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Essential Elements

34 35 thE fblock SuPErhEavIES enormous atoms and islands of stability At lanthanum, element fiftyseven, a 5d orbital starts to fill before something strange happens the next electron drops into a previously hidden 4f orbital inside the full 6s, 5s and 5p orbital sets, taking the electron from the 5d with it. The 5d orbitals wait patiently until the 4fs are full, apart from one halfway hiccup at gadolinium, where an electron flickers up to the 5d. Quietly spreading from lanthanum to lutetium the lanthanides, or rare earth metals, fill a fourteen place set of 4f orbitals. Overshadowed by their 5s and 5p sets, only subtle chemical differences are found in this series. The radioactive actinides play much the same trick, as two electrons begin a 6d orbital only to quit the job and turn within to fill a 5f orbital instead. Uranium is the last natural element artificially made atoms now fill a seventh of the periodic table. Beyond the fblock at rutherfordium, a fourth transition series starts filling a 6d orbital. These superheavy elements tend to be highly radioactive and unstable. Elements with up to 118 protons have been fleetingly created in particle accelerators. Around elements 114p ekalead or 184n there may possibly be rare islands of stability where a few isotopes with balanced nucleii have significant lifetimes of minutes rather than seconds. f block
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