APS News

April 2004 (Volume 13, Number 4)

Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

The Historical Discovery of a New Element, Orodruinium*

By P. Legolas, Mirkwood Academy of Science

Abstract: The author sets forth experimental evidence for the discovery of a new chemical element, tentatively named Orodruinium. The curious properties of this new element are described.

1. Introduction: A careful reanalysis of Third Age historical documents provides evidence for a hitherto unknown chemical element. This evidence centers on an ancient artifact known as the Annulus Unus (One Ring). Unfortunately, this priceless antiquity was destroyed in an unfortunate ledge-dancing incident in 3019 TA¹ (which also claimed the life of one S. Gollum).

However, sufficient historical documentation remains to propose the existence of a new element, out of which the One Ring was composed, and to list the unique properties of this material.

2. Background: The One Ring was created by D.L. Sauron out of a substance once widely believed to be gold. The smelting was done in a forge inside the Sammath Naur, the central vent of a volcanic peak in Mordor known as Orodruin, or colloquially "Mount Doom." Orodruin has a central peak height of 4500 feet and a morphology commonly interpreted as belonging to the stratovolcano or composite cone classification (Fonstad, 1991). However, the lava of this volcano is widely known to be hotter than that of any other known terrestrial igneous structure and hence it was only in this specific lava that the One Ring could be destroyed (Gandalf and Elrond, 3018 TA)

The hottest known lavas are currently of the basaltic variety, with temperatures typically of 1300 -1450 K. (McEwen, 2002) Therefore the temperature of Orodruin's lava is, by definition, above this temperature range.

It is widely understood that basaltic flows usually produce the broad, gently sloping structures known as shield volcanoes, a distinctive morphology unlike that of Orodruin.

However, alkali basalts can produce massive cones such as Kilimanjaro in the East African Rift System (Gunn, 2003). The abnormally high temperature reported for Orodruin is reminiscent of that found in Io's volcanoes, where temperatures of approximately 1800K were measured by the Galileo spacecraft in 1997 (McEwen, 2002).

Such abnormally high temperatures are similar to those proposed for terrestrial volcanoes during the Paleoproterozoic and earlier ( age > 2 B yrs). Ancient terrestrial high temperature lavas appear rich in magnesium, as Galileo data suggests are those of Io (McEwen, 2002). Therefore, ultramafic lavas could explain the unusual temperatures reported for Orodruin. However, it is possible that the presence of an element other than magnesium might be responsible for the distinctive thermal properties of Orodruinian lava-namely the proposed element. It is for this reason that this new element has been dubbed "Orodruinium".

3. Properties of Orodruinium:
Abundance—Orodruinium has only been reported in Orodruin, hence making it the rarest of terrestrial elements. Its extraterrestrial abundances are unknown, although it appears to not be an important component in known meteorites.

Melting point—This is estimated to be approximately 1800 K, based on the previous discussion on Orodruinian lava.

Atomic mass—Orodruinium is the only known element to have a variable atomic mass. Experimental evidence supplied by F. Baggins (Gamgee: 60 FA) attests to astounding changes in the apparent mass of the One Ring. This is corroborated by private communications from B. Baggins (Gandalf). Curiously, the atomic mass seems inversely proportional to the distance between the One Ring and Orodruin. The actual relationship may be more correctly an inverse square law, however the paucity of experimental evidence does not allow for a more precise definition.

Elastic properties—Orodruinium has elastic properties greater than any other known solid element. Experimental evidence provided by B. Baggins (personal communication with W. Gandalf) demonstrates that the One Ring "shrank or expanded in an odd way." Further evidence is provided by the fact that the One Ring was apparently able to snugly fit the fingers of any of five individuals of various biological types —D.L. Sauron (Maia diabolus), F. Baggins, B. Baggins, S. Gollum ( Homo sapiens periannath)², and K. Isildur (Homo sapiens numenorean)—in a matter of seconds. These remarkable elastic properties deserve further study, resulting in undoubtedly numerous tech- nological applications.

