtainium. Now that they have obtainiized a few of these short-lived atoms, these substances have been up-graded to unmaintainium. :smiley:

I note that Cecil has a column on that red Fiestaware.

Also, there were uranium laced dentures, for that healthy glow.

Way back when I was in school, we had some of the Fiestaware plates in the science lab. Our teacher related the uranium content story to us, then we got to check the veracity of the radioactivity with a geiger counter.
Of course, the “danger” posed by the plate was extremely low, if one were to eat off of it, as it WAS glazed and the uranium oxide was beneath that shiny layer of glass. But, it the plate were cracked or chipped, a small amount of uranium oxide would potentially be exposed to acids in foods.

THAT said, the risk is minimal, as Cecil’s article relates.

That’s an extremely fat-fingered “the.”

Actually, Unobtanium was synthesized and used to great effect in Great Britain. All BSA motorcycle spares in the '60’s were made from this miracle material.

Well, all of them except those made from the even newer Ontheboatium.:smiley:

I seem to recall a few threads in the past about “whats the most expensive substance/material on earth”.

I suspect these six atoms are the newest contender. Even if they only cost a peso a piece.

They will eventually have to give an official name to this stuff. I hold out hope that it could actually be unobtainium.