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Elements & Superheros - Life, The Universe and Everything

Elements & Superheros (part 2)

Ok, here comes part 2.

Before I go any further I need to give you the background of two strange events that happened to me…

Firstly why the number 42?

Incidentally…as I am writing this we are going through one of the biggest financial crisis since 2008 and the world is also facing a possible pandemic of the coronavirus. This is happening exactly 42 years ago to the day that the very first broadcast of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was aired on radio, and what is written on the front of the Guide in large friendly letters? DON’T PANIC! And what do we see everywhere, people panicking!!! And buying toilet rolls!!! Too much of them! Please stop.

I digress…

Why 42?

One of the most successful and greatest science fiction books ever written was by Douglas Adams, called ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. I read it when I was young and it helped to get me through this crazy world, and it was one of the things that made me like life.

The number 42 is the answer given by the supercomputer ‘Deep Thought’ to the question of ‘What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?’ (Incidentally, that’s what Elements Kapa is all about). The problem is, you can’t understand the answer because the question is too vague. So an even bigger computer had to be built to work out what the right question was. It was massive (the size of a planet) and an organic matrix was built into its programming and this computer was called the ‘Earth’ (nice… ‘Earth’ was one of the original four elements).

Now, here comes the connection – While I was working on the south coast of England, testing people for cholesterol and raising the awareness of heart disease, one of my co-workers informed me that we were invited to a party. As we drove to the house he was trying to explain to me that it belonged to the mother of a very famous science fiction writer who wrote a book about travelling around the universe. It was a while before I put two and two together and realised that I was on the way to a party where I might… possibly… get to meet the famous Douglas Adams!! I was in a wide eyed daze!

It was a beautiful house in the countryside. I remember walking into her library and seeing first-hand, limited edition, leather bound signed copies of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was mesmerized. I got to meet his brother and his sister but unfortunately the man himself couldn’t make it (probably lucky for me because I don’t think I could have strung two coherent words together).

Anyhow… years later Douglas Adams tragically died of a heart attack and the world lost one of the best comic science fiction writers of our time. I sometimes fantasize that I could have met with him, talked about his cholesterol level and the risk of heart disease and maybe…just maybe… saved my superhero… but that was not to be. He is sadly missed.

So why does 42 keep turning up in the game and in my life? Firstly, please Google the number 42 because it pops up in a surprising number of ways. Here’s a couple of examples that struck me. Firstly- We were going to call my son Orion and I later found out that the Orion Nebula is also known as Messier 42. Secondly- my partner Ruth’s favourite thing in the universe is a rainbow, and rainbows can only be seen when light strikes it at the correct angle which is 42 degrees.

Another weird set of coincidences are these…When I was young I used to wonder (amongst many other things) what would happen if you dug a hole straight through the Earth and jumped in?… well… you would burn to death of course. However, hypothetically if the tunnel wasn’t filled with white hot, liquid rock and there was a vacuum so there was no wind resistance…. somebody worked out that if you jumped into that hole, it would take you 42 minutes to make the journey from one end of the Earth to the other. I wonder if Elon Musk pondered the same crazy thought. At the moment his Boring Company is developing the Hyperloop, basically a tunnel in a partial vacuum where some kind of vehicle can take you from A to B (so you can totally avoid C). I wonder if Elon Musk was inspired by this same 42 minute journey, because I know that one of his heroes is Douglas Adams. The Tesla car launched into space by his company SpaceX (X-Men…nice?) carried a towel (which is a vitally important piece of equipment if you wish to hitch hike around the galaxy), a copy of the Hitch Hikers Guide in the glove box and the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ written on the satnav. The car was launched in 2017 which was the same year I finally finished the artwork for the cards.

Now, where does 42 come into the periodic table of the elements?

Molybdenum has the atomic number 42 and is the last element to be found on the table before the first element that was made in a laboratory, making it an important marker in the structure of atoms. The next element is number 43 named technetium, which means artificial. In 1871, Mendeleev predicted this missing element and some of its properties.

42 keeps cropping up in all sorts of superhero films. I will start listing them in another blog but my favourite example, because of a bizarre tangle of coincidences, is in the blockbuster Deadpool. We find out that Deadpool’s first confirmed kill was number 42 and he drives around in a yellow taxi with (you guessed it) 42 on the side. Now when I was designing the character for Molybdenum I put two swords down his back based on the fact that there was a very famous…….stop press!!!

