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The Enigma Of Element 115: Science Or Conspiracy?

The enigma of ‘element 115’ has been embedded in UFO conspiracy and alien fiction for many years. Many novels, movies, and media pertaining to alien spacecraft frequently refer to the material as ‘element 115’.

In recent years, the element with the atomic number 115 has been confirmed in reality, thus creating a stir amongst the conspiracy community and nuclear physicists alike.

Element On The Periodic Table

The periodic table is a collection of elements that comprise the matter of the entire universe. The atoms with the corresponding number of protons, neutrons, and electrons are displayed on the periodic table, given their scientific evidence. The elements are ordered based on their atomic number, which is the number of protons within their nucleus.

Initial Periodic Table By Mendeleev

Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev initially coined the periodic table in 1869, which was a lot smaller than the periodic table we have today, given the advances in nuclear physics. Many elements with higher atomic numbers have been proved over the years, observing evidence of their formation. Superheavy elements, those with very high atomic numbers, are difficult to prove, given their short half-life, which is the time until decay.

Initial Recognition Of Element 115

Element 115 has recently been discovered and proven. However, it was first recognized in 2003, by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, led by Yuri Oganessian, alongside American Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Successful Evidence Of Element 115

They successfully produced observable evidence of element 115, by firing a beam of calcium-48 at americium-243, continually for over a month. An isotope of element 115 was observed for a brief moment, before decaying into element 113. 

Forming Of Element 115

Americium was used, which is highly unstable and radioactive. Calcium atoms are much lighter and were fired at high speeds, continually for weeks. Most calcium atoms bounced off the Americium atoms or did not collide with the atom. However, when the calcium atom struck the americium element, the short-lived element 115 was formed, as the protons combined within the nucleus for a fraction of a second.

The element was found to be extremely radioactive, and the most stable isotope form, called moscovium-290, has a half-life of 0.65 seconds.

What It Takes For An Element To Be Recognized

In order to be officially recognized as an element, it has to be proven in two different scientific experimentations. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) requires these experiments to be independent studies, and proven, in order for the element to be considered a viable addition to the periodic table.

Ten years after the Russian evidence for element 115, chemists at Lund University in Sweden also confirmed element 115, by replicating the Russian experiment. The team was based at GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, in Germany.

The group fired a beam of calcium, an element containing 20 protons, at a thin film of americium, which contains 95 protons, thus creating the element with 115 protons. Dirk Rudolph, Atomic Physics professor at Lund University said “We observed 30 in our three-week-long experiment”.

Furthermore, the beams are fired within a vacuum chamber, since firing calcium ions through the air. The ions interact with the air molecules, which decreases the beam speed, alongside the ion structure.

Capturing The Superheavy Elements

Superheavy elements, in which element 115 lies, are extremely difficult to capture, given their unstable structure, and short half-life.

Half-life refers to decay into half its initial atomic nuclei. Most superheavy elements exist for a fraction of a second, before decaying into different elements, due to the instability of their structure.

Specialized detectors are used to observe the energy signals of element 115, during the three-week-long experiment, harnessing X-ray radiation the degrading element expels. Dr. Rodi Herzberg, Physics professor from the University of Liverpool said “If you just put positive charges into it, you get something that tries to rip itself apart eventually. And that is why it is very, very difficult to create these super-heavy elements”.

Jacklyn Gates, Scientist at Heavy Elements Group in the Nuclear Science Division for Berkley lab, said “Element 115, is a man-made, super-heavy element that has 115 protons in its nucleus. That is 23 more protons than the heaviest element that you can find in large quantities on Earth, uranium

The element 115 was officially added to the periodic table in 2016, under the name ‘moscovium’.

The applications of moscovium are extremely limited, given the short half-life. However, scientists are excited as it is a step towards the ‘island of stability’, which refers to a predicted group of superheavy elements that have an extended half-life.

Jacklyn Gates, Scientist at Heavy Elements Group in the Nuclear Science Division for Berkeley Lab, said “It is special because it is near a predicted ‘island of stability’ where some super-heavy nuclei might have much longer lifetimes. Instead of living for less than a second, they could exist for minutes, days, or even years! That is long enough that we might be able to use them for practical applications”.

Element 115 could be used to form some superheavy elements with higher atomic numbers, in a similar way elements were used to discover moscovium. Element 118 for example is expected to be very stable, given its expected ratio of protons and neutrons.

Furthermore, Physics and Astronomy professor at the University of California, Virginia Trimble, said “As ‘discovery space’ advances into heavier and heavier nuclides, their properties provide stronger and stronger tests of our basic physical understanding — they don’t always decay in the expected patterns, and where more than a few atoms can be produced at once, they don’t always have the chemical properties that you would expect from their position in the periodic table“.

Moscovium helps refine our knowledge of how our scientific principles align with observation, to further increase our understanding of the subatomic world.

Conspiracy Theories

Although conspiracy theories, or aliens, are commonly denounced and disregarded within the scientific world, categorized in the ‘outlandish’ category, it can be worth considering for the thought experiment.

Bob Laser is a widely renowned, influential, and highly personality within the UFO community, for his close affiliation with the US government. Allegedly, he was employed in Area 51, working to re-engineer alien spacecraft material, which he claimed was ‘element 115’.

Laser said, in 1980, that the “element 115 is a superheavy element. When it’s exposed to radiation, it produces its own gravitational field—its own anti-gravitational field, and it’s what’s used to lift and propel the craft“. Chemical properties of element 115, outlined by Laser in the 1980s, were its high reactivity, a half-life within milliseconds, highly unstable, and a 1740 degree melting point. Although mostly accurate in chemical depiction, the melting point of moscovium was discovered to be 1412 degrees. 

It is important to understand that although these ideas are commonly denounced, our top scientists in the modern world accept their ignorance of science.

The quantum world goes against pre-established physics principles, as does the physics in space. Our interest in the short life element of moscovium provides more evidence and insight into the forces acting at subatomic levels.

Scientific understanding of how subatomic physics operates, allows us to expand our understanding of the universe as a whole. Element 115 may not enable us to harness gravity, propel ourselves into the depths of space, and explore the cosmos. However, it fosters and fulfills the human’s natural tendency of curiosity, further refining our understanding of the natural world in which we live.

Jon is a writer for RegTech Global, specialized background is in Computer Science, Zoology, Finance, and Neuroscience. He is interested in biotechnology and Green-tech and pursues these fields in his professional life. Outside of writing, Jon is passionate about the outdoors, enjoying hiking, surfing, and skiing.


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