atomic element

The Genius of Marie Curie

Growing up in Warsaw in Russian-occupied Poland, the young Marie Curie, originally named Maria Sklodowska, was a brilliant student, but she faced some challenging barriers. As a woman, she was barred from pursuing higher education, so in an act of defiance, Marie enrolled in the Floating University, a secret institution that provided clandestine education to Polish youth. By saving money and working as a governess and tutor, she eventually was able to move to Paris to study at the reputed Sorbonne. here, Marie earned both a physics and mathematics degree surviving largely on bread and tea, and sometimes fainting from near starvation. 

In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium spontaneously emitted a mysterious X-ray-like radiation that could interact with photographic film. Curie soon found that the element thorium emitted similar radiation. Most importantly, the strength of the radiation depended solely on the element’s quantity, and was not affected by physical or chemical changes. This led her to conclude that radiation was coming from something fundamental within the atoms of each element. The idea was radical and helped to disprove the long-standing model of atoms as indivisible objects. Next, by focusing on a super radioactive ore called pitchblende, the Curies realized that uranium alone couldn’t be creating all the radiation. So, were there other radioactive elements that might be responsible?

In 1898, they reported two new elements, polonium, named for Marie’s native Poland, and radium, the Latin word for ray. They also coined the term radioactivity along the way. By 1902, the Curies had extracted a tenth of a gram of pure radium chloride salt from several tons of pitchblende, an incredible feat at the time. Later that year, Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel were nominated for the Nobel Prize in physics, but Marie was overlooked. Pierre took a stand in support of his wife’s well-earned recognition. And so both of the Curies and Becquerel shared the 1903 Nobel Prize, making Marie Curie the first female Nobel Laureate.

In 1911, she won yet another Nobel, this time in chemistry for her earlier discovery of radium and polonium, and her extraction and analysis of pure radium and its compounds. This made her the first, and to this date, only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. Professor Curie put her discoveries to work, changing the landscape of medical research and treatments. She opened mobile radiology units during World War I, and investigated radiation’s effects on tumors.

However, these benefits to humanity may have come at a high personal cost. Curie died in 1934 of a bone marrow disease, which many today think was caused by her radiation exposure. Marie Curie’s revolutionary research laid the groundwork for our understanding of physics and chemistry, blazing trails in oncology, technology, medicine, and nuclear physics, to name a few. For good or ill, her discoveries in radiation launched a new era, unearthing some of science’s greatest secrets.

From the TED-Ed Lesson The genius of Marie Curie - Shohini Ghose

Animation by Anna Nowakowska


The Scientific Story Of How Each Element Was Made

“Neutron star mergers create the greatest heavy element abundances of all, including gold, mercury, and platinum. Meanwhile, cosmic rays blast nuclei apart, creating the Universe’s lithium, beryllium, and boron. Finally, the heaviest, unstable elements are made in terrestrial laboratories. The result is the rich, diverse Universe we inhabit today.”

When the Big Bang first occurred, the Universe was filled with all the various particles and antiparticles making up the Standard Model, and perhaps still others yet to be discovered. But missing from the list were protons, neutrons, or any of the atomic nuclei key to the life-giving elements in our Universe today. Yet the Universe expanded, cooled, antimatter annihilated away, and the first elements began to take shape. After billions of years of cosmic evolution, we arrived at a Universe recognizable today: full of stars, planets, and the full complement of elements populating the periodic table. More than 100 elements are known today, 91 of which are found to occur naturally on Earth. Some were formed in the Big Bang, others were formed in stars, still others were formed in violent cosmic cataclysms or collisions. Yet every one has an origin whose story is now known, giving rise to all we interact with today.

Come get the full story behind how all the elements were made in some fantastic pictures, visuals, and no more than 200 words on this edition of Mostly Mute Monday!


The Chilbolton Glyph and Arecibo (A clever joke?)

In 1974 a group of scientist that included Dr. Frank Drake and Carl Sagan, sent out an interstellar radio message to a cluster of stars (M13 which is 25,000 light years away) in the hopes that extraterrestrial intelligence might receive and decipher it. Some people believe that in 2001 (27 yrs later) we finally got a response.

The message we was called The Arecibo message, and at the time it was the most powerful radio broadcast made by mankind.
Dr. Frank Drake, then at Cornell University and creator of the Drake equation, wrote the message with help from Carl Sagan, among others.

