Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
March 6th, 2013 by Luann

Student Guest Post: New Elemental Discoveries Strike A Chord with Chemists

This post is the college admissions essay written by an amazing (and now former)  AP Chemistry student, Cody Beam.  UPDATE: Cody graduated from Tulane in 2017 with Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemical Engineering and 2 other areas. Cody is now part way through a PhD program in materials science engineering. 

Periodic Table of Band

Periodic Table of Band

                   I’m pretty sure Cody’s other intellectual abilities would have assured not only acceptance but the free ride they received. Cody shared this essay with me, and I loved it so much that I asked, and Cody granted, permission, for me to share it here.

Spectacular new advances have been made in the periodic table in the past couple of months. A grand total of 34 new elements have been discovered in the most unlikely of places: high school band rooms. A new alkali metal (Directorium, 119) and an alkaline earth metal (Band Geekium, 120) are the most prominent of the new discoveries followed by 32 others which form the Instruminide Series. Research is underway to determine the properties and habits of these elements, as well as why they had not been discovered before, and while there is still much to learn, what has been deciphered of these mysterious elemental additions is fascinating.

There’s no better place to start than the beginning. Directorium (Dr), as element 119 has been named, was discovered in trace amounts near directors’ podiums and in batons. Through further study, it has been found that the highest concentrations are located in the brains of band and orchestra directors, with small amounts present in those of section leaders. Why this element is present only in these locations is currently unknown. It retains many of the properties of alkali metals such as a low melting point and low density, however, the most fascinating aspect of this substance is not in its properties on its own, but in the properties of its compounds. Directorium forms an organic compound that replaces dopamine in in the brain in much of the same manner as that of some drugs such as cocaine. This is thought to cause the compulsive speaking of the phrase “One more time” and a director’s tendency to stop rehearsal to tell unrelated stories. Further studies are being performed to better understand exactly how this compound forms, and why it reacts in such a way.

The element about which the most has been learned is Bang Geekium (Bg). It also retains most of the properties that would be expected of it: It’s denser than Directorium, has a shiny, metallic luster, and is not often found in its pure elemental form. It is mostly present in dimly lit practice rooms and pizza parlors, on school buses, and in the brains of band students in varying concentrations. It is also quite odd in its bonding patterns. As an alkaline earth metal, one would expect it to primarily form ionic bonds, but this is not the case. In fact, it rarely forms ionic bonds and there are only a few known cases of occurrence. Band Geekium most commonly bonds with other Band Geekium atoms, Directorium, and elements in the Instruminide Series. These metallic bonds are actually stronger than would be expected in light of the elements’ electron configuration and the mechanism that makes the bonds (especially those between Band Geekium and elements in the Instruminide series) are not fully understood.

Very little research has been made into the Instruminide Series, if for no other reason than the sheer multitude of elements within it. The most exciting thing about this series is that it has proven the existence of g-orbitals, and that there are 18 electrons located within those orbitals. The elements containing g-orbitals and those containing another layer of f-orbitals compose the Instruminide Series. All of these elements were discovered in the blood of various band geeks and were named for the instrument that was most common amongst the musicians in whom the element was found. Some instrumentalist had as many as 25 of the elements present in some amount.

One scientist has hypothesised that musicians who have a higher concentration of Band Geekium will also have a wider variety/larger concentration of Instruminides. Another has projected that one possible source of Directorium is a nuclear decay of Band Geekium. There is not sufficient evidence to support either claim.

Despite being so-called “super-heavy elements”, these new discoveries are surprisingly stable. It had been predicted that element 120 would have a “magic nucleus” and in turn would be very stable, but it is unknown as to why the surrounding elements also have this stability. “It’s simply remarkable!” proclaimed one chemist. “This is the biggest scientific discovery since the Higgs-Boson!”

Appendix: The Instruminide Series (elements 121-142), in numerological order: Piccolon (Pc), Flutium (Ft), Oboium (Ob), Engornium (Eh), Bassoonium (Bs), Clarinetium (Ct), Saxmium (Sx), Tubax (Tx), Trumpetium (Tp), Fluglion, (Fg), Frenornium (Fh), Trombonium (To), Euphonium (Ep), Tuban (Tu), Malletium (Ml), Tympanum (Ty), Snarium (Rv)*, Bassdrumon(Bd), Auxpercion (Ax), Seton (Dr)**, Theramin (Tr), Kazooium (Kz), Bagpipium (Bp), Ocarine (Oc), Harpium( Hp), Organ (Or), Pianon (Pn), Gamelan (Gn), Violininium (Vi), Violon (Vo), Cellon (Ch)***, and Basson (Bn).

*Snarium’s symbol is derived from Ravel, whose symphonies are notorious for giving snare players carpal tunnel.

**Seton’s symbol is derived from the full name of the instrument, “drum set.”

***Cellon’s symbol originates in its pronunciation, not in its spelling.

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