A fascinating tale from The Kitchen Sisters.

Image credits:

Koch family photo: Special Collections and University Archives/ Wichita State University Libraries

Th. J. bottles: CJ Walker / Courtesy of William Koch

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, August 17, 1811: The Thomas Jefferson Papers

Philippe Hubert: CJ Walker / Courtesy of William Koch

Operation Ivy nuclear test: National Nuclear Security Administration

Ancient roman lead pipes in Ostia Antica: Wikipedia user Chris 73

And for good measure, It’s Okay To Be Smart’s “The Universe in a Glass of Wine” (Richard Feynman Remixed).


Today is the birthday of physicist Louis Essen, born September 6, 1908, inventor of the cesium atomic clock.  Cesium (also spelled caesium) was discovered using the new method of flame spectroscopy in 1860 by two German scientists, Robert Bunsen (yes, of Bunsen burner fame) and Gustav Kirchhoff.  They decided to name the new element after its unusual and unique spectrographic signature, specifically the preponderance of the color sky blue, which you can see in the spectrograph above.  The word came from the Latin word caesius meaning blue-gray, often referring to the color of eyes.  

Image of pollucite (a common mineral rich in cesium) courtesy Rob Lavinsky.  Image of ampule of liquid cesium (although a metal, cesium is liquid at room temperature) by argentoratum.   To see the spectrograph of any element, check out the cool site by University of Oregon.  


Beryl comes in many forms, including some rarities such as the caesium rich variant in the photo, also known as Rosterite. While there is a caesium rich cousin of beryl called Pezzotaite (see http://on.fb.me/15DU72Z), Vorobyevite doesn’t contain enough of it to be distinguished as a separate mineral. The name was applied to colourless material from the Urals mountains in Russia and rosy crystals from Madagascar until this stunning find of deep blue material. They turned up in a single pocket in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. The short hexagonal prisms with an undeveloped long axis bowed in towards the centre are its characteristic habit. The near perfect single crystal in the photo measures 3.0 x 2.6 x 1.5 cm


Image credit: Rob Lavinsky/iRocks.com


Scientists analyzing kelp off the coast of San Diego confirmed the presence of cesium this week, a radioactive isotope directly linked to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Part of the ongoing “Kelp Watch 2014″ project, government and academic institutions have begun receiving results from samples of Bull Kelp and Giant Kelp collected along the California coast. Despite attempts by the media to downplay the ongoing disaster, the discovery has only confirmed the continued build up of radiation in West Coast waters.

“We’re trying to figure out how much is there and how much is getting into the ecosystem,” said Dr. Matthew Edwards, a professor from San Diego State University. “Things are linked a little more closely than sometimes we’d like to think. Just because it is on the other side of the world doesn’t mean that it doesn’t effect us.”

While the government attempts to reassure the public that there is absolutely no risk whatsoever, tens of millions of doses of Potassium Iodide have been quietly purchased by the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Pentagon.

With experts predicting a 40 plus year cleanup at Fukushima, the likelihood of increased cesium in the Pacific Ocean seems inevitable.

Mikael Thalen


Today is the birthday of physicist Louis Essen, inventor of the cesium atomic clock.  Cesium (also spelled caesium) was discovered using the new method of flame spectroscopy in 1860 by two German scientists, Robert Bunsen (yes, of Bunsen burner fame) and Gustav Kirchhoff.  They decided to name the new element after its unusual and unique spectrographic signature, specifically the preponderance of the color sky blue, which you can see in the spectrograph above.  The word came from the Latin word caesius meaning blue-gray, often referring to the color of eyes.  

Image of pollucite (a common mineral rich in cesium) courtesy Rob Lavinsky.  Image of ampule of liquid cesium (although a metal, cesium is liquid at room temperature) by argentoratum.   To see the spectrograph of any element, check out the cool site by University of Oregon.  

As far as long-life radioactive substances are dispersed into the ocean, and JP govt is not really disclosing data fully about it ...

It is going to be thrilling to eat fish products exported from Japan. [Thing is they are all over the place. In all those Dashi stocks for Udon/Soba noodles, dried fish flakes and powders, fish cakes in all kinds of shapes. Powders and extracts.]

Like eating blow fish. But if you get some long-life radioactive stuff in your system, the result will only likely to show up after several years. 

That’s the difference. 

Hope USA FDA etc will barricade/ban dangerous stuff. 


Meet the world’s first accurate atomic clock in this awesome vintage film

“The new standard of time and frequency, based on the fundamental properties of the cesium atom …”

It might be 60 years old, but it’s a very nice explanation of how an atomic clock. Unfortunately, it sounds like someone took sandpaper to the audio track.

Complete with vintage scientist pointing at things™!

( Boing Boing)


Every tuna caught has radiation. More fish expected to have higher levels this summer. FDA silent. 

Fukushima : Radioactive Cesium found in Tuna off San Pedro California Coast (May 29, 2012)

A reaction of a small piece of cesium with cold water. Hydrogen is liberated that burns, and very strongly alkaline cesium hydroxide is formed in solution. Source: Philip Evans/Wikimedia Commons. See a video of the reaction here.

When I teach introductory inorganic chemistry, one of my favorite experiments is to toss alkali metals into a beaker of water. Lithium sizzles, sodium sparks, and potassium bursts into flames, so merely holding up a vial of cesium causes quite a stir in the classroom. Although many of the students might like to see the violent explosion that would ensue when cesium hits water, those in the front of the room are especially relieved when I just pass around the sealed cesium vial.

