The Last Stoic

The Romance of Science – Radium and Radioactivity

Posted in Uncategorized by munty13 on November 19, 2009



“The noble gases are a group of chemical elements with very similar properties: under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases, with a very low chemical reactivity. The six noble gases that occur naturally are helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and the radioactive radon (Rn).

Neon, argon, krypton, and xenon are obtained from air using the methods of liquefaction of gases and fractional distillation. Helium is typically separated from natural gas, and radon is usually isolated from the radioactive decay of dissolved radium compounds. Noble gases have several important applications in industries such as lighting, welding, and space exploration.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_gas

So far, I’ve managed to ignore the noble gases, and that’s largely because they have managed to avoid me. Noble gases seem to have such a low reactivity with the world that surrounds us – it enables them to remain somewhat aloft from the other, more “common” elements. The two lightest noble gases, neon and helium, have still been found to not form any chemical compounds. Also, the noble gases are found in such tiny amounts in the atmosphere that it makes them easily missable. For example, although neon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, only 0.0018% in volume of the Earth’s atmosphere is neon.

So in the atmosphere it appears that there are hardly any noble gases at all – and those that are there, are barely doing anything. It’s like they wander aimlessly around the atmosphere like men in a department store shopping for trousers. But maybe the noble gases offer a vital clue to not only what’s taking place in the atmosphere, but also the periodic table.

“The British physicist John William Strutt (better known as Lord Rayleigh) showed in 1892 that the atomic weight of nitrogen found in chemical compounds was lower than that of nitrogen found in the atmosphere.

He ascribed this discrepancy to a light gas included in chemical compounds of nitrogen, while Ramsay suspected a hitherto undiscovered heavy gas in atmospheric nitrogen. Using two different methods to remove all known gases from air, Ramsay and Rayleigh were able to announce in 1894 that they had found a monatomic, chemically inert gaseous element that constituted nearly 1 percent of the atmosphere; they named it argon. The following year, Ramsay liberated another inert gas from a mineral called cleveite; this proved to be helium, previously known only in the solar spectrum.

In his book The Gases of the Atmosphere(1896), Ramsay showed that the positions of helium and argon in the periodic table of elements indicated that at least three more noble gases might exist. In 1898 he and the British chemist Morris W. Travers isolated these elements — called neon, krypton, and xenon — from air brought to a liquid state at low temperature and high pressure.

Working with the British chemist Frederick Soddy in 1903, Ramsay demonstrated that helium (together with a gaseous emanation called radon) is continually produced during the radioactive decay of radium, a discovery of crucial importance to the modern understanding of nuclear reactions. In 1910, using tiny samples of radon, Ramsay proved that it was a sixth noble gas, and he provided further evidence that it was formed by the emission of a helium nucleus from radium. ”
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/490808/Sir-William-Ramsay/259991/Discovery-of-noble-gases

First up, I want to find out argon’s atomic weight, which is not quite as simple as one might think. Mostly, argon’s atomic weight is given as 40. This figure though is molecular weight, and not the actual atomic weight, which is nearer 20. Argon is only 20 times heavier than hydrogen. The scale of atomic weight from hydrogen (1) to oxygen (16) is much more the one I prefer to stick with because it reveals so much more about an element’s density.

I stumbled across this book “A Recalculation of the Atomic Weights”by Frank Wigglesworth Clarke, Chief Chemist of the U. S. Geological Survey, and published in 1897. I think he offers a good idea of why it is that we can get a mix-up over an element’s density. You can find the book in full thanks to the Internet Archive:
http://www.archive.org/stream/recalculationofa00clarrich/recalculationofa00clarrich_djvu.txt

“From one set of physical data both gases appear to be monatomic, but from other considerations they are supposably diatomic. Upon this question controversy has been most active, and no final settlement has yet been reached. If diatomic, argon and helium have approximately the atomic weights two and twenty respectively; if monatomic, these values must be doubled. In either case helium is an element lying between hydrogen and lithium, but argon is most difficult to classify. With the atomic weight 20, argon falls in the eighth column of the periodic system between fluorine and sodium, but if it is 40 the position of the gas is anomalous. A slightly lower value would place it between chlorine and potassium, and again in the eighth column of Mendelejeff’s table; but for the number 40 no opening can be found.

