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Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Unless you're a real science geek, chances are you never knew these elements even existed. Nonetheless, many of them form the foundations of modern life.
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Today's Random Fact:
Euro paper banknotes contain tiny amounts of this hard, silvery metal as an anti-counterfeiting measure. It is also used to produce a strong, rich red color in television and computer screens.
In the 1970s, metallurgists found that aluminum-scandium alloys are strong and lightweight, making it useful in aerospace components. It wasn't long before sporting-equipment manufacturers started using the alloys in everything from baseball bats to lacrosse sticks.
Beryllium is recognized as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In another form, however, beryllium is highly desirable, even priceless. When combined with trace amounts of chromium, beryllium takes on a beautiful green hue as the gemstone commonly known as the emerald.
Few elements are weirder than gallium: A relatively soft, glittering metal, it's widely used today in semiconductors and other electronics, as well as in the pharmaceutical industry. But in years past, gallium (atomic number 31) was a key part of a favorite parlor trick for magicians because it melts when it's just slightly warmer than room temperature. Thus, spoons that are made of gallium look normal, but when dipped into a cup of hot tea will instantly dissolve.
Tellurium, a silvery-white metal first discovered in Transylvania, is often used in solar panels, computer memory chips and rewritable optical discs. Its name comes from the Latin word for earth (tellus).
Dysprosium (atomic number 66), is named after the ancient Greek dysprositos, meaning "hard to get," appropriately enough. The soft, metallic substance is in big demand for electric motors, especially those in electric vehicles and wind turbines, which has earned dysprosium a place on the U.S. Department of Energy's list of critical materials for the green economy.