OPEN THREAD 20200116

Basically, all legal free speech is allowed. We will assist the authorities in dealing with illegal speech. You are each other’s moderators. Have fun. And don’t forget to MAGA at nuclear levels.

Citizen U

Day 71 – LUTETIUM.

17 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD 20200116

  1. With a filled f subshell, lutetium is the smallest lanthanide atom, and that helps make it the densest, hardest, and highest-melting lanthanide metal.

    Now, when I was a wee lad, electron shells were the shiznit du jour — each shell had a number and could contain 2n^2 electrons. Accordingly, the first four shells held 2, 8, 18, and 32 electrons — which should have been sufficient to describe the first sixty elements. However, it became obvious that atoms didn’t give up or seize electrons based solely on just the shell. So was born the notion of subshells — based on quantum azimuth, which can have 2 s’s, 6 p’s, 10 d’s, and 14 f’s.

    Now, if you look at the relationship between the number of electrons in a shell and the number in a subshell, you start seeing that the first shell holds two electrons and the first s subshell holds two electrons. The second shell holds 8 electrons, which would be 2 s electrons and 6 p electrons. The third shell holds 18 electrons, which would normally be 2 s, 6 p, and 10 d electrons. It’s like a series of nesting boxes.

    When you get out to the lanthanides, it’s all about the f subshell of the fourth orbital — that’s what lines them up from lanthanum (0) to lutetium (14). After lutetium, it’s “negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.”

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  2. Lutetium was discovered independently in 1907 by three different people in three countries on two continents. It was what you got out of ytterbia after you got all the ytterbium out of it. The French scientist had published results earliest and got to name it, although Germans used the name proposed by the Austrian scientist, cassiopium, until the 50’s (after they realized that they had conclusively lost WWII).

    It’s not a super-common element, although it is significantly more abundant than silver. If silver had fourteen bastard cousins and lutetium could be found in veins in quartz, it might have been an ancient metal and found some use in coinage.

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  3. In theory, lutetium could be used for a bunch of magic optical stuff, in catalysts, metallurgy, YAG lasers, and the like. In practice, people are so freaking tired of the lanthanides by the time they get to it that few real-world applications exist. Still, if you’re a grad student, it’s just sitting there for a thesis.

    That is to say, it’s just sitting there for a thesis if you can get someone else to pay for it. These guys — https://www.rwmmint.com/collections/frontpage/products/lutetium-lu — had it for $535/ounce. Not as pricey as gold, but a bit rich for the brick-and-board bookcase crowd.

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  4. And, let’s see……

    A young graduate with a business degree, fresh out of school and knowing everything, applies for his first job. The prospective employer asked him what starting salary he was looking for. “Oh, around $100,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”

    “Well, how does this sound? Five weeks annual leave, 22.5% superannuation, paid expenses to overseas conferences every year, home telephone reimbursed and a company car replaced every 12,000 miles…..maybe a Mercedes convertible.”

    The graduate sat up straight and tried not to look excited. “Wow, that’s fantastic! Are you kidding?”

    “Yeah. But you started it.”

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  5. Bonus joke:

    An accountant is walking along the beach (also, not the joke) and he finds an old lamp. He picks it up, rubs it and of course, a genie appears. The genie says “I am the most powerful genie that has ever lived. I can do great and wonderful things and I can grant you your dearest wish. But only one.”

    Well, this accountant is a deeply caring individual. He pulls out a map of the Mediterranean area and says, “My dearest wish is that you solve the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.” The genie strokes his beard and looks worried. “Oh dear, ” he says , staring at the map. “That’s a tough one. Those people have been fighting for eons. No one has been able to come up with a successful solution. I’m not sure if I could do any better. You should probably make another wish.”

    The accountant is understanding and says, “All right. Listen, the IRS has asked me to re-design their 1040 form so that everyone can understand it. Can you help me with that?”

    There’s a long silence and finally the genie says, “Let’s have another look at that map.”

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  6. A few minutes ago, I called into the Santa Clara Police Department non-emergency line and asked if the helicopters I’ve been hearing swoop around my house over the previous ten minutes meant that there was something I should do — like if they were tracking a murderer or something. It was about 11:30 pm. Santa Clara is a class place — they have a human answer the phone 24/7.

    We had a brief conversation that essentially said it wasn’t one of theirs.