It must be noted that neither gas, so far, has been proved to be absolutely homogeneous, and it is quite possible that both may contain admixtures of other things. This consideration has been repeatedly urged by various writers. If argon is monatomic, a small impurity of greater density, say of an unknown element falling between bromine and rubidium, would account for the abnormality of its atomic weight, and tend towards the reduction of the latter.

If the element is diatomic, its classification is easy enough on the basis of existing data. Its resemblances to nitrogen, as regards density, boiling point, difficulty of liquefaction, etc., lead me personally to favor the lower figure for its atomic weight, and the same considerations may apply to helium also. Until further evidence is furnished, therefore, I shall assume the values two and twenty as approximately true for the atomic weights of helium and argon.”

Once again, here we have another chemist whom has drawn some sort of comparison between nitrogen and argon. Some of the older chemists used to think argon was a condensed form of nitrogen. At the time of its discovery, it was suggested that argon could be a triatomic form of nitrogen.

In previous posts, it’s been suggested that nitrogen is a compound of oxygen and carbon. We know the formula for nitrogen as H2C2 (C=6) with an atomic weight of 14. If argon has an atomic weight of 20, and it is a more condensed form of nitrogen, then the formula for argon might be nitrogen with an extra dollop of carbon (H2C3?).

I had at first played around with with the formula of nitrogen to encourage the formula for argon to emerge. The thing is, the formulations thus far, work only with hydrogen and carbon. I’m very conscious of the presence of helium in the noble gases. I think helium might be setting the prescedent for any patterns, or relationships, that are to emerge from the noble gases. I think helium might play a defining role in the density of the other noble gases, and quite possibly, other substances.

I’m happy that I can now confirm to myself that helium is only twice as dense as hydrogen. I’ve so often seen the atomic weight of helium given as 4, but this number fails to describe the relationship between helium and hydrogen. Helium is twice as heavy hydrogen. The number 4 arises because it refers to molecular weight. For the atomic weight of helium, I’ll stick to 2, it’s actual density compared to hydrogen. The name helium comes from the Greek word for Sun – “helios” – because this was where it was first discovered.

“Before Helium was discovered on Earth, Helium was discovered on the Sun, in 1868 by the astronomer Joseph Lockyer. The Sun is made mostly of hydrogen with some helium as well. There are several other chemicals that are present, but only make up 0.1% of the Sun. At the Sun’s core, the process of nuclear fusion occurs, which produces incredible amounts of energy. Nuclear fusion is the process of hydrogen combining to form helium under extreme pressure and heat. This process powers the Sun and provides all of the heat and light that we receive on Earth. ”
http://sos.noaa.gov/datasets/solar_system/helium_sun.html

Next up is neon, which is derived from the Greek for “new”. The atomic weight for neon is supposedly 20.1797, but once again, this is molecular weight. Neon is known to be half the density of argon (20) so that puts it’s atomic weight at something more like 10. Could neon consist of a compound derived from five helium atoms (5He)?

Krypton – Greek for “hidden” – is known to be twice as dense as argon, so rather than the atomic weight of 83.80 that is attributed to it by the periodic table, I think the density of krypton is going to be something more like 40. This figure was also produced by Sir William Ramsay, the discoverer of the noble gases, in his Nobel Lecture of 1904:

“Although the density of the new gas, which we named “krypton” or “hidden” was found to be only 22.5, we conjectured that, when purified, it would turn out to be forty times as heavy as hydrogen, implying the atomic weight 80.”

The standard atomic weight of xenon is 131.30 g/mol. This figure arises due to the number of isotopes that xenon has. Xenon has 9 stable isotopes and over 40 unstable ones, and the standard atomic weight represents the average value of these isotopes. Xe124 is the first stable isotope of xenon, but I don’t think this figure represents xenon either. If the noble gases were following a pattern, then one would expect the atomic weight of xenon to be 60.

The next noble gas is radon. Referring once again to Sir William Ramsay, recieving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904, clearly states that the density of radon has been found to be approximately 80 times that of hydrogen, before they gave it the molecular weight of 160:

“In conjunction with Dr. Collie, my colleague, the spectrum of the radium emanation has been mapped. It resembles generally speaking those of the inert gases; and although its density has not been accurately determined, it appears to be approximately 80, which would imply a molecular weight of 160; and if it is a monatomic gas, its atomic weight would also be 160. It might then be an unstable member of the argon family; there is a vacant place for an element with atomic weight about 162.”
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1904/ramsay-lecture.html

Today, radon has been given the standard atomic weight of 222 g/mol. What happened there I wonder? I can see how we got from 80, to 160 – but where on earth did the number 222 come from? You’ll notice that Ramsay speaks of a spectrum analysis of radon, rather than chemical analysis.