Stability—Orodruinium is at least approximately stable over the observed lifetime of the One Ring (5860 years). However, there is evidence suggesting that the element does emit harmful radiation of a possibly unknown variety.

Four of the six individuals who were in the possession of the One Ring suffered from troubling symptoms reminiscent of radiation poisoning, including hair loss, weight loss, reduction in appetite, insomnia, and in the most extreme case (S. Gollum) the severe malformation of limbs and facial features. The most curious physiological effect seems to be an uncomfortable and unnatural longevity, described by one victim (B. Baggins, personal communication with W. Gandalf) as feeling "thin and stretched." Victims of Orodruinium exposure also suffer from psychological effects, ranging from simple irritability to paranoia, multiple personality disorder, and occasional hallucinations of disembodied eyes wreathed in flames. The most extreme case (S. Gollum) also involved a curious and pathological misuse of first person pronouns, suggesting that Orodruinium affects the areas of the cerebral cortex found by Sakai et al. (2001) to control grammatical structure.

The effects seem to rely on a cumulative dosage, with those of longer exposure suffering the greatest effects. The exception seems to be D.L. Sauron, who was in possession of the One Ring for 1841 years (compared to S. Gollum's 487 years, B. Baggins' 60 years, and F. Baggins' 18 years3)

However, since there is no evidence as to D.L. Sauron's baseline physiological and psychological parameters prior to possessing the One Ring, conclusions cannot be drawn. S. Gamgee, who was only directly exposed to the One Ring for several hours, suffered no known ill effects. Given the evidence presented above, it is recommended that Orodruinium be classified as a hazardous material.

Optical properties—Among the most important of Orodruinium's characteristics is its curious optical property; namely its ability to render the wearer of the One Ring invisible. This experiment has been replicated numerous times and in various locations, for example the Gladden Fields (Isildur, 2 TA), Erebor (Smaug, 2941 TA) and Orodruin (Gamgee, 60 FA).

Once again, D. L. Sauron appears to have been exempt from this optical effect. A reason for this apparent inconsistency has thus far eluded the author. Communications with Valinor have failed to produce another Maia4 willing to duplicate the experiment.

4. Conclusions:
Evidence for the existence of a new element can be found in the historical literature surrounding the Annulus Unus (One Ring). The distinguishing properties of this element have been well documented but many remain unexplained. Further field work at Orodruin is required to isolate Orodruinium from its parent lava and study its properties in a controlled environment.
—Article submitted by Kristine Larsen on behalf of P. Legolas.

1 The Chronology of the Westlands is used wherever relevant, with TA = Third Age and FA = Fourth Age.
2 The taxonomical designation of Hobbits as belonging to Homo sapiens was widely studied by J. Tolkien. See for example Carpenter, 1981: 158.
3 P. Jackson debates the 18 year timing of F. Baggins' contact with the One Ring, suggesting instead an exposure time of only 18 months.
4 W. Gandalf, Maia mithrandir, refused an earlier offer to handle the One Ring.

H. Carpenter, ed. (1981) The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).
K. Fonstad (1991) The Atlas of Middle-earth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).
S. Gamgee (60 FA) Red Book of Westmarch, privately published.
W. Gandalf (3008 TA) Private communication with B. Baggins.
W. Gandalf and L. Elrond (3018 TA) Council Report on the Ramifications of the Recovery of Isildur's Bane (Imladris: Rivendell Press).
B. Gunn (2003) Geochemistry of Igneous Rocks (eText) .
K. Isildur (2 TA) On the Unreliable Nature of Magic Rings (published posthumously) (Imladris: Rivendell Press).
A. McEwen (2002) "Active Volcanism on Io", Science 297: 2220-1.
K. Sakai, R. Hashimoto, and F. Homae (2001) "Sentence Processing in the Cerebral Cortex," Neuroscience Research 39: 1-10.
D. Smaug (2941 TA) Memoirs of a Dragon (published posthumously) (Dale: Bard Press).
*Funding provided by the Gondorian Department of Defense.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette

April 2004 (Volume 13, Number 4)

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Several APS Members Receive Honors
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Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
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