REAL SCIENCE: New Element 115 Discovered
Researchers in Sweden confirmed the existence of a new, short-lived, and extremely heavy element. Initially discovered by Russian scientists a few years ago, the new element, with the atomic number 115, has yet to be officially named, and so is going under the working title of "ununpentium."
I'm kinda waiting for one called "unrepentium," myself.
The element was discovered by shooting a beam of calcium, containing 20 protons, at a thin film of americium, which has 95 protons. For a brief moment, the result was something containing 115 protons.
So, of what use, you may ask, is an element which only lasts a split second, and which apparently does not exist in nature, but only in a laboratory?
(Thinks. Thinks. Thinks.)
What are you guys looking at me like that for? I'm not a nuclear physicist!
Okay, the thing is, research can be like blazing a trail through an undiscovered country. You're not sure you know where you're going, or what you'll find when you get there, but you just can't not go. You never know what great things you might find lurking around the next corner. What looks like an unassuming cave may be full of brilliant jewels of unsurpassed magnificence. And yes, it could also be the lair of a dragon that will kill you. You never know. But you must keep looking anyway!
Unobtainium--whups, sorry, ununpentium--may in and of itself be completely useless except as a physicists' party trick, but its discovery may be a stepping-stone to other discoveries. At one time, radium was just part of a rock that did some funny things to photographic paper. Sure, it's easy to dismiss a lot of scientific research as a colossal waste of money and time, but had the Curies let such thinking deter them as they laboriously ground up and refined the tons of pitchblende required to render up a tiny phial of radium, the world today would be a far different place.
The thing is, with science, the one thing you know for certain, is how much there still is left to learn.