In trying to find the answer to the difference in the accounts for the atomic weight of radon, I’ve managed to come across a really interesting article – “The Romance of Science – Radium and Radioactivity” by A.T. Cameron. I’ve included some of the text below, but I’d actually recommend reading the entire article if you get an opportunity.

THE ROMANCE OF SCIENCE
RADIUM AND
RADIOACTIVITY
BY
A. T. CAMERON, M.A., B.Sc.
LECTURER IN PHYSIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA
FORMERLY 185! EXHIBITION SCHOLAR AND CARNEGIE RESEARCH
FELLOW OF THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
http://www.archive.org/stream/radiumradioactiv00cameuoft/radiumradioactiv00cameuoft_djvu.txt

“Not only is a gas given off by the radium salt solution, but this gas is also radioactive. This gas, still known generally as the emanation from radium, or radium emanation, from its method of production, has recently been shown to be a true element with a definite spectrum and a specific atomic weight, and has been named niton.

A definite quantity of niton has apparently a total existence, when separated from radium, of about one month. “

Friedrich Ernst Dorn ( 1848- 1916) was a German physicist who discovered these emanations from radium in 1900. Dorn initially called the gas niton from the Latin word “nitens” meaning “shining” due to the phosphorescence of cooled radon. Today, niton is much better known as the element radon.

“Sir William Ramsay and Dr Gray succeeded in directly weighing the gas. Five experiments were made with amounts of niton of the order of one-tenth of a cubic millimetre, a volume roughly equal to that enclosed in the eye of a small needle. In each case the gas was compressed into a minute capillary tube, and this was sealed up and weighed. The tube was broken, the gas allowed to escape, and the broken pieces of tube again weighed. The difference was the weight of the gas. The weighings could not be carried out in an ordinary chemical balance, since the best of these are only sensitive to one fifty-thousandth of a gram, i. e. to one-fiftieth of a milligram; various micro-balances which have been devised have a sensitiveness of about one-thousandth of a milligram.

The actual weights of gas measured were from 572 to 729 millionths of a milligram. These measurements were carried out with a type of balance devised by Professor Steele, in which, instead of counter-balancing the unknown weight by known weights, as usual, the change of buoyancy of a bulb (to which known or unknown weights could be attached) was measured when the pressure in the air surrounding the bulb was changed. (The balance actually used was sensitive to about five-millionths of a milligram, i. e. it would discriminate between two, weights differing by this amount, about one hundred-thousand-millionth of a pound.) Numerous corrections were applied to the results, for the loss of niton through decay during the time of experiment, for the weight of the substances produced by this decay, for temperature, pressure, and so on. The figures found for the atomic weight in the respective experiments were 227, 226, 225, 220, 218. The mean figure was 223, and the extremes differed from this by only two percent. A truly remarkable result, when we consider the extraordinary experimental difficulties, and the minuteness of the amounts weighed.”

You may notice that Cameron does not say that radon is 223 times heavier than hydrogen, but says only that the atomic weight is 223. I’m still interested to know how they come up with the figure 222. If 222 is the molecular weight of radon because it is monoatomic, then the atomic weight should be about half that: 111. There’s still a remarkable difference between the figure of 80, as given by Ramsay in his Nobel lecture, taken from spectral analysis, and the figure of 111, taken from chemical analysis. Unfortunately, the article does not elaborate as to why we have this contradiction from Ramsay, but I shall remain with the article because the rest is still very interesting nonetheless.

“The first attempts to see if niton possessed a definite spectrum were made by Ramsay and Soddy in 1902. They were unsuccessful. The spectrum was masked by the presence of other gases, chiefly carbon dioxide. After two or three days, however, the spectrum of helium was visible. It grew in intensity. Repetition of the experiment by the same and by other observers gave the same result. As the emanation decays its place is taken by helium…. this was the first definite evidence put forward for the transformation of one element into another.

The atomic weight of helium is 3-99. We have seen that the atomic weights of radium and niton differ by 3*5. It is then at least possible that an atom of radium breaks up, forming an atom of niton and one of helium.”

