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Stable Roentgenium Claimed Found In Gold 160

Posted by timothy
from the check-your-wedding-band dept.
eldavojohn writes "Amnon Marinov, a physicist specializing in super heavy elements, claims that a stable isotope of roentgenium is commonly found alongside gold, just in very small quantities that we could not measure before. To prove this, he boiled gold in a vacuum, postulating that as the gold evaporated, the roentgenium should remain. He did this for two weeks and then passed the resulting mess through a mass spectrometer and was left with several peaks that could be explained away except for one. Marinov lead the team that found the first super heavy 122 thorium isotope in nature a few years back and now claims that, despite all indications that this super heavy element shouldn't exist longer than a few seconds, he has found a stable isomer of roentgenium in nature. Is he on to something, or overlooking a simpler explanation in his quest for evidence of the island of stability long theorized by physicists?"
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Stable Roentgenium Claimed Found In Gold

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  • Is there a roentgenium market yet? For the savvy investor looking to diversify from gold.
    • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

      by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:04PM (#34424780)

      Simply boil all your gold into vapor, and you'll have an even more valuable collection of roentgenium. You won't be able to see it, but it's there, trust me.

      If you have any further questions you can ask my operative, conveniently located outside your house looking after a totally unrelated condensing jar.

      • And I will be happy to recycle that vaporized gold for you, just so the neighbourhood children don't accidentally inhale it.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:03PM (#34424764)
    Roentgenium is element #111, right below gold on the periodic table, and well within the zone of "highly unstable elements". Not just "unstable" - it's well into the group of elements that decay in seconds. The most stable isotope discovered so far, Rg 281, has a half-life of just 20 seconds. So I have some doubts about this - every other "stable transuranic element" story I've heard ended up being a mistake or a hoax.

    I'm also wondering how Marinov suspected it would be in gold. The only link I can find is that they're both group 11 elements, but by that logic you should be able to find tellurium in sulfur, which isn't the case.
    • Actually platinum is the element just below gold... :)

      • by Dthief (1700318)
        depends on the order you stack the pieces
      • by treeves (963993)

        In an alphabetical list of the element's names, hafnium is the element just below gold, and in an alphabetical list of chemical symbols, boron is just below gold, but that's not important now. And stop calling me "Shirley".

    • by pookemon (909195) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:22PM (#34425012) Homepage

      but by that logic you should be able to find tellurium in sulfur, which isn't the case

      Maybe it is, but not at levels that have been detectable before, as in this case. However the following link seems to indicate that Tellurium is found in Sulfides [google.com].

    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      His method is posted and well documented so it shouldn't be too long before someone repeats the process to see if they get the same results. The only question is how much gold do you need to get enough atoms to show up in the scan.
    • by SEWilco (27983) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:26PM (#34425074) Journal

      I'm also wondering how Marinov suspected it would be in gold. The only link I can find is that they're both group 11 elements, but by that logic you should be able to find tellurium in sulfur, which isn't the case.

      Sulfur is more reactive, so the geological and chemical processes which form sulfur deposits also separate it from gold. Gold doesn't react with as many things as sulfur, so an element with similar characteristics will be more diluted in sulfur than in a gold deposit. On the other hand, if this element does indeed also travel with sulfur then there's a chance that larger amount might be in the larger sulfur deposits even if there's less per ton.

    • If it does have an obscure stable state it could make a fantastic rocket fuel.

      Or bomb.

      • How does the presence of a previously unknown stable state make this such a great energetic material? For this to be the case, there would have to be a big energy difference between the stable and unstable states, and if that were the case, all of the stuff in the unstable state would promptly convert to the stable state.

        And in any case, we've already got lots of really good energetic materials for rockets and/or bombs that are a lot easier to make than roentgenium.

        • I am thinking it would be more like uranium. If this state of roentgenium is rare and barely stable then injecting a small amount of energy may lead to it decaying to a different state and releasing a lot more energy.

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:38PM (#34425182) Journal

      I'm also wondering how Marinov suspected it would be in gold. The only link I can find is that they're both group 11 elements, but by that logic you should be able to find tellurium in sulfur, which isn't the case.

      Of course not, everyone knows that elements form their cliques based on their classification, not the group # they've been assigned. This is why you see Hydrogen sleeping around with all the other non-metals and not really with any of the Alkali Metals. Everyone knows that Sulfur is a non-metal and Tellurium is a metalloid, and metalloids are known for being really a really exclusive group - they wouldn't even let Aluminium in despite her flexible standards.

      No, I'm pretty sure Marinov studied the social situation amongst the elements pretty closely and determined that transitional metals - since they are going through puberty - are noticing all those really weird little changes. I mean gold has become a little more malleable to the ladies, copper and silver are noticing their skin has started conducting these little tiny dots.

      Its only a natural part that Gold has started to notice its growing a new element in odd places. Don't be worried, its all part of the process.

