Element 109 was discovered in 1982. It was originally named Unnilennium. In 1997, element 109 was renamed ‘Meitnerium’ in honor of Austrian physicist Lise Meitner.

Lise Meitner partnered with Otto Hahn in the discovery of nuclear fission. Lise Meitner was ‘overlooked’ by the Nobel Committee when they awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Chemistry to Otto Hahn.

by Jean Back


Sitting at #48 in the periodic table, cadmium is flashy, cheap and toxic– just like a bad boyfriend who charms his way into your life and never leaves.  “C’mon baby, let’s just hang out.”  Next thing you know, kidneys get lazy, lungs grow sluggish and bones get soft. If you’re lucky, it stops with short-term degeneration called cadmium blues; if not, you could die.

Cadmium preys on children who, with their low body weight, are particularly susceptible. When the US banned further use of lead in toys in 2008, Chinese manufacturers simply substituted cadmium.

With lots of well-connected political friends in the industry, cadmium continued to lurk behind the scenes until mid-2010 when 12 million cadmium-tainted Shrek glasses were recalled from McDonalds. Seems cadmium was found in the red and yellow paint.  Reports revealed that a six-year -old who touches such a glass eight times in one day has been exposed to hazardous levels of the carcinogen.

Covert and evasive, cadmium has so far dodged enhanced testing and higher safety standards.  Only in California has a bill made its way through the legislature requiring tough cadmium testing on childrens’ products sold in the state. Sad to say, testing doesn’t begin until 2012.


Artists have long been smitten with a color, cobalt blue, that traveled from the mines of Persia to China.  Persians used a cobalt glaze for the blue tiles of their mosques to represent the heavens.  Thank Jacques Thenard, a 19th century French scientist, for purifying cobalt into a pigment useable in paintboxes.

Unun etc.

According to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry,  “Elements with atomic numbers 112 and above have been reported but not fully authenticated.”

Actually, they need to update: 112 is now Copernecium.

My table shows them on the bottom row, labeled ununtrium, ununquadium, etc. through ununoctium. Basically, “no name 13” through “no name18.”

I chose to represent them with a series of hand-dyed solids, graded from light through dark, featuring only the atomic numbers.

numbers stenciled with Lumiere

hand dyed fabrics 

114 may eventually be named for Japan--if so, I am ready with an addition!


Being a word lover, I ‘m always interested in where the names come from. Nickel (little Nick) was the name of a mountain spirit in Germany. He lived in the copper mines, and sometimes played tricks on the miners. For instance, some copper ore would not yield any copper, so the miners blamed that on the spirit and called it “nickel copper.”

Eventually, another metal was found in that ore, and of course, it became nickel.

It’s used in stainless steel.