I had some free time recently, or maybe I was extremely bored. But I was wondering, what is the rarest element in the universe?
I thought this would be an easy question to answer.
Now I know that hydrogen, with one proton, one electron, and no neutrons, is the most common element. It is also the simplest. You can’t get any simpler than that, otherwise you won’t have an atom.
I figured that the rarest element should be one much more complicated with many electrons and protons.
I also knew the top contenders were probably Astatine and Francium, but I wanted to make sure and that there was not another element I overlooked.
So I decided to start my search by looking up this information in the Periodic Table of the Elements. And while it does include everything you wanted to know about individual atoms, it gives no information about the quantity of each atom thought to exist in the universe.
I didn’t own that many books on atomic, or sub-atomic, physics.
Then I decided to be smart (or maybe a little lazy). I simply Googled it on my laptop. In my naiveté, I thought this question would be easy to answer. After all, the Internet knows everything, doesn’t it?
In my quest I found out that there nothing more that I already knew. Nothing! Instead I found conflicting claims about Astatine and Francium, each just under an ounce existing at any one time on earth. Well, I have to admit, I did learn something. I learned another Greek word.
So Dear Reader, I apologize. still don’t know the answer. I am presenting both words for WWOD. The truth is out there. Maybe someone knows. Sounds like the introduction to the X-Files – go Scully!
Astatine [n. Element 85. A very rare element – just under 30 grams of this stuff is estimated to exist in the Earth’s crust. Named after the Greek word for unstable (astatos), which seems appropriate.]
Francium [n. Element 87. Another very rare element. It has been estimated that only 20-30 grams of this element exists at any time (the half-life of its longest-lived isotope is only 22 minutes).]