Whimsy, Writing

Lesser-known Elements of the Periodic Table

Flemicium (Fc)
The elusive structure of this radioactive element was first discovered by August Kekulé in 1887, shortly after he awoke from a dream in which he saw two snakes eating an antelope wearing a hat the size of Mount Rushmore. After making a trip to the kitchen to dispose of the rind of over-ripe goat’s cheese he’d gorged himself on the night before, Kekulé slipped on a set of chemical models and got up to find flemicium’s electronic configuration digging a hole in his lower back.


Thrilled by this serendipitous discovery, Kekulé proposed naming the element after the Hanover dairy that had contributed to his breakthrough moment. Controversy emerged when the manufacturers of his chemical models claimed equal responsibility, and reached a fever pitch when makers of defective linoleum also tried to stake a claim. The whole nasty episode resulted in a heated argument at Darmstadt University which saw the President of the Royal Society knocked unconscious by a life-sized reconstruction of potassium cyanoacrylate.


Identified as a potentially fissile material during the early stages of the Manhattan Project, interest in flemicium waned once the team assigned to work on the chemical abruptly disintegrated during a visit by President Roosevelt and their remains began eating through the secret service. It’s been speculated that in weaponised form flemicium could have ended the war in a single day, but Eisenhower was at a wedding in Hyannisport and so was sadly unable to make it.


Serenium (Su)
The first chemical element to be artificially produced on a Tuesday, the discovery of serenium represented a turning point in the ability of scientists to do anything productive in the early half of the week. Best known amongst non-specialists for its much-publicised aphrodisiac properties, three Italian universities have gone bankrupt while maintaining a security perimeter around their existing samples.


Thanks to its high tensile strength and extremely low density, serenium briefly became the element of choice for the manufacture of lightweight tennis rackets on the professional circuit. Its popularity decreased in 2004 after the Spanish Davis Cup team found themselves pinned to the ceiling of the O2 arena and were only rescued when tournament officials equipped with a trampoline persuaded them to let go of their kitbags.


Synnabar (Sy)
Known variously to mediaeval alchemists as Bibla, Desiderium and Witches’ Bedspread, synnabar has long fascinated scholars for its ability to whistle in B minor when exposed to direct sunlight. Although ingesting synnabar is not fatal, the effect has been compared to eating seven Creme Eggs in one sitting and is therefore frowned upon in polite society.


Its high electrical conductivity brought it to the attention of a young Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was quick to realise its potential potential. After unwittingly triggering the California synnabar rush of the 1860s, which represented the single greatest mass movement of people on the continent since the discovery of affordable housing in Brooklyn, he persuaded Mendeleyev to artificially inflate its atomic number so as not to look foolish in front of Carnegie.


Scientists at Cambridge University are cautiously optimistic that the unique properties of synnabar may help them develop a form of energy storage which will further lower battery life to under ten minutes, a project which has already secured $60 million of seed funding from executives at Apple.


Tullemy (Ty)
A bright yellow solid with the tendency to form perfect crystals in the shape of Pope John Paul II, tullemy is a powerful antidepressant that gives all foods the flavour of asparagus. Once found in abundance in the Nile delta, it was ingested in large quantities by the ancient Egyptians who believed it would reveal to them the secret of designing buildings with curved edges. Senmut the Elder, the favoured architect of King Amenhotep II, once blew a quarter pound of the stuff up his nose and built fourteen royal memorials in the shape of jellyfish before being apprehended by the palace guard and ritually disemboweled with a shish kebab skewer outside what is now the Aswan Starbucks.


With global reservoirs thought to be nearing depletion, in 1984 the planet’s remaining supplies of tullemy were shipped to a bulletproof bunker in the Ozarks manned by contractually maudlin veterans of the French Foreign Legion. One kilogram has since been released annually for the purposes of medical research, most of which has gone into the development of pet food that can make your dog glow in the dark and regurgitate its own liver on command.


Zargon (Zg)
Zargon is the element with the highest boiling point in the periodic table, having been known to survive rush hour journeys on the Central Line unscathed. Highly unreactive and exceedingly rare, it is predominantly used as a scalpel reinforcement in surgical procedures and as a topping for luxury Italian ice cream.


At the end of Werner Herzog’s conceptual masterpiece Grausamkeit mit Erdbeere, released in English as Strawberry Malfunction, the hero is driven mad by his obsession with zargon and winds up opening a bed and breakfast for itinerant management consultants who leave anonymous TripAdvisor reviews complaining about the WiFi.


The existence of zargon is thought to be a valuable gauge for a planet’s ability to sustain a free market economy, owing to its tendency to emit a noxious green gas if anyone tries to privatise the railways. Often confused with copper owing to its similar reddish colouring, the two can easily be distinguished by wearing white after labour day and seeing which is the first to comment.

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