    • by Dthief (1700318)
      He did claim to find another element (122) in gold previously. So probably just assumed every element could be found in a piece of gold
      • by radtea (464814)

        So probably just assumed every element could be found in a piece of gold

        Yes, you have correctly identified exactly how scientists think: we just kind of randomly assume stuff with no basis, and then spend thousands of hours on expensive and difficult experiments and observations hoping our random assumptions are correct.

        Or sometimes, just for a change of pace, we consider carefully things like the chemistry and geology of gold deposits and the known processes of fractionation of heavy elements in the Earth's crust, and design our experiments and observations around a good unde

        • by Dthief (1700318)
          No, I just don't consider this person to be a scientist, which is why I characterize his experimental method as such
          • by Rich0 (548339)

            Well, not having read up on him much, could this just be a case of the lamppost principle? Maybe some particular technology allows gold impurities to be separated more readily than in other metals. If so, then we might as well see what we find when we look for them.

            In theory you're as likely to find a magnetic monopole in a teacup as you are to find one in a massive tank of super-ultra-pure water buried a mile under a mountain in a salt mine. However, you're a lot more likely to detect the monopole in th

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Goldschmidt Classification [wikipedia.org]. Although I too have my doubts about the stable Rg, there is some reason to the madness of expecting certain elements to be found with other ones.

      • by gman003 (1693318)
        Interesting. I knew there ought to be some reason, but I didn't know what that reason was.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      This is related to the predicted "sea of stability" that exist inside the zone of highly unstable elements. Look at the last link of the summary for details. Rg 289 should be close to this peak of stability
    • by WalksOnDirt (704461) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @10:10PM (#34426748)

      Roentgenium is element #111, right below gold on the periodic table, and well within the zone of "highly unstable elements".

      Elements 110 through 114 have long been expected to be an island of stability. The problem is that we cannot stuff enough neutrons in, as Rg 281 still has too few. So far, the heaviest isotope created is also the most stable. The only problem is that the odd atomic number elements are expected to be less stable, so that 110, 112 or 114 would be more believable. I don't think it's really likely that he has found Rg, but it's not impossible.

      Rg, if it exists, would indeed be found as a trace element in Au.

    • by glwtta (532858)
      but by that logic you should be able to find tellurium in sulfur, which isn't the case.

      I don't know, have you checked all the sulfur?
    • by Megane (129182)

      Maybe you don't find tellurium in sulfur, but it sure can take the place of Sulfur. Selenium can give you some pretty bad breath if it gets into your body chemistry, but if you get tellurium into your body, you'll have the worst kind of body odor ever, and it takes months for it to wear off.

      You do NOT want "tellurium breath". [corante.com]

    • I'm also wondering how Marinov suspected it would be in gold.

      Let's see... his test consist of boiling away a few kilos or even many kilos of gold, practically implicitly meaning that at least some of it cannot be recovered...

      Oh, I could see a reason. Though I would've been looking in, say, Palladium.

  • Fiction comes to life?

    In the Baroque Cycle, the background story is all about a special, heavy form of gold with magical powers.

    Neat.

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      In the Baroque Cycle, the background story is all about a special, heavy form of gold with magical powers.

      Amazing that I slogged my way through 900 pages of the Baroque Cycle before deciding I couldn't take any more, and yet I still have no clue about this background story you mention.

      Thankfully Anathem was not quite as unbearable, if no less overbearing.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Neal Stephenson... didn't he write a book about the inevitable result of my skiing, "Snowcrash"?
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      In the extended Star Trek canon dilithium was commonly mistaken for quartz. So, we have prior art on this one. :)

  • by kiwix (1810960) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:05PM (#34424794)
    Here is what Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] says about the previous discovery of Unbibium by this the team:

    In 2008, it was claimed to have been discovered in natural thorium samples[1] but that claim has now been dismissed by recent repetitions of the experiment using more accurate techniques.

    • Yeah... pretty much... At least Unbibium was somewhat more plausible being closer to the island of relative stability; element 111 isn't even close in nuclear terms.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        How so ?
        On the contrary it is almost exactly on the peak :
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Island-of-Stability.png [wikipedia.org]
        • by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @09:14PM (#34426248) Journal

          111 has an odd number of protons which is strike number one. odd numbers of protons or neutrons are much less stable and strike number two is that the island of stability is for the most part concerning stability against fission and alpha radiation decay.
          Strike number three is that the stability of isotopes of element 111 are markedly less stable than isotopes of elements 114-116

          • by Yvanhoe (564877)
            It was an honest question, I know close to nothing about nuclear physics...
            The wikipedia picture is very incorrect then ? I see no tendency on it for odd numbers of protons to bring instability and no element in the 114-116 range is picture as having any sort of stability...

            Also, according to this graph ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Table_isotopes_en.svg [wikipedia.org] ) alpha decay and fission seem to be the only decays happening in these regions, no ?
            • by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @10:56PM (#34427048) Journal

              Take a look at this [wisc.edu].