Radium preparations are remarkable for maintaining themselves at a higher temperature than their surroundings, and for their radiations, which are of three kinds: alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays. The theory is that as alpha particles are expelled from radium, then radon is released too. It is if though radon is an atom of radium, but minus the alpha ray particle which has been shot out. If this is the case, then it stands to reason that the atomic weight of radon should be revealed after deducting the weight of an alpha particle from a radium atom.

I did hope that finding the weight of radium would be straight-forward – but it’s not. M.Curie had at first found the atomic weight of radium to be 140, but as purer and purer samples were found, this number increased to 146, then 174, then greater than 220, until in 1902, she settled on a mean average of 225. M.Curie’s amount was reached by chemical analysis, but a method instigated by Runge and Precht, using spectral analysis, studying the spectrum of radium in a magnetic field, determined the weight as 257.8

Radium is over one million times more radioactive than the same mass of uranium. One argument for choosing the result from the spectral analysis over that of the chemical analysis, is that one might expect to find the most radioactive substance to consist of the heaviest atoms. Radium at 257.8, would then be followed by uranium with a mass of 238.5, and next would be thorium with a mass of 232.5. Today, at 226, radium is treated as the lightest of the three.

“Niton can produce numerous chemical actions very similar in their nature to those produced by radium. Many of these actions have been closely studied. When niton and oxygen are left in contact with mercury a red crust of mercuric oxide is formed on the surface of the mercury; the oxygen has been converted into ozone, and the ozone has attacked the mercury. Niton in contact with water dissolves it, producing hydrogen and oxygen and a trace of hydrogen peroxide. We have seen that the same reactions are caused by radium. When niton is mixed with the gas carbon dioxide, a black deposit of carbon forms on the walls of the containing vessel, while oxygen and carbon monoxide are also produced. Carbon monoxide is similarly decomposed.”

I was a little surprised when I saw that radon decomposed carbon dioxide into oxygen, carbon monoxide AND solid carbon. Carbon dioxide is supposedly made up with carbon monoxide and oxygen. Where’s this extra carbon come from? One might suppose that it comes from the decomposition of carbon monoxide.

“We have seen that radium constantly produces the gas niton, and as matter is not only indestructible, but cannot be produced from nothing… we can only conclude that the niton is produced by the destruction of the radium itself.

Professor Rutherford has also succeeded in showing that the a-rays are deviated by an electric field, and from the fact that the deviations in each case are in a direction opposite to that taken by electrons, it has been established that these particles must carry a different electric charge are, in fact, charged positively.

We have already discussed an experiment which demonstrated that freshly purified radium emitted a-rays alone, and it has been found, in a similar manner, that freshly purified niton also emits only a-particles. The beta- and gamma -particles which are emitted by old radium, come, as a matter of fact, only from radium B and C.”

Historically, the radioactive decay products of radium were labeled Radium A, B, C, and so forth. These products have been studied and are now known to be isotopes of other elements, as follows:

Radium emanation: radon-222
Radium A: polonium-218
Radium B: lead-214
Radium C: bismuth-214
Radium C1: polonium-214
Radium C2: thallium-210
Radium D: lead-210
Radium E: bismuth-210
Radium F: polonium-210

Radium A (polonium-218) is the active matter deposited by radon. The atoms of radon disintergrate, expelling alpha particles and leave behind a solid residue – radium A. Radium A is found to to concentrate on a negatively electrified body, and therefore, has a positive charge. Radium A decay takes place with the emission of alpha particles.

Radium A gives out alpha particles only and quickly undergoes a transformation into radium B. Radium B and radium C emit both beta-rays and gamma-rays. When electrons rush toward a positively charged atom in order to reach equilibrium, it is said that an electric current is produced. The beta-rays shot out from the radium carry away negative electricity, and therefore the radium itself left behind becomes positively charged.

Radium apparently yields four substances that send off alpha particles – radium itself, radon, radium A, radium C1, and radium F. Radium F is much more active than pure radium. It has been shown by Rutherford to be about 3,200 times as radioactive as radium. It is radium F which is referred to as polonium on the periodic table.

Polonium was named after Mme.Curie’s homeland of Poland. Polonium is a very rare element – it’s abundance is only 0.2% that of radium. A few curies of polonium exhibit a blue glow, caused by excitation of the surrounding gas.