Ok I’ve just got to stop there for a second. This whole blog is about strange coincidences and one has just happened in real time that has blown my mind… follow this –

I’m writing this using predictive text and I said ‘two swords’ but predictive text spat it out ‘Tussauds’….which makes me think that the improbability drive on the Heart of Gold is working overtime because Madame Tussauds is my next subject…and I’m not making this stuff up!!!!

What I was trying to say was – when I was designing molybdenum I put two swords attached to his back in honour of the swordsmith Masamune. Deadpool is equipped the same, and this is pure wonderful coincidence…here is the card:


Anyway… back to Molybdenum… the famous Japanese master swordsmith, Masamune, used molybdenum as a secret ingredient in the forging of his swords. He took his secret method to his grave and it was only just recently discovered what metal he had used to make his swords particularly strong and sharp. Now as I write this I am beginning to remember how many strange coincidences there are, so I am going to have to do this in byte sizes but I will leave you with this. At the beginning of Deadpool 2 which was one of the most successful superhero films of all time, we find our hero in his kitchen about to blow himself up. As the camera pans past the kitchen fridge you can see a card with the symbol ‘Ho’ on it. When I saw the film I ask myself “what on earth is an element doing on the fridge?” It turns out that the element is holmium, element number 67. Incidentally 6 x 7 is 42… I looked into it and discovered that it was originally known as ‘element X’ …hence the connection with the X-Men….the camera then turns to a figurine of Wolverine AKA ‘Logan’ played by Hugh Jackman, slowly revolving on a music box.

The next blog is going to reveal what I was doing at the Madame Tussauds factory and who I was body double for… you will then begin to see the net closing in on coincidences that will connect one of the most bizarre elements on the table and all the things I’ve just mentioned…. see you next time.


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Element of the Month - Phosphorus

Featured Element (Feb. 2020)

I’ve chosen phosphorus as ‘Element of the Month’ for this month.

The reason…I am developing a book at the moment (so watch this space), the book is about the elements in our bodies, and in at number 6 is phosphorus. I was researching how certain living organisms glowed in the dark –  fireflies in particular, and they made it into the news this week.

Phosphorus is an incredibly important element for our bodies. It is the backbone of your DNA and supplies us with energy packets in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Phosphorus means the ‘light bearer ’because when discovered by alchemists (who boiled down and concentrated their urine….yuck!!), they discovered that it glowed an eerie green

Elemental phosphorus is found in two major forms, red phosphorus and white phosphorus, but because it’s very reactive, phosphorus is never found as a free element here on Earth.

While drawing up the artwork for the book I wanted to know if phosphorus had anything to do with the chemistry of how certain living things (insects, fungus, bacteria etc.) that glowed in the dark, and indeed fireflies use ATP as the energy packet which can fire up a chemical reaction which allows them to glow with a brilliant green light. And it was this week that I discovered that fireflies are suffering because of tourism! It’s fantastic to be able to see them at night-time but groups of tourists are using torches (that confuses them) and worse still – walking on and crushing egg carrying females that are on the floor. So if you ever get a chance to see this amazing natural spectacle…no torches and watch from a distance.

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Elements & Superheros - Thor's hammer

Elements & Superheros (part 1)

Do you believe in magic or science? Mathematical probability or mind boggling coincidence?

Or like me… are you in that grey area, where both could exist?

I’m going to give you some examples of some very strange coincidences that have arisen ever since I’ve been developing Elements Kapa.

In the beginning

First – a bit of background of how it all began….

Twenty years ago, while I was working in Australia on the Gold Coast, I was over at my boss’s house having a barbecue and I was watching with interest as his son and his friend were deeply engrossed in a game of Pokémon. I didn’t know much about the game but I was amazed at how much useless information they were absorbing and I instantly thought that it was a shame that the information that was flooding their mind was fictional rather than fact. Why couldn’t the characters be superheroes with powers of something like… like… the elements? Something real, something scientific, something that could really help them when they step into their first chemistry lesson.

I thought: “Okay… I’ll do it.” So I bought a book about the Periodic Table of the Elements, a sketch pad and pencils