              Another factor affecting the stability of a nucleus is whether the number of protons and neutrons is even or odd. Among the 354 known stable isotopes, 157 (almost half) have an even number of protons and an even number of neutrons. Only five have an odd number of both kinds of nucleons

              The reason why this is so is that nuclei just like atoms in chemistry have shells (in chemistry it's electrons with nuclei it's protons and neutrons) filled shells are more stable which is why there is an island of stability. The island of stability is centered around the magic numbers 114 (the number of protons) and 184 (the number of neutrons) magic numbers of either protons or neutrons tend to create more stable nuclei. nuclei with odd numbers of either are less stable in the same way that Fluorine is less stable chemically compared to Neon. The nuclear shell is not full and is therefore less stable to various modes of decay.

              Your point concerning alpha and fission modes of decay is more likely to increase the half life significantly excluding electron capture and beta decay modes.

              elements 114-116 have isotopes with half lives that are significantly higher than nuclei in the 100-113 range as these lower nuclei tend to have half lives measured in fractions of a second. The island of stability is a misnomer. It'd be far more accurate to say that it is an island of relative not absolute stability. The odds of finding any nuclei beyond uranium with a comparable half life or even stable nuclei is remote.

    • by careysub (976506) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @08:40PM (#34425894)

      Here is what Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] says about the previous discovery of Unbibium by this the team:

      In 2008, it was claimed to have been discovered in natural thorium samples[1] but that claim has now been dismissed by recent repetitions of the experiment using more accurate techniques.

      This is like the guy who keeps claiming new record-shattering high temperature superconductors which are are never confirmed by anyone (and who keeps showing up on Slashdot). Far-fetched claims from Arxiv.org should be prominently flagged as suspect if they are going t get posted here. I have yet to see one pan out.

    • I was about to post that this group does not strike me as a power house in nuclear research in particular heavy elements. Ultimately as wiki points out, this will be tested by others and I suspect the outcome probably the same. If not, kudos to their team.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:09PM (#34424858)

    The previous discovery of Element 122 in thorium was shown to be incorrect at higher levels of accuracy; thus, it seems unlikely that this one will bear fruit, especially since roentgenium shouldn't be stable for more than seconds.
    It still may bear out, but I consider that extremely unlikely.

  • Cold Fusion??? ;-)

  • Are we doomed to a repeat of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment every few years?
    • It's at least plausible. We're so set up to detect superheavy radioactives, what happens if an elemental synthesis procedure actually produces a stable superheavy nucleus (embedded at 1 part in 10^10 in a metal target)? No decay, no detection.

  • I believe this is denser than uranium. Is Israel planning to eventually build specially equipped armored vehicles?

    • by Magada (741361)

      No, they're hoping the isomer is meta-stable so they can make atomic hand-grenades.

    • Dude, this material, even if the theory of stable roentgenium is correct (and realistically, it's probably not) would be found in the amounts of a few atoms per gold nugget. So there's not enough of this stuff on earth to make a shotgun pellet, much less a tank. You'd have to make it synthetically in particle accelerators. And that would take an eternity and cost a fortune, if it was possible at all.
  • by pcardno (450934) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @07:54PM (#34425362) Homepage

    Wow. Great scientific summary. Why is it a "mess"? Surely it's the output of one carefully controlled process that led to another carefully controlled process that resulted in a particular outcome. Or isn't it? Surely boiling an element in a vacuum is a pretty clean way of doing things? If it's a "mess", then the whole thing is clearly a load of old nonsense.

    Either state the results or make it clear it's an editorial. Don't mix them up. Otherwise it's a mess.

    • Wow. Great scientific summary. Why is it a "mess"?

      A definition of "mess": "An amount of food, as for a meal, course, or dish: cooked up a mess of fish." I've heard it used colloquially as a synonym for "batch" with ironically positive connotations, which is the context that the author used it in.

    • by Alsee (515537)

      The result was a "mess" because the vacuum evaporation process served to concentrate the random impurities within the gold sample.

      If you look at the article you'll see a few examples of the random junk found in the remaining reside. Based on mass spectroscopy just a few of the contaminants were identified as 133Cs128Te, 197Au64Zn, 209Bi52Cr, 238U23Na, and 138Th(14N2)1H. That's merely the stuff in mess that was close to the target mass.

      I'm not an expert on mass spectroscopy, but I do have a pretty good under

  • So Stephenson's "solomonic gold" may be based in fact?

  • Appologies to Neil Stephenson :)
  • In articles about science always follow at least to the original article or the preprint and state that explicitly. I am sick and tired of "i am only citing the blog where i found it and not bothering to tell (or check?) if its published, preprint, or just buzz".

    This one seems to relate to a preprint: http://arxiv.org/abs/1011.6510 [arxiv.org]

    I am by no means expert on mass spectrometry by some thing they are doing seem strange. I will look at it when a referee examined it for PRL (to which its obviously submitted)

  • Wake me when there is independent confirmation of this claim reported somewhere other than arXiv.

  • Honestly, I don't care. It sounds interesting either way!

fortune: not found

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