“The penetrating power of the a-rays is different for almost every element producing them, and affords, in consequence, a means of testing for a particular element, and of ascertaining whether more than one a-emitting element is present.

If the a- particle also carries a single electric charge, it follows that its mass will be about 3500 times greater than that of the electron. The mass of the electron has been calculated to be about one seventeen-hundredth or one eighteen-hundredth of that of an atom of hydrogen . The a-particle would, therefore, have a mass about twice that of the hydrogen atom, and would have dimensions comparable with the atoms of the chemical elements. No element is known with an atomic weight of 2, that is to say twice that of a hydrogen atom.”

The author is adamant that no element is known with the atomic weight of 2, when in fact, there is – helium. As I understand it, there’s no need to even go near the argument about the weight of hydrogen being 2 because it is a diatomic molecule. Physically, helium is found to be twice as dense as hydrogen.

The value of e/m for the hydrogen atom is 9,650, while for the alpha particle it’s 5,070. If the alpha particle has the same charge as the hydrogen ion, its mass would have to be twice that of the hydrogen ion. But, it’s also possible that the alpha particle is made up by two hydrogen ions. Rutherford himself had deliberated over this idea, but to him it “seemed very improbable that hydrogen should be ejected in a molecular and not an atomic state as a result of the atomic explosion”. But what would it mean if it was not improbable?

In previous posts, I’ve played with the idea that positive and negative charged structures come together to make up one atomic whole, and that this “atom” is consequently neutral. After observing weather systems, I think that it’s possible that these positive and negative structures could work together in tandem, much like how low pressure (cyclonic) and high pressure (anticyclonic) systems do. The cyclone and anticyclone come together to form dipolar vortices.

I’ve also suggested that negatively charged electrons could have the same mass of a hydrogen ion, which would mean that rather than being 1800 times smaller than a hydrogen ion – the electron would now have the same mass, but would carry a charge some 1800 times greater.

Franklin reasoned that a positive electrified body had a surplus of electrical fluid attached to it, while a negatively electrified one, has a deficit. If the electron did carry such an enormous electrical whallop, then it stands to reason, that at least in terms of Franklin’s definition, that the electron is actually the positive charge, and not the negative one.

Of course, this would make the hydrogen ion a negative charge. The hydrogen ion has a deficit in the electrical fluid. This would suggest that hydrogen is a low pressure system. Low pressure systems develop when less fluid flows into an area than out of it. I think that hydrogen could be represented by a cyclonic structure.

Imagine then that the alpha particle was made up by two hydrogen ions. This would mean that the alpha particle was made up by two cyclone structures. If you think this might be a bit of a stretch, you might be surprised to find that a bi-cyclonic structure does exist in nature, and is called the Fujiwhara effect.

The effect is named after Sakuhei Fujiwhara, the Japanese meteorologist who initially described it in a 1921 paper about the motion of vertices in water. The Fujiwhara effect or Fujiwhara interaction is a type of interaction between two nearby cyclonic vortices, causing them to appear to “orbit” each other. When the cyclones approach each other, their centers will begin orbiting cyclonically about a point between the two systems.

Rutherford designed experiments to try to prove exactly what it was that alpha particles were made of. The last and most convincing of these experiments was made in 1909, with T.D Royds, by constructing what James Jeans later called “a sort of mousetrap for alpha particles”. Over a week, alpha particles emitted by radon were collected in a glass tube, compressed, and then an electric current passed through it. A spectral analysis of the electric discharge revealed the gas to be helium.

Alpha particles pick up two electrons and are neutralized into helium atoms. I think that the two cyclones, which we describe as alpha particles, split up and form partnerships with the anticyclonic electrons. A hydrogen ion (H), and an electron (e) are describing two halves of an atom. Helium (He) would be the first atom – the very building block of the Universe. Helium is made up with one hydrogen ion and one electron which are united as dipolar vortices, and which work together to generate a vortex ring. Basically, a vortex ring, or toroidal vortex, looks something like a ring donut.

