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Extremely rare periodic element behaving like it’s from an ‘alternative universe’

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Lurking at the bottom of the periodic table is a group of super-heavy, radioactive elements that are so rare that they can’t be found in nature; they had to be created in the lab.

Very little is known about this unusual element, in part because of its scarcity. The more we learn about this element, the more it seems we might have to amend some of our most established theories just to account for it.

What’s so weird about berkelium’s electrons? For starters, they don’t arrange themselves around their atoms the way that electrons organize around lighter elements like oxygen, zinc or silver.

Most damning of all, researchers observed that as berkelium’s electrons begin to move at extremely fast speeds around each atom’s highly charged nucleus, they start to become heavier.

For now, it’s unclear exactly what this might mean for quantum mechanics or our understanding of the periodic table, but our theories might be in line for a shake-up.

Perhaps there’s even something here that can link Einstein’s theory about what happens on the larger scales with quantum theory and what happens on the smallest scales.

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Article originally posted at www.mnn.com

Post Author: Louis Columbus

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