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Stories About Chemistry


42.  On the Brink of the Unknown

   When it will happen nobody knows. But it certainly will. Man will score a great victory over nature, perhaps the greatest in all history.

   He will learn to control radioactivity. He will be able to make the unstable elements stable, and vice versa, he will be able to make the most stable nuclei decay.

  This hypothesis has not yet been taken up even by science fiction writers. And scientists also still shrug their shoulders in bewilderment: so far they can see no practical or theoretical ways of harnessing radioactive phenomena. 

   But we are confident that some day such ways will be found, though they may be as unfathomable to us as an atomic power station would be to a pithecanthrope, to use the apt expression of the author of a science fiction book.

   Now let us suppose our wish has come true. The synthesis of super-heavy elements is no longer a problem. The scientist has at his disposal dozens of new inhabitants of the Big House. The chemists get down to studying them in an all-out drive. And come face to face with the unexpected. 

   On second thought, "unexpected" is hardly the right word, because we already now know what to expect.

   Can we predict the properties of, say, the element with the atomic number 126, mentioned above? We can, and with no great difficulty.  

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