I think electrons are misplaced as being called “negative”, because I’m not sure they have a deficit in energy, and perhaps they are really overflowing with energy. In terms of weather systems, high pressure system (anticyclone), is a system of closed isobars surrounding a region of relatively high pressure. When compared with low pressure systems, highs tend to cover a greater area, move more slowly and have a longer life. In the past I’ve found the following site useful in not only describing weather systems, but with the aid of some of its animations, I think it is also useful at describing dipolar vortices:
http://www.bom.gov.au/lam/Students_Teachers/pressure.shtml

Bearing in mind, everything that we’ve said so far, let us continue with Cameron’s article, and see what else comes up:

“We have seen that radium, by its disintegration, produces niton, and that their measured atomic weights are so nearly the same that it almost necessarily follows that one atom of niton is produced from one atom of radium. We have seen that radium emits a-particles, and that helium is also produced by its decay, and, further, that the a-particle is merely an atom of helium electrically charged and travelling with an enormous velocity. As far as we know, there are no other products from the decay of radium. If we write the change in the form of an equation, we obtain:

Radium = Niton[radon] + Helium

….and the numerical data lead us to conclude, finally, that from one atom of radium only one atom of niton and one atom of helium, i.e. one a-particle, are liberated. Since we know the atomic weights of radium and of helium more accurately than that of niton, we are now justified in deducing that by subtraction it is, therefore, 222.5”

If alpha particles are really two hydrogen ions, and one hydrogen ion is one half of a helium “donut”, then I think when we see alpha particles being emitted, this means we are seeing the decomposition of a helium compound. It suggests that what we are seeing is two helium “donuts” being smashed into one another.

The hydrogen ions are deficit in electrical energy, and they leave behind electrons which have a very high electrical charge. The radon gas that the alpha particles leave behind does not appear to possess an electric charge.

Radium A is known to have a positive charge. I think that the positively charged alpha particles are ejected from radium A, because they adhere to the universal law that like repels like. I don’t think “positive” charges are positive at all – I think they lack the fluid of the aether and act out cyclonic behaviours. Radium, radon and the polonium isotopes all eject alpha particles – is it possible that this is because they are all deficit in electric fluid? Polonium is considered to be much more radioactive than radium and radon, and I wonder if this is because polonium displays a much greater deficit in electric fluid.

Radon is an inert gas. Because of its radioactivity, radon is thought of as being an unstable element, but electronically, radon appears to be pretty stable. If radon was repelling alpha particles because they shared a similar charge, then it would mean that radon also has a deficit in electric fluid. If radon is cracking open helium – like an Aussie tearing into shrimp at a “Bar-B” – what happens to all those electrons which make up the meaty stuff?

If radon is saturated with electrons, then these must form an extremely stable structure, because radon does not appear to possess an electric charge. Radon’s inertness is describing it’s neutrality. The energy from the electrons must go somewhere… unless of course, they don’t go anywhere, and simply go up in smoke.

What if the electrons are disbanded, and the energy from the electrons is returned back to the fluid of the aether? One might be tempted to summise that radon has consumed the energy from the electrons. The alpha particles are the bones it spits out after digesting itself. OR one might say, that the bones are revealed after the radon has been digested by the fluid of the aether.

From the day we are born we are taught that matter cannot be dematerialized into nothing, but I think that it’s possible that this is what we are seeing. Mind, it’s not exactly “nothing”. I think of it more as the approaching tide of the sea as it takes over a sand castle which once stood proud on the shore. The sand castle has not been reduced to “nothing” – these tiny, minuscle particles have been washed away to become part of something which is immensely bigger.

When radon and alpha particles are shut up together, helium is produced. Now remember, helium is atomically neutral. For an alpha particle to be neutralized, the ions which make up the alpha particle, must have formed pairings with electrons. Where then do these electrons come from?

Do these electrons somehow emerge from the radon? Or do these electrons appear as beta particles from one of the further decay products of radon, such as radium D (lead-210), a beta emitter. The following site offers an excellent narration of the original experiment by Rutherford and Royds, as it appears in the article “The Nature of the α Particle from Radioactive Substances” and from which I have taken the following extracts:
http://web.lemoyne.edu/~giunta/EA/ROYDSann.

“We have recently made experiments to test whether helium appears in a vessel into which the α particles have been fired, the active matter itself being enclosed in a vessel sufficiently thin to allow the α particles to escape, but impervious to the passage of helium or other radioactive products.

The idea here is to make a barrier that will let through only α particles, and to examine those accumulated α particles once they have slowed down. And we will see that Rutherford & Royds make sure that α particles can get through and that ordinary helium cannot.”

