The innermost electrons of element 173...
Date: Monday, January 18, 2016 @ 02:23:54 EST
Topic: Science

A fascinating article "How many more chemical elements are there for us to find?" published on by Philip Ball, concludes in a very intriguing manner: "...Like everything else at these tiny scales, it all comes down to quantum mechanics.

This tells us, among other strange things, that pairs of particles can sometimes pop into existence out of nothingness. One of the particles will be made of matter and the other out of antimatter: for example, one might be an electron and the other its antimatter counterpart, a positron. Normally, the two immediately collide and annihilate each other.

It turns out that the innermost electrons of element 173 might be in an unusual, unstable state that can evoke these "virtual" particles.

If one of these electrons gets kicked out of its shell, for example by zapping it with an X-ray, it will leave a hole behind. This hole will be filled by an electron that appears out of nothing. But for this electron to form, a positron must also form, and this will be emitted by the atom.

In other words, the electron clouds of these really huge elements might occasionally burp out particles of antimatter.

So even if there is no end to the periodic table, there may be strange stuff awaiting us in its furthest reaches. Whether we will ever explore these extreme elements is another matter entirely."

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