Expedition Flerovium (EN)

A short popular science story about the experiment

In memory of Anders

Anders had, for as long as he could remember, dreamed of exploring the world of nuclear physics, that is, the edges of the Chart of Nuclides. He was sitting on the ferry that had just left the harbor on the shores of Lead Peak. The course was aimed for Actinide Island, the starting point for this world’s discoverers. His dream was finally about to come true.

Behind Lead Peak, the Stability Mountains and its long mighty mountain range loomed. Anders had grown up a bit southwest along the Stability Mountains, at the latitudes around Tin. Here he had from early years been fascinated by nuclear physics’ nature. Nature radiated mainly from three different particles. These were called alpha, beta, and gamma particles. In our world, the alpha particles can be likened to large dolphins, the beta particles to clown fish, and the gamma particles to small plankton. The particles thrived well near sea level on the coasts but at their best in the depths of the sea. On the beaches and in the shallow water along the coasts, the alpha, beta and gamma particles were the slowest and red. The further from the coast you went and the sea became deeper, the faster the particles became. They turned yellow, green, blue and the fastest were purple.

It was the first time that Anders was as far northeast as Lead Peak. He had only heard of the Radioactive Strait over which he now traveled. Nature was very different here compared to that at the Stability Mountains. Instead of mostly beta and gamma particles, nature here radiated from alpha particles. The strait was very deep, and there was plenty of turquoise and even purple alpha particles. It was an exciting area, but already well explored.

Unlike the Stability Mountains, the Actinide Island, is an unstable lowland that is slowly falling apart. Far in the future, it would be covered by water. Sometimes strong blue light was also seen from the ground, a sign that it was collapsing. The Actinide Island was the host for many ports. It was from here that many of the discoverers of this world were based. All the time, different crews set out on expeditions in their ships. There were those who took advantage of southern fission winds, with which one could reach exotic seas southeast of the Stability Mountains. Others specialized in northern fusion winds that could lead the expedition to undiscovered areas in the northeast.

Anders had a special interest in these northern fusion winds. That was why he could not help but visit the Superheavy inn when he arrived to the Actinide Island. He takes a seat at the bar. Soon an elderly lady and gentleman take the seats next to him. They are talkative and Anders is grateful for that. Maria and Sven, as they are named, turn out to be experienced explorers. When Anders talks about his curiosity for northern expeditions, they get excited and Sven says “Finally! Here we have someone similar to us when we were young. There is so much exciting to explore. Have you heard the rumor of the Island of Stability?”. Anders had and Maria explains “As you know, we have been able to successfully connect the highest peaks along the Stability Mountains to special longitudes and latitudes. It was long ago predicted that there would be another island on the Chart of Nuclides. This island would be located northeast of the Actinide Island, at longitudes and latitudes not yet explored. Because our calculations showed that this mythical island could be more stable than the Actinide Island, it was named the Island of Stability.” Anders interjects: “So are you two of the famous explorers?” Sven and Maria nod. Wow, Anders thinks, here he gets a chat with two of the legends that had been told about when he was younger. Sven continues “According to our calculations, the island should lie along the 184th longitude and the 114th latitude, known as the Flerovium Latitude. With the development of faster boats and more sensitive measuring equipment, there are now discoverers who claim to have glimpsed the Island of Stability.” Anders is amazed, but still manages to say “I would like to be part of such an expedition”. Maria and Sven smile and Maria says “I suspected that. With such a forward-thinking spirit as you have, we will help you.”

Anders has left the inn and is now on his way to the eastern Plutonium harbor. According to Maria and Sven, Captain Didrik, whom Sven knew well, and their boat Lundium were moored there. The discoverers at Lundium had previously explored the sea around latitude 115 and were the first to measure gamma particles so close to the Island of Stability. Now they would set off on a new expedition with even more sensitive measuring equipment. While waiting for the strong north wind that was required to reach the distant Flerovium Latitude, Lundium was moored in the harbor.

In the harbor there is a lot of activity and many people in the vicinity of one specific boat and therefore Anders easily finds Lundium. He asks a person with a long beard who folds sails on the foredeck if he knows where the captain is. He replies “Yes, Captain Didrik, he is the one standing there in the stern and overlooking that everything is loaded properly.” Anders thanks and walks towards the stern. Before he has time to introduce himself, Captain Didrik says “Are you Anders?”. Maria or Sven had apparently already talked to Didrik. He continues “We may need reinforcements for our crew. Our faithful front deck crew member Per broke his leg and can not join. You’re in the nick of time. It is starting to blow up and we take off soon”.

In just one hour, Lundium has set out on the northeastern parts of the Sea of Instability. “Now we are finally on our way,” says Captain Didrik. Anders is introduced to Dan-Åke and Peter, the others in the crew. “Dan-Åke is the helmsman. Peter is our navigator. I myself am the captain and also responsible for the mainsail. Anders, you get to take care of things at the bow”, says Didrik. The roles are distributed and with the wind in the back they sail away. At first it is moderate winds and quite calm. Anders takes the opportunity to ask “How come there were so many involved in the loading?”. Peter answers “Although it was a bit stressful to get away, we have been planning and preparing for this expedition for several years. We are good sailors ourselves, that is why we are in the boat. The shipyard has performed invaluable upgrades to the boat’s keel. Sailmakers have tailored the fastest sails. Experts have developed the most sensitive measuring equipment. All this enables, together with us here at Lundium, that we can sail to the Flerovium Latitude and make exclusive measurements.” Anders says humbly, “What an honor to sail with you”.

After a few quiet days, it blows up properly and everyone is on full swing. Suddenly a thump is heard and the boat stops. Dan-Åke exclaims “There is something stuck in the rudder, I can not steer.” Anxiety erupts on deck but Anders acts quickly and takes the initiative to dive down to take a look. A large collection of seaweed had got stuck on the rudder and Anders is working fast to remove it. Time is of the essence. Captain Didrik praises “Good job Anders! Now we can continue to take advantage of the strong wind and take us as far northeast as possible.”

After a few tough days in gale force winds, the wind disappears completely and there is silence. Lundium has arrived at the Flerovium Latitude. All men, to the measuring instruments!”, shouts Captain Didrik. “Before the wind returns, we need to collect as much data as we can.” The measurements are going well, they get to see many blue alpha particles that confirm what previous expeditions have observed. At longitude 174, they suddenly see a new type of alpha particle, with a special hue of turquoise. They could hardly believe it was true. With a big smile on his face, Dan-Åke says “Wow, this was not something we expected”. Captain Didrik says that by placing the unique turquoise alpha particle on the map, you can see that the Island of Stability should not actually be along the Flerovium Latitude. Anders understands and adds: “It is thus rather found in more northern latitudes”. What a breakthrough discovery!

Peter looks more closely at the data collected and says after a while “I have more good news, it is quite shallow here and there is rock at the bottom”. Dan-Åke joins in “Wonderful, our sensitive measuring instruments really comes to use”. At a rapid pace, they stack stones from the bottom on top of each other and form a foundation. With additional materials, they build a lighthouse. When it is complete, Didrik, Peter and Dan-Åke eagerly head up the lighthouse. Anders is tall and stays on the ground. He believes he may glimpse the Island of Stability behind the fog on the horizon. Captain Didrik rounds off the successful Expedition Flerovium and proudly says “Now we have created a clear benchmark for all sailors after us. Maybe the lighthouse can help future expeditions to reach the mythical island.”

Captain Didrik along with the crew members Anders, Dan-Åke and Peter glance toward the Island of Stability. The Flerovium lighthouse has been painted by Sverker Holmberg.