Thursday, September 05, 2013

Countdown to Opening Night by the Elements: Number 25

We are down to number 25 in Fearless’ epic voyage through the periodic table of the elements and its relationship to Washington Capitals, present and past, here and gone.  He assures me this is a good one…


Up until now, our look at the Washington Capitals and their counterparts in the periodic table of the elements has been rather straight-forward. The qualities and characteristics of the elements have their counterparts among the Caps.  Element number 25 – Manganese – is a little bit different. 

Yes, it is a rather common element, found in many minerals and often in combination with iron.  In fact, it resembles iron in appearance, a silver-gray metal.  It is, however, more brittle.  It is also similar to iron in that it has wide biological importance, being a trace nutrient required by all living organisms, present in many enzymes and acting as a toxin-fighting element, among other uses.

Its history is somewhat unique and very interesting, though. In the dim mist of ancient history, in Magnesia (what is now a part of modern Greece), two minerals of black appearance were called “magnes” (Magnesia…magnes…get it?), each thought to be different genders of the same substance.  One was found to attract iron (the “male” version), the other without powers of attraction but used to decolorize glass (the “female” version).

It is the “female” version of the substance that is of interest (hey, this gender thing was not my idea).  It was later renamed “magnesia,” then “manganesium,” then “manganese,” and finally “manganese.”
(Fearless, is there a point to this?)

Moving on… the choice of name is the interesting part. As we noted, “manganese” comes from “Magnesia,” a part of what is now modern Greece.  More precisely, it is a part of the region of Greece known as Thessaly on the eastern coast along the Aegean Sea.  It is an important region in Greek mythology.  In Homer’s “Odyssey,” Odysseus comes upon Aeolia (an ancient name for Thessaly) in his journey.  It is also the home of the mythical hero Jason, who took off with his band of Argonauts on a quest for the Golden Fleece. Lemnos, Thrace, Colchis, Crete – they hit all the tourist spots.

So, to recap… an element that resembles iron and even has some similar applications, but which is more brittle.  It is named for a region of the world from which some of the most famous mythical travels occurred and that travelers frequented.  It brings to mind a player who might resemble another, if not quite as sturdy… sort of like a backup goaltender.  It also can be linked to great journeys, much like a goaltender who takes the circuitous route to the NHL, say, from the Czech Republic to Plymouth, Michigan; to Windsor, Ontario; to Oshawa, Ontario; to Charleston, South Carolina, to Hershey, Pennsylvania; to Washington, D.C.; all in the space of four years.

Even Jason would have been exhausted.

Manganese…the “Michal Neuvirth” of the elements of the periodic table.