The message consists of seven parts that encode the following (from the top down):

1)The numbers one (1) to ten (10) (white) 
2)The atomic numbers of the elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus, which make up deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (purple) 
3)The formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA (green) 
4)The number of nucleotides in DNA, and a graphic of the double helix structure of DNA (white & blue) 
5)A graphic figure of a human, the dimension (physical height) of an average man, and the human population of Earth (red, blue/white, & white respectively)
6) A graphic of the Solar System indicating which of the planets the message is coming from (yellow)
7)A graphic of the Arecibo radio telescope and the dimension (the physical diameter) of the transmitting antenna dish (purple, white, & blue)

(please note that the original broadcast was not in color, they are added for explanation purposes)

In 2001, a large crop circle appeared on a crop field near UK’s largest telescope and observatory, the Chilbolton. The crop formation looked very much like the Arecibo message (the original pictured on the right). There were of course some changes to the “response” which seemed like they were straight out of alien folklore which leads us to think that this “response” was simply a clever joke.

These were the changes made:

In the section detailing important chemical elements, the main focus is altered from carbon to silicon, and the diagram of DNA is re-scribbled slightly. At the bottom, the pictogram of a human is replaced with a shorter figure with a large, bulbous head. 

Radio Silence

by reddit user bencbartlett

36,400,000. That is the expected number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, according to Drake’s famous equation. For the last 78 years, we had been broadcasting everything about us – our radio, our television, our history, our greatest discoveries – to the rest of the galaxy. We had been shouting our existence at the top of our lungs to the rest of the universe, wondering if we were alone. 36 million civilizations, yet in almost a century of listening, we hadn’t heard a thing. We were alone.

That was, until about 5 minutes ago.

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reasons why I love hunk garrett and not just b/c he’s “the food guy”
  • got over his fear of flying in order to take the responsibility of the yellow paladin 
    • a fear that physically crippled him by-the-by – chronic motion sickness isn’t fun y’all
  • he has a natural pacifist nature but that gets tossed aside if he sees anyone, especially if those he cares about, are in danger
  • the fact that he’s literally on the front line all the time b/c he’s the tank of the team and he’s willing to get the brunt of the hit to keep people safe
  • he’s friends with everyone and everyone is friends with him!!!
    • lance likes him b/c they’re both laid back
    • pidge likes him b/c they both connect over science
    • keith likes him b/c he honestly makes him laugh
  • he’s headstrong and stubborn when he needs to be and isn’t just a push over, he stands up for his ideals when they matter
    • fighting for the Balmerans and their freedom
    • insisting Rolo and Nyma were no good
  • he’s so humble, I feel like Hunk sees himself as a background character (which makes me cry in the middle of the night t b h) but he knows how much voltron means to people, that it’s a symbol of hope, that he’s a symbol of hope now and he uses his services only to help others
  • he is literally such the mom of the paladins?????
    • idk why y’all think allura is mom when she’s more like the ruthless middle school P.E. coach who throws dodgeballs at screaming children but okay
    • hunk literally cooks for everybody and fixes their stuff and sasses them when they mess up and gives them hugs and is the voice of reason/caution of the group
  • his sense of humor is literally the best, he either points out the obvious and screams about how they’re in giant cat heads or goes on a tangent of how superior sporks are in the middle of a galra recon mission with the straightest goddamn poker face I have ever seen
  • he’s just so???? smart?????
    • probably the top astromechanical engineer at garrison 
    • he took apart galra tech on his first day while navigating the mine shaft to find his lion and again while analyzing the galra foot soldier with pidge
    • just that whole Fraunhofer line scene
    • he apparently knows the atomic signature of all the atomics elements known to earth 
    • literally made a device??? to track??? the blue lion????
      • when could your fave ever
      • where would the paladins be if they didn’t have hunk honestly?????
      • still in keith’s crotchety ass shack that’s where
    • he probably has photographic memory
  • I mean he is literally almost equally as smart as he is strong check out this shit 
    • [Strength 19/ Intelligence 17]
  • and finally: hunk is literally the sweetest cutie in the whole universe Facts™
    • who else would voluntarily cook for their friends on top of being the team engineer and weapons specialist
    • literally said “what, no, we’re friends” to pidge when they wanted him to kick them across the room
    • constantly validates lance to make him feel better about himself
    • made keith laugh probably the hardest laugh he’s had in awhile
    • helps shiro reign in everyone
    • let the Arusians go on piggy back rides
    • literally liberated all the Balmerans through the power of friendship
  • please love my beautiful POC, canonly chubby son more thanks (ʘ‿ʘ✿)


 Scientists at IBM have figured out a way to encode data on individual atoms, which would be the most compact information storage ever achieved.
 The common thinking amongst hardware designers is that as digital storage continues to get smaller, the basic unit of information storage is also shrinking as well. Eventually the amount of atoms required to store data will become so small that storing a single bit will someday require only a single atom.
 This is what IBM researchers have brought to life. Using holmium atoms embedded on a magnesium oxide base and a scanning tunnelling microscope, they have managed to encode data on an atom and managed to read the same data right after.
 Since the atom has a special characteristic called magnetic bistability, it has two different magnetic spins. Using the microscope, the researchers applied about 150 millivolts at 10 microamps to the atom. This electricity acted as a sort of lightning strike that caused the atom to switch its magnetic spin state (one state represents 1, the other 0 in binary code).
 "To demonstrate independent reading and writing, we built an atomic-scale structure with two Ho bits, to which we write the four possible states and which we read out both magnetoresistively and remotely by electron spin resonance. The high magnetic stability combined with electrical reading and writing shows that single-atom magnetic memory is indeed possible,“ the abstract read.

