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The Elements of Spam

If you're like me, you can't open your email without being bombarded by dozens of solicitations for products purporting to augment your physical, mental, or financial well-being.

By Sid MarkPublished 4 months ago 4 min read
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Lately I've even been subjected to a relatively new phenomenon: referral log spam. Spammers refer dummy traffic to your site, assuming that you'll check out their site in order to see where the traffic is coming from.

I can deal with all of these flavors of spam; I figure it's part of the cost of living in a free society. But lately a particularly insidious form of spam has come to my attention -- one that threatens to undermine the scientific foundations of our high tech society. I'm speaking, my friends, of element spam.

If you haven't taken a look at the Periodic Table of the Elements lately, you're in for a bit of a shock. Here's what it currently looks like:

Look at all that crap! I mean Niobium? We're supposed to believe that's an actual element? And Scandium? Seriously? There are dozens of these garbage elements on there. Seaborgium, Rutherfordium, Yttrium.... What a mess.

I've taken the liberty of marking the elements that are clearly spam. This took me like two minutes, and I'm not even a scientist.

It's like half spam! Antimony? I'm pretty sure that's a synonym for an ugly divorce, not a chemical element. And germanium? I made that word up. And now somehow it's made its way onto the Periodic Table? It was a joke, people!

If you'd like to see how bad things have gotten, this is what the Periodic Table looked like when my parents were kids:

They only had four elements, and they could still make pretty much everything they needed! I mean, they didn't have plastic or uranium, so they couldn't make cell phones, but that didn't keep them from beating the Nazis in World War II. It just took a few days for people back home to hear about it because they couldn't just text LS PWNED XS LOL! to their friends in the States.

Look, I'm no Luddite. I understand that we need cadmium to make cell phone batteries and lithium to treat our bipolar rock stars. But zirconium? Since when are we letting the Home Shopping Network add new elements?

What really grinds my gears is those newly discovered "elements" at the bottom that don't even have names. I mean, "Unnamed Discovery 1994"? Please. If that was a real element, somebody would have named it. I have the perfect name for a strange substance that inexplicably appeared in 1994: Ace of Base.

I did some research to verify my suspicion that a lot of those "elements" on the bottom of the chart are spam. According to Wikipedia, "californium" has a half life of 44 minutes. For you non-scientific types, that means that once you take a bowl of californium out of the fridge, you have 88 minutes to work with it before it goes completely bad. And my guess is that it starts to smell pretty funky after about 70 minutes.88 minutes! Even that crappy Al Pacino movie lasted 108 minutes. Hell, Viva Laughlin lasted longer than 88 minutes. Can you imagine being a scientist sitting down to do some experiments with californium, getting an important call on your uranium-powered cell phone, and then coming back to find that your californium is all hard and brown (or whatever happens to californium when it goes bad)? At $27 million per gram, that would be the most expensive cell phone call since the time Martha Stewart had that little five minute catch-up with her broker.

(Because californium has such a low "critical mass," there is even talk of using it to make "pocket nukes." Supposedly they haven't made any yet because each bomb would cost about $100 billion, but I'm guessing the chief argument against it is more along the lines of "You want me to put what in my pocket?")

So here are some new rules:

1. For a substance to qualify as an element, it has to outlive the theatrical run of From Justin to Kelly.

2. It has to have a name, and not just some silly made up name like Americium or Einsteinium.

3. It can't be basically the same thing as an already existing element. (That's right, aluminum. I'm talking to you. Or should I say "tin"?)

4. Fourth, it can't be a fictional element from a comic book, like Krypton, Vibranium or Vanadium. I mean, I love D&D; as much as the next guy, but even I know that "platinum" isn't real.

5. It can't be a flowering plant, like Alyssium, Rhodium or Lanthanum.

6. It can't be something created merely for commercial purposes, like zirconium or helium. (What's next? Techron? Retsyn?)

If we do a one time purge of all the obviously fake elements and then put in place a strict element spam filter, I think we should be able to keep the table down to 20 or 30 really solid elements. Well, some of them will be gases, but you know what I mean.

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Sid Mark

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