Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Countdown to Opening Night by the Elements: Number 34

There are 34 days to Opening Night of the 2013-2014 NHL season, and lookee here…we’re down to 34 in Fearless’ countdown of the elements…


Selenium is one of those elements that are like another.  It is like sulfur in that it replaces sulfur in some metal ores.  It is like tellurium in that it produces compounds that have odors similar to those containing tellurium.  Depending on whether heated or cooled, it can take the form of a brick-red colored powder,  black bead-like particles, or a soft gray-colored substance.

The name “selenium” comes from the Greek word, “selene,” meaning “moon.”  It was given this name by one of its discoverers --  Jöns Jakob Berzelius – because of its similarity to tellurium, which was named for “earth.”  It has six naturally occurring isotopes (one of which has a half-life of 327,000 years) and has had 23 other other isotopes identified.  It takes a variety of forms.

Although something of a rare mineral, one can find selenium in a variety of places.  It occurs in a variety of inorganic forms and replaces sulfur in a number of metal ores.  It can be found in several amino acids, it is at times found concentrated in plants, and can be a product of coal burning.

It has a number of applications, including: glass production (where it provides a red color), replacing lead in some brass manufacture, production of solar cells, rubber production, photocopying, and X-ray crystallography.  It also can be found as an active ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos (as anyone who saw the abominable move, “Evolution,” could tell you) and as an anti-fungal agent.

Biologically, it is an essential nutrient (although it can be toxic in large quantities), playing a role in the function of the thyroid gland and in reducing the effects of mercury toxicity.  As an essential nutrient, it can be found in a number of foods, including: seafood and meat, nuts, cereals, and eggs.

What we have here is an uncommon element that can be found in a number of places, in a number of forms, with a variety of applications, and that is essential to healthy function.  Sounds like a player who might be an important cog because he can play a variety of positions in a range of situations.  So what we have here is…

Selenium… the “Brooks Laich” of the periodic table.