The thing is, at least as I understand it, beta particles are more penetrating than alpha particles. Excluding radon which has a half-life of four days, the other decay products that come after radon-222, and before radium D, have a total half-life of less than an hour. Basically, half of the radon will expire in four days, but some of the other decay products, such as bismuth-214, will be halved in the space of 20 minutes.

In theory, a radon atom could follow the decay chain immediately into radium D (lead-210) and instantly start emitting beta particles. Lead-210 mind, has a half life of 22.3 years, and thus appears as being pretty slow and consistent when compared to the previous decay products. Perhaps this starts to explain why the build up of helium is at first slow, but then increases steadfastly after a day or two.

“After 24 hours no trace of the helium yellow line was seen; after 2 days the helium yellow was faintly visible; after 4 days the helium yellow and green lines were bright; and after 6 days all the stronger lines of the helium spectrum were observed.”

I can’t be sure that it is the beta particles which are supplying the electrons, but it seems conspicious that beta particles are not mentioned in the experiment. The experimenters refer to the alpha emissions “from the emanation and its products radium A and radium C”. It appears therefore, that the emissions from the active matter, and ALL the decay products, are essential to the experiment, including those of radium D.

I wanted to return back to Cameron’s article to hopefully draw some kind of conclusion:

“One final effect of radium rays and all other radiations may be mentioned ; it is also produced by X-rays and cathode rays. Water in the state of gas is perfectly invisible. Steam, so called, consists of very minute particles of liquid water.

Introduction of dust particles will at once cause condensation of water in the form of a cloud of moisture, and the same effect is produced by all radium rays and by the X-rays. Here ion particles take the place of dust particles.”

Now I can’t but help look up at the clouds in the sky. It seems that clouds are compounds made made up with water and ions. If hydrogen were added to the formula for water, we’d get:

H + H2C3(11) = H3C3(12)

I strongly suspect that H3C3, with an atomic weight of 12, has something to do with carbon. Clouds, especially in England, tend to come in many shades of grey. We tend to think of carbon as being black, as in graphite, but since 1969, it has been possible to manufacture white carbon.
http://everything2.com/title/white+carbon

As a substance, dust is not simply, well… dust. I did bump into a site that exclaimed that “the dust that’s in the air and settling all over your house (and computer monitor) is radioactive? It’s true, it contains radioactive decay products from naturally occuring Uranium and Thorium.” If dust is radioactive, chances are it carries an electric charge.
http://www.blackcatsystems.com/GM/experiments/ex1.html

“Besides the elements described above, only two have been found which possess in the slightest degree the property of radioactivity. These are the common metal potassium and the element rubidium^ which is closely allied to it ; their radioactivity presents a hitherto insoluble enigma. The activity of these elements was discovered in 1906 by Campbell and Wood, and has been confirmed by numerous observers. The property is not shared by the closely allied elements sodium and caesium.

Looking upon the atom in this wise it no longer appears impossible to change one kind of atom into another. Many of the larger atoms bear distinct points of similarity ; they all contain more or less helium, nor does it seem likely that the helium atom can be markedly different before and after its emission from a radioactive atom. In all probability other of the building stones of the atoms are identical ; indeed various theories have been put forward to the effect that all atoms are built up of varying proportions of such simple atoms as those of helium and hydrogen. If any such type of hypothesis were true and some of them must approximate to the truth then it ought to be possible, if sufficient force could be applied, to disrupt an atom, to resolve it into its constituents, and in that way to bring about a transmutation.

Ramsay originally intended to test the effect of niton on solutions of copper salts. It has been shown already that niton decomposes water with evolution of hydrogen and oxygen, an action very similar to that brought about by the electric current in electrolysis. He thought that by a similar electrolytic action copper might be produced from the copper solutions.

On analysing the copper solution very carefully it was found to contain a minute trace of the somewhat rare element lithium.

Numerous experiments were carried out to find whether this trace of lithium was present as an accidental impurity or had been formed in the solution. The latter hypothesis seemed plausible since lithium belongs to the copper group of elements, is the lightest of them in fact the atomic weight of copper is 63*6, while that of lithium is 6’Q.

Other interesting results were obtained. The gases from the copper solution did not appear to contain the helium which we have learnt to regard as the invariable result of radioactive transformation, but argon was present. However, the presence of argon in itself was explicable by air leakage through the taps of the apparatus. Over the relatively long period of time of the experiment it is almost impossible to maintain a perfect vacuum with glass taps, even with the best lubricators which have so far been invented ; the amount of argon present was not greater than was to be expected from that of atmospheric nitrogen. The absence of helium rather emphasised the presence of this gas, however. Again, in the experiment with pure water both helium and neon were present in about equal amount.