    And, within minutes after I hung up, it moved away. I suspect that whatever agency was flying there got an earful. As in, Santa Clara PD called air traffic control and told ’em to shift it.

    It has long been obvious to me that — following an observation by Heinlein — there are five grades of police: Gentlemen; Keepers of the Peace; Cops; Pigs; and Assholes. And, as with many such measurements, you should consider yourself fortunate to not interact with grades four and five. But I have been massively spoiled — the police departments of Santa Barbara and Santa Clara have had an amazing number of the top two grades and a welcome dearth of the bottom two.

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  7. The last of the lanthanides…

    But is it?

    Chemists are actually debating this.

    If you have a very wiiiiiiide sheet of paper, you can take those two floating rows (lanthanides and actinides) out of exile and tuck them into their proper place in the table, breaking it in two and pushing the two pieces apart and putting those two rows in the middle instead of making them, basically, footnotes.

    The question then becomes where to make that cut…to the left or right of the third column? In other words should scandium and yttrium be directly adjacent to calcium and strontium on their left, or directly adjacent to titanium and zirconium on the right?

    If you follow the first option, then the “extended” or “full format” periodic table has, in its first column, hydrogen, lithium, sodium, etc., in the second column, beryillium, magnesium, calcium, etc. and in the third column, scandium, yttrium, lanthanum and actinium. The fourth column simply contains cerium and thorium…way off to the right is titanium, zirconium, hafnium, and (if memory serves) rutherfordium.

    In that case, ironically, the lanthanides begin with cerium and end with lutetium…and lanthanum isn’t a lanthanide!

    The second option has ONLY lanthanum and actinium in the third column. Way over to the right, there’s a column that includes scandium, yttrium, lutetium, and lawrencium. So, technically, lutetium wouldn’t be a lanthanide, though it would still be a rare earth element (along with scandium and yttrium).

    Now I’m no chemist, and certainly not a physical chemist, but the second option appeals to me more. You’re not putting a “cut” through the transition metals, it follows the rather elegant diagram showing what order sells fill in (can’t remember the name of the rule), AND…if you’ve ever seen scandium, yttrium, and lutetium…they’re all chemically stable enough not to turn into a pile of powder in air. Whereas lanthanum isn’t; samples have to be in a glass ampoule or it will corrode in weeks if not days into a pile of powder. So on my gut level, lutetium “belongs” more with yttrium than lanthanum does. The lanthanides on the left side (before gadolinium) are often considered “light” rare earth elements and all tend to corrode in air; the ones after gadolinium are the “heavy” rare earths (this is a categorization that seems to appeal to those who mine the things–deposits will be strong in one group or the other). Gadolinium seems to sometimes be in one group or the other, depending. It’s even true that if you follow the history of discovery, the light ones came out of one tree of discoveries, the heavy ones out of the other. And…scandium and yttrium are heavy rare earths (but not lanthanides), and were discovered out of the same rocks that the other heavy rare earths were.

    So that’s my vote on the matter, and it’s worth exactly what you paid for it to a real chemist, who is more interested in the question of what subshell the fifty seventh electron goes into…the d or f one? (It should be noted that the sequencing of electrons being added to subshells regularly does unexpected things, especially in the transition metals and lanthanides, anyway.)

    If you go to wikipedia and look at their long tables, they show scandium and yttrium above lanthanum, so they disagree with me…which I am sure doesn’t bother them in the slightest.

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    1. Yeah, those long tables are pretty cool.

      I love some of the cyclic ones, too!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_periodic_tables

      Amazing that with Oganesson, we are almost up to the “supremely rare earth metals” of the G-block!!!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_periodic_table

      S-orbitals are pretty neat as they grow….

      P-orbitals make sense……

      D-orbitals are getting pretty wild…..

      F-orbitals are just bad-ass…..

      But G-orbitals – WOW….

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  8. Oh, and if you thought the lanthanides were boring…this will all turn to shit after about californium. (The actinides aren’t bad before that point). After Cf, we run into elements that simply don’t exist, unless someone is running an experiment Right Now to try to produce new elements….so it’s not just the last part of the actininides that is boring, it’s everything clear the hell out to oganesson, 118. One can talk about what they THINK the chemical properties are, and what the element would be like in bulk form (other than instantly lethal from radiation as it goes *poof* in front of your boiling eyeballs), but it’s going to be largely speculative.

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