Tantalum is a rare, lustrous, blue-grey metal used as a substitute for platinum in alloys, but its main use is in capacitors used in everything from cell phones to computers. Tantalum is wonderfully chemically inert and does not absorb chemical solutions even when submerged. This characteristic led its discoverer to name it after Tantalus, a figure in Greek mythology who was punished by the gods to spend eternity submerged to the chin in water which would drain away if he tried to drink and tantalised (tantalise=Tantalus, get it?) by ripe figs hanging just above his head which would be blown out of reach if he tried to take one. Horrible fate to spend eternity suffering from unending hunger and thirst, but then Tantalus was a pretty horrible guy. He stole ambrosia from the gods and in exchange, served them dinner he concocted by sacrificing and boiling up his son Pelops. Ugh.

In its natural form, tantalum always occurs with niobium, named after his daughter (who wasn’t much better than her father by all accounts).

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