Neon was then considered as one of the rarest of the rare gases, and no accidental air leakage could on that assumption account for its presence. Ramsay suggested that niton in the presence of water disintegrated into neon, instead of into helium, and thought that in the presence of copper argon might be the disintegration product produced. If this were the case, of course the ordinary theory of disintegration, in which the production of helium plays an integral part, would require considerable modification

The experiments connected with the presumed production of lithium from copper were repeated by Madame Curie. Her methods were in general similar to those of Ramsay.

No lithium was detected. No satisfactory explanation can at present be advanced for the difference in these experiments.”

Ramsay suggested that niton in the presence of water disintegrated into neon, instead of helium. As far as I’m aware, this experiment has never been confirmed by any other, but I consider it very unlike Ramsay to have simply dreamt-up a result. He also found niton in the presence of copper, produced argon gas, and in the copper solution – lithium. The density of the substance present appears to have insinuated the density of the gas thereby derived. Cameron and Ramsay both concluded that lithium was produced by the transformation of copper.

I end this post with a few words by Cameron on experiments by Ramsay, which procured carbon dioxide from substances using radon. These experiments convinced Ramsay that some substances are carbon compounds:


“More recently Ramsay has carried out an interesting series of experiments on salts of thorium and the other elements of its group, zirconium, titanium, and silicon. The element of the group -which has the lowest atomic weight is carbon (12). Thorium has the highest weight of the group (232*4). Ramsay considered it possible that the elements of this series under the action of radioactive bombardment might disintegrate, with the production of the lowest member of them, and in the presence of oxygen (from the nitrate) this would probably appear as carbon dioxide.

This result lends further support to the hypothesis that the carbon dioxide was not traceable to adsorption or to solution.

Solutions containing one or two grams of thorium, zirconium, titanium, and silicon salts were successively subjected to the action of large doses of niton (the adjective is of course purely relative, the maximum dose used being O’l c.mm.). In all cases after the emanation had decayed, the gases which had been produced contained carbon dioxide in amounts varying from 0*054 to Q’55 1 c.cm., amounts large enough to prevent any possibility of mistake in the analysis, and which appeared to be larger the greater the atomic weight of the element upon which the action was supposed to be produced.

Ramsay accordingly suggested that under such conditions as these, atoms of thorium, zirconium, etc., can actually be broken up and that among the products are atoms of the element carbon.”

Many thanks:

http://www.archive.org/stream/chemistryandatom003610mbp/chemistryandatom003610mbp_djvu.txt http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1904/ramsay-lecture.html
http://tomclegg.net/stars
http://www.carondelet.pvt.k12.ca.us/Moles/HeliumStoryA.htm
http://dwb.unl.edu/teacher/nsf/c04/c04links/www.fwkc.com/encyclopedia/low/articles/i/i012001292f.html http://www.archive.org/stream/sirwilliamramsay00chauuoft/sirwilliamramsay00chauuoft_djvu.txt Popular Science Aug 1895
Radioactive Substances and Their Radiations By E. Rutherford
http://promo.aaas.org/kn_marketing/pdfs/Science_1917_1102.pdf
http://www.gutenberg-e.org/rentetzi/chapter01.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B03E5DC1F30E233A2575BC1A96E9C946697D6CF
http://www.jstor.org/pss/93269
http://radium.totallyexplained.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium
http://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/9128/article_ri222148.pdf?sequence=4
http://www.vias.org/physics/bk4_03_01.html
http://www.ecn.ac.uk/Education/depressions.htm http://www.factopia.com/r/radium_aiton.html
http://www.3rd1000.com/elements/Radium.htm
http://www.archive.org/stream/alchemyancientmo00redgrich/alchemyancientmo00redgrich_djvu.txt http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Polonium
http://www.scribd.com/doc/19598092/Harnessing-Cosmic-Energy1
The Electrical Nature of Matter and Radioactivity By Harry Clary Jones
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Radium
http://www.np.ph.bham.ac.uk/research/anthropic.htm
http://www.blackcatsystems.com/GM/experiments/ex1.html
The Electrical Researches By J. Clerk Maxwell

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