Read more about this fascinating story at:

Space Theoi

Zeus is gravity– unseeable, unknowable, defying human understanding. He holds the planets in place. He slingshots rockets back home. He cradles Earth in a steady orbit and tells them that they are safe.

Hera rests on the rings around Saturn. She drapes herself across their icy surface, riding their steady rotations, ever-watching, ever-awake. 

Artemis holds the moon in her hands. Some call her goddess of the moon, but she knows that she is but a friend to Selene. She watches in awe as Selene glows, and she tries to bring that peace back to the forest with her.

Apollo lights up his sister’s hands as he rests upon the Sun. He surrounds himself with light, and he tries to find music in between the sunspots and the harsh solar winds. When he can’t find any music, he makes it for himself.

Hestia kindles the flames of the stars. She watches them grow up, and she mourns at their supernovas. She paints Earth’s skies with constellations, and she tries to keep the world aglow despite their dying light.

Poseidon takes pleasure in placing water in places where no one dares to look. He crafts great oceans in distant planets, at the center of unexplored moons. He knows that life is sacred, even if it is unknown.

Ares hurls meteors across distant skies. Asteroids are his cannonballs. Comets are his bullets.

Aphrodite watches in awe as Ares’ ammunition glides through the atmosphere. She sets them aglow and calls them shooting stars. She listens to the faraway wishes, but she can’t grant them all.

Athena plants ideas in the minds of faraway astronomers and cosmologists. She whispers of string theory, of the multiverse, of membranes, of dimensions. She smiles as ideas become theories and theories become facts.

Dionysus sends out constant reminders that the universe can never make sense. He muddles Athena’s great ideas and reminds us that the world doesn’t have meaning– it just is.

Demeter grows galaxies as if they are crops. She names them as if they are her children, “Sunflower”, “Andromeda”, “Tadpole”, and she nurtures them from seeds, waiting for the day that they will be ready for harvest.

Hephaestus sculpts quarks into atoms, atoms into elements, elements into entire nebulas. He knows that the other deities rely on him to make the universe work, but they seem to forget.

Hermes is the speed of light. He knows that he can’t be matched, can’t be broken, can’t ever be surpassed. He is infinite.

Hades sleeps at the center of blackholes. He pities those who quiver at the chaos, the terror, the horrible uncertainty of his gaping cracks in space; he knows that there is nothing to fear about darkness.

Science Teacher Combeferre

Because I love teacher AUs and I cannot lie

  • Combeferre loves teaching so much? Kids can be so curious and like he always says, there are no dumb questions. Even kids who don’t like science have to admit that M. Ferre is amazing
  • His classroom is decorated with projects he organised with his students. There’s a mobile of the solar system, a mobile of an atom, of different chemical elements…
  • There’s an entire wall dedicated to “Quotes Albert Einstein Never Said, But That Could Make You Look Smart Anyway”
  • He used the solar system as his grading system, so a 100% mark is the Sun, a 90% is Mars etc etc. He draws and colours them himself. Students who were absent for the test get Pluto, because Combeferre has to admit it’s not a planet but he’ll be damned if Pluto gets forgotten
  • There’s probably a portrait of Neil deGrasse Tyson framed somewhere
  • “Today we’re going to study astronomy. Notice that I said astronomy and not astrology, because the fault may be in our stars, but giant balls of gas won’t give you the answers to next Friday’s test.”
  • He sings the Period Table song at the school’s talent show every year
  • “Everything is chemical, Kevin.”
  • Probably has some cool patches sewed up onto his lab coat, and students always offer him new ones on the last day of the year


Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have learned that the chemical composition of a star can exert unexpected influence on its planetary system – a discovery made possible by an ongoing SDSS survey of stars seen by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, and one that promises to expand our understanding of how extrasolar planets form and evolve.

“Without these detailed and accurate measurements of the iron content of stars, we could have never made this measurement,” says Robert Wilson, a graduate student in astronomy at the University of Virginia and lead author of the paper announcing the results.

The team presented their results today at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in National Harbor, Maryland. Using SDSS data, they found that stars with higher concentrations of iron tend to host planets that orbit quite close to their host star – often with orbital periods of less than about eight days – while stars with less iron tend to host planets with longer periods that are more distant from their host star. Further investigation of this effect may help us understand the full variety of extrasolar planetary systems in our galaxy, and shed light on why planets are found where they are.

