The first 117 elements on the periodic table were relatively normal. Then along came element 118.
Oganesson, named for Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian (SN: 1/21/17, p. 16), is the heaviest element currently on the periodic table, weighing in with a huge atomic mass of about 300. Only a few atoms of the synthetic element have ever been created, each of which survived for less than a millisecond. So to investigate oganesson’s properties, scientists have to rely largely on theoretical predictions.
Recent papers by physicists, including one published in the Feb. 2 Physical Review Letters, detail some of the strange predicted properties of the weighty element.
1. Relatively weird
According to calculations using classical physics, oganesson’s electrons should be arranged in shells around the nucleus, similar to those of xenon and radon, two other heavy noble gases. But calculations factoring in Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which take into account the high speeds of electrons in superheavy elements, show how strange the element may be. Instead of residing in discrete shells — as…
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