Monday, September 30, 2013

Countdown to Opening Night by the Elements: Number 1

We are at the end.  Fearless is down to the last element – actually the first – in the periodic table of the elements.


Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe.  It constitutes about 75 percent of the known mass of the universe and is the predominant element in stars.  Here on earth we know it as a gas in its native state that is plentiful (mostly as a constituent of water and organic molecules) and highly combustible.  It is highly flammable in air and will burn along a wide range of concentrations.  It can form explosive mixtures that may be ignited by electrical discharge, heat, or even sunlight.

Its discovery dates back to the late 1600’s when Robert Boyle, an Irish chemist (among other pursuits), who was fiddling around with iron filings and dilute acids.  The reaction produced hydrogen gas.  It would not be until almost a century later that Henry Cavendish, a British chemist and physicist, recognized the discrete nature of hydrogen, which he called “flammable air.”  This was part of that whole “phlogiston” theory thing (phlogiston being an element released as a result of combustion).  Despite that little detour down Peiodic Table Lane, Cavendish is credited with the discovery of hydrogen.  As for its name, that was the product of the French chemist Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, who name it “hydrogen,” a combination of the Greek words for water (“hydro”) and for creator (“genes”).

Hydrogen serves as an element to be consumed in a number of industrial processes, oil and chemical production being two of the most important.  It is also used in welding processes, in electricity generation, leak detection, and nuclear fission processes.  It can be found in automotive, chemical, power generation, aerospace, and telecommunications applications.

One of its most infamous applications was its use as the lifting gas in airships.  Its flammable characteristics revealed themselves with disastrous consequences when the airship Hindenburg exploded in flame as it was approaching its mooring mast at Lakehurst Naval Iar Station, New Jersey, following a trans-Atlantic flight. The accident on May 6, 1937 effectively ended the use of hydrogen gas in airships.

We are left, finally with the element of elements.  Hydrogen, with its simple atomic structure of a single proton and a single electron, is among the most important elements in the universe.  It is essential to life on earth, mostly as a constituent of water.  It is reactive, even flammable across a wide range of conditions.

In the end, it is not unlike a part of Capitals Nation that occupies a uniquely elemental place in the life of the franchise.  It is abundant and certainly reactive (especially when the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, or Pittsburgh Penguins come to town).  It is essential to the life of the franchise, for without it, nothing else results.

Hydrogen… the “Washington Capitals Fans” of the periodic table of the elements, the element from which all other elements derive and have purpose.

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