I then add phenolphthalein to one of the beakers, producing the characteristic pink color of base and explain that the reaction of alkali metal with water forms alkali hydroxide and hydrogen. The fireworks are created from the exothermicity of the reaction igniting the hydrogen gas. This occurs much more rapidly as one goes down the column of alkali metals, since as size increases the ionization potential decreases. Thus, cesium is the most reactive of the alkali metals. Note that the alkali-in-water experiment is carried out wearing safety glasses and with a clear plastic blast shield to protect the students.  

-Richard Kaner


Chemical & Engineering News, September 8, 2003

Element Sunday

55 Caesium


Symbol: Cs

Color:  silvery gold 

Phase: solid

Atomic Weight: 132.9054 u

Electronic Configuration: [Xe] 6s1

Melting Point: 301.59 K

Boiling Point: 944 K


a vial of caesium

Short Info

The name caesium (“cesium” in American English) comes from the Latin word caesius, which means “azure” and refers to the blue spectral lines that are found in the spectral analysis of caesium.

In 1861, caesium was discovered by German physicist Gustav Robert Kirchhoff and German chemist Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen in the spectral analysis of mineral water. They however could not obtain elementary caesium, which was first synthesized in 1881 by German chemist Carl Setterberg.

Caesium is a rare element, constituting about 6.5 ppm (0.00065 %) of the Earth’s crust. It is the rarest stabile and the most reactive of the alkali metals. In nature, it does not occur elementary. It often occurs accompanied with potassium and sodium, important minerals are pollucite and lepidolite.

Due to its high reactivity, scarcity and difficult production (about 20 tons per year), the applications of caesium are limited. It is mostly used for research applications. It is used for hot cathodes, MHD generators and for ion engines. Another interesting application is for definition of the second: since 1967, a second is defined as 9.192.631.770 times the period of a certain transition of caesium.

Caesium is a mononuclidic element, with the stabile Cs-133 as the only naturally occuring isotope. 38 Other isotopes are known, perhabs most importantly Cs-137: it has a half-life of 30.17 years and is used for radiation therapy of cancer. Unfortunately, large quantities of this radioactive isotope are produced in nuclear reactors and during the detonation of nuclear bombs and, when set free due to an accident or attack, can contaminate people and the environment.

High cesium level found in Date rice

Government bans further shipments from two districts but 9 kg already sold, Fukushima says

High cesium level found in Date rice

By NATSUKO FUKUE Staff writer - JapanTimes.com

The government on Tuesday ordered a ban on the shipment of rice harvested in two more districts in Fukushima Prefecture after tests detected dangerously high levels of radioactive cesium.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the central government has instructed Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to impose the ban on rice harvested this year in the Oguni district and the Tsukidate district, both in the city of Date.

On Monday, the Fukushima Prefectural Government announced that a combined 3,400 kg of unmilled rice harvested by two farms in the Oguni district and by one farm in the Tsukidate district contained between 580 and 1,050 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. The government’s limit is 500 becquerels.

One of the farms in the Oguni district already has sold 9 kg of the tainted rice, the prefectural government said, adding it has yet to establish the identity of the buyer. The remainder of the Oguni rice has not reached the market, it said.

None of the rice harvested by the farm in Tsukidate has been distributed, and all 1,500 kg are currently being stored by the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives.

It is the second ban on rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture in the last two weeks. On Nov. 17, the government banned rice in the Onami district of the city of Fukushima after high levels of cesium were detected.

The prefectural government also decided Tuesday to inspect rice from about 2,300 farms in certain districts of Nihonmatsu and Motomiya where high radiation levels have been recorded.

Date is located next to the city of Fukushima, and parts of it have been designated as radiation hot spots where the annual exposure could exceed the maximum 20-millisievert limit.

“While we carried out the best inspection process we could think of, we must take the fact (that contaminated rice has been found) seriously,” agriculture minister Michihiko Kano, hinting it may be necessary to devise new processes for inspecting rice.

The government will do its best to identify the buyer of the contaminated Oguni rice, he said.

The tainted rice was detected in new tests the Fukushima Prefectural Government started conducting on rice harvested by about 1,500 farms in the cities of Fukushima and Date after the central government banned rice from the Onami district.

Citizens’ Testing Finds 20 Hot Spots Around Tokyo

It has been clear since the early days of the nuclear accident, the world’s second worst after Chernobyl, that that the vagaries of wind and rain had scattered worrisome amounts of radioactive materials in unexpected patterns far outside the evacuation zone 12 miles around the stricken plant. But reports that substantial amounts of cesium had accumulated as far away as Tokyo have raised new concerns about how far the contamination had spread, possibly settling in areas where the government has not even considered looking.

Low-level radiation detected in Fukushima students

Traces of radioactive cesium have been discovered in schoolchildren in Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Minami-Soma municipal general hospital.

Half of the elementary and junior high school students in Minami-Soma who underwent radiation checks since late September were found with low levels of radioactive cesium-137, the hospital reported.

“We will offer periodic checks to students to keep records of their health conditions,” said a hospital worker in charge.

The hospital is uncertain whether the students inhaled airborne radiation or ingested it through radiation-contaminated foodstuffs after the March 11 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident.

Radioactive cesium-137 was detected at below 10 becquerels per kilogram of a student’s weight in 199 students. The substance was also found at from 10 to less than 20 becquerels in 65 students; 20 to less than 30 becquerels in three students; and 30 to below 35 becquerels in one student, the hospital said.