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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday June 13, @01:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the he-ain't-heavy-he's-my-nucleus dept.

Nobelium — element number 102 on the periodic table — has an atomic nucleus that is deformed into the shape of an American football, scientists report in the June 8 Physical Review Letters. The element is the heaviest yet to have its nucleus sized up.

By probing individual nobelium atoms with a laser, the team gauged the oblong shape of three nobelium isotopes: nobelium-252, -253 and -254. These different forms of the element each contain 102 protons, but varying numbers of neutrons. The shape is not uncommon for nuclei, but the researchers also determined that nobelium-252 and -254 contain fewer protons in the center of the nucleus than the outer regions — a weird configuration known as a “bubble nucleus” (SN: 11/26/16, p. 11).

The measurements are in agreement with previous theoretical predictions. “It nicely confirms what we believe,” says study coauthor Witold Nazarewicz, a theoretical nuclear physicist at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Elements heavier than uranium, number 92, aren’t found in significant quantities in nature, and must be created artificially. Currently, the heaviest element on the periodic table is number 118, oganesson (SN Online: 2/12/18). But scientists hope to go even bigger, in search of a potential “island of stability,” a proposed realm in which elements are more stable than other heavy elements.

While many superheavy elements decay in just fractions of a second, some theoretical calculations suggest that elements inhabiting this proposed hinterland might persist longer, making them easier to study. Better understanding the heaviest known elements, including the shape of their atomic nuclei, could help scientists gauge what lies just out of reach.


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  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday June 13, @02:19PM (8 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 13, @02:19PM (#692335)

    By studying heaver elements and their nuclei configurations, could it eventually give some deeper insight into natural laws that govern why nuclei are configured how they are? What causes a particular distribution of protons and neutrons? What would cause fewer protons at the center of the nucleus?

    What would cause the football shape? It is interesting that it happens, but why? Would any other non spherical nuclei configurations be possible? What causes protons and neutrons to configure themselves this way? Repeatably. Billions or Trillions of times as these elements are formed.

    This should happen anywhere in the universe. Everywhere has the exact same periodic table of Lego bricks to play with. Those bricks only snap together certain ways.*

    Why is it believed that there might be some island of stability in heaver elements? It seems as "obvious" to a non-chemist such as myself that maybe heavy nuclei become less stable because the neutrons are unable to hold them together. Maybe as nuclei get bigger and bigger, the nuclei become even less and less effective at holding nuclei together? Why would someone think differently? I heard this island of stability idea decades ago in college chemistry. But nobody said why.

    I know asking too many questions can get one into trouble as one who might question or even upset the natural order as God intended it to be. So I'll stop asking at this point.

    *I just love it when a Sci Fi says this alien metal is not found on earth! Oh, really? Just what elements NOT on the periodic table is it made of? And Captian America's shield made of the element Vibrainium, which atomic element was that again? Uh, I'm really gonna get in trouble now!

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @02:32PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @02:32PM (#692341)

    Why is it believed that there might be some island of stability in heaver elements?

    Some heave one side, the others heave in the opposite direction, there's an island of stability in between.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by c0lo on Wednesday June 13, @02:42PM (1 child)

    by c0lo (156) on Wednesday June 13, @02:42PM (#692346)

    You can blame Higgs and his boatswain for all the mess (grin)

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday June 13, @05:18PM

      by c0lo (156) on Wednesday June 13, @05:18PM (#692417)

      Sorry, I meant "for all the mass". Literally. (grin)

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday June 13, @02:47PM (4 children)

    by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday June 13, @02:47PM (#692349) Journal

    Why is it believed that there might be some island of stability in heaver elements?

    Background reading:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_stability [wikipedia.org]

    *I just love it when a Sci Fi says this alien metal is not found on earth! Oh, really? Just what elements NOT on the periodic table is it made of? And Captian America's shield made of the element Vibrainium, which atomic element was that again? Uh, I'm really gonna get in trouble now!

    Count your lucky stars. If Earth had naquadah we'd probably all be Jaffa right now.

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday June 13, @06:20PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 13, @06:20PM (#692442)

      Very interesting. Thanks.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DeathMonkey on Wednesday June 13, @06:42PM (1 child)

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Wednesday June 13, @06:42PM (#692465) Journal

      Just what elements NOT on the periodic table is it made of?

      I would argue that these 10 Elements [popularmechanics.com] are not found on Earth. They're on the periodic table but they're created in a lab.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 14, @02:00PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 14, @02:00PM (#692899)

        By "found on earth" what I really mean is "known to mankind".

        There won't be some alien metal that we don't know about, or at least cannot predict and understand that it was a manufactured element that is not known to naturally occur. (not that it might not naturally occur somewhere, but that is highly unlikely since we haven't seen any of it anywhere)

        We can make the same predictions about snapping various combinations of protons / neutrons / electrons / cruotons together just as any alien race can.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @06:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @06:50PM (#692469)

      Good thing we have dilithium and drunken Montanans to shoot dead any invaders from space.