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Chemical Elements Reduced to Words


The element selenium may pose some nasty health risks for wildlife, but it does have a lovely name. It's named after Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon.


Which leads us to this haiku: `In quiet moonlight, a tiny breath is felt, selenium.'

BLOCK: We found that haiku and over a hundred more on the Internet, naturally, on the Periodic Table of Haiku. And if you were counting syllables there, you'll have noticed that they use a loose definition of haiku. They actually call their creations SciFiKu.

SIEGEL: At any rate, we were pulled by bonds of chemical attraction to many of their poetic offerings to elements on the periodic table.

BLOCK: Hydrogen: `Two-thirds of water, a big part of all of us, and the bones of stars.'

SIEGEL: Carbon: `Dead stars reborn as diamonds, Bucky balls and beings.'

BLOCK: Nitrogen: `The sky's referee. Without its calming effect, oxygen will burn.'

SIEGEL: Mercury: `Liquid silver flows like Hermes' wings and shield made molten by the sun.'

BLOCK: Barium: `The bitter cocktail of a colonoscopy. Grin and barium.'

SIEGEL: Who says scientists have no sense of humor? Well, those are some of the elemental household names. Now for some more exotic offerings.

BLOCK: Xenon: `Oh, noble gas, what thou dost with six fluorines.'

SIEGEL: Seaborgium, named after renowned chemist Glenn Seaborg, an element which we learn has a half-life of less than a second. Here's the haiku. `Just a second. Seaborg and his cyclotron, brand-new elements.'

BLOCK: Berkelium, named for Berkeley, California--in haiku form: `Just academic, protesting commercial use, feels it in his bones.'

SIEGEL: Dysprosium: `Playing hard to get, half-dead in three million years. Can't see your color.'

BLOCK: Osmium: `Glowing density, brighten my yellow brick road, lead me home.'

SIEGEL: Cerium: `Lighter flints contain this metal, which often sparked postcoital prattle.'

BLOCK: And near the end of the periodic table, atomic number 111: unununium, chemical symbol UUU. Here's the SciFiKu: `Shake and shout, unununium, the new reality rag.'

SIEGEL: Just some of the offerings on the Periodic Table of Haiku, which we found at

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
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