The story of planets around Sun-like stars began in 1995, when a team of astronomers discovered a single planet orbiting a Sun-like star 50 light-years from Earth. The pace of discovery accelerated in 2009, when NASA launched the Kepler spacecraft, a space telescope designed to look for extrasolar planets. During its four-year primary mission, Kepler monitored thousands of stars at a time, watching for the tiny dimming of starlight that indicates a planet passing in front its host star. And because Kepler looked at the same stars for years, it saw their planets over and over again, and was thus able to measure the time the planet takes to orbit its star. This information reveals the distance to from star to planet, with closer planets orbiting faster than farther ones. Thanks to Kepler’s tireless monitoring, the number of exoplanets with known orbital periods increased dramatically, from about 400 in 2009 to more than 3,000 today.

Although Kepler was perfectly designed to spot extrasolar planets, it was not designed to learn about the chemical compositions of the stars around which those planets orbit. That knowledge comes from the SDSS’s Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), which has studied hundreds of thousands of stars all over the Milky Way Galaxy. APOGEE works by collecting a spectrum for each star – a measurement of how much light the star gives off at different wavelengths (colors) of light. Because atoms of each chemical element interact with light in their own characteristic way, a spectrum allows astronomers to determine not only which elements a star contains, but also how much – for all elements including the key element iron.

“All Sun-like stars are mostly hydrogen, but some contain more iron than others,” says Johanna Teske of the Carnegie Institution for Science, a member of the research team. “The amount of iron a star contains is an important clue to how it formed and how it will evolve over its lifetime.”

By combining data from these two sources – planetary orbits from Kepler and stellar chemistry from APOGEE – astronomers have learned about the relationships between these “iron-enriched” stars and the planetary systems they hold.

“We knew that the element enrichment of a star would matter for its own evolution,” says Teske, “But we were surprised to learn that it matters for the evolution of its planetary system as well.”

The work presented today builds on previous work, led by Gijs Mulders of the University of Arizona, using a larger but less precise sample of spectra from the LAMOST-Kepler project. (LAMOST, the Large-Area Multi-Object fiber Spectroscopic Telescope, is a Chinese sky survey.) Mulders and collaborators found a similar trend – closer-in planets orbiting more iron-rich stars – but did not pin down the critical period of eight days.

“It is encouraging to see an independent confirmation of the trend we found in 2016,” says Mulders. “The identification of the critical period really shows that Kepler is the gift that keeps on giving.”

What is particularly surprising about the new result, Wilson explained, is that the iron-enriched stars have only about 25 percent more iron than the others in the sample. “That’s like adding five-eighths of a teaspoon of salt into a cupcake recipe that calls for half a teaspoon of salt, among all its other ingredients. I’d still eat that cupcake,” he says. “That really shows us how even small differences in stellar composition can have profound impacts on planetary systems.”

But even with this new discovery, astronomers are left with many unanswered questions about how extrasolar planets form and evolve, especially planets Earth-sized or slightly larger (“super-Earths”). Do iron-rich stars intrinsically form planets with shorter orbits? Or are planets orbiting iron-rich stars more likely to form farther out and then migrate to shorter period, closer-in orbits? Wilson and collaborators hope to work with other astronomers to create new models of protoplanetary disks to test both of these explanations.

“I’m excited that we still have much to learn about how the chemical compositions of stars impact their planets, particularly about how small planets form,” Teske says. “Plus, APOGEE provides many more stellar chemical abundances besides iron, so there are likely other trends buried within this rich dataset that we have yet to explore.”

IMAGE….An artist’s rendering of how the iron content of a star can impact its planets. A normal star (green label) is more likely to host a longer-period planet (green orbit), while an iron-rich star (yellow label) is more likely to host a shorter-period planet (yellow orbit). Click on the image for a larger version.

Image Credit: Dana Berry/SkyWorks Digital Inc.; SDSS collaboration



If anyone is studying chemistry I found this free app that I use on my laptop called Elements: The Periodic Table

It is sooo easy to use and super helpful as it has loads of information on each element and has a feature to compare elements

I thought I’d share this as I hate needing to search for information about elements on the internet and having like a million tabs open, plus it has relative atomic masses for each element which I find a lot easier to find than searching through my data book.

Hope this helps!! 

Bedroom Church Choir



Pt. 1 (can be read as a standalone)

Melissa sang in the church choir.

She stood front row, sang first soprano, and always got the best solos. She’d had a gift—an uncanny ability to carry a multitude of emotion with a single syllable. A man who had never been fed a drop of religion in his life could know what it was like to know God, just by hearing Melissa sing.

Scully sat in the pews.

She’d be the first to tell you she couldn’t carry a tune. Her musical résumé included a few simple hymns she sang under her breath on the rare occasions she actually made it to Mass, and a monotone rendition of a Three Dog Night classic; she never wanted to be in choir.

But still she envied Melissa.

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