Sort of there.

Some things are in their essence ephemeral. We sort of know that they're out there somewhere, but putting a finger on them isn't quite that easy. As soon as we reach out to them, they've disappeared. Perhaps because for those of us who grew up with the printed page there will always be something ungraspable about cyberspace, date tie-ins that celebrate the ephemeral seem to attract me. Today's date tie-ins (and, in a rather "now you see it, now you don't" fashion, last month's as well), each in its own way, seem to be variations on that theme.

From what I've been able to check out, when I was a high school student, back in the mid and late 1960s, there were between 103 to 105 known elements. I don't remember how many our chemistry teacher in school told us there were, but it was something like 100. Since then, the number has continued to grow, until today there are apparently 115 (though numbers 113, 115 and 117 have yet to be synthesized, while 114, 116 and 118 have). I trust that physicists are able to get excited over the discovery/synthesis of a new (should that be "predicted, but not yet truly seen"?) element. The general public has a (much) more blase relationship to such a discovery. It's a fair guess that the public hardly even knows when a new element has been "found", or even that somebody is still looking for more of them.

Still, it behooves us to note that it was on this day, in 1982, that element 109, Meitnerium, was synthesized. As one source tells us, this was achieved:
by bombing a target of Bi-209 with accelerated nuclei of Fe-58. After a week of target bombardment a single fused nucleus was produced. The combined energy of two nuclei had to be sufficiently high so that the repulsive forces between the nuclei could be overcome.
We're also informed that:
The nucleus started to decay 5 ms after striking the detector.
It's enough to stop making you feel sorry for Pluto. After all, it survived seventy years as a planet. Meitnerium is apparently really there, though it can hardly get through a split second. Was life really simpler back then, when we had more planets and less elements?

Thirty years earlier, in 1952, the premiere of one of music's most ephemeral pieces took place. In was on this day, in Woodstock, New York, that David Tudor sat down in front of a piano and gave the first performance of John Cage's classic piece 4'33". That well known piece isn't new to the Boidem, though half of the links on that previous page don't seem to be accessible anymore. Some good information can be found on the Wikipedia's page on the piece. Is it accurate to call this piece "ephemeral"? After all, considering that all music "melts into air", there's probably nothing more inherently ephemeral about the Cage composition than any other piece of music. Still, the awareness of the always different and changing sounds around us that each listening of 4'33" instills in us suggests a fundamental kinship to Meitnerium ... and now to Pluto as well.

Go to: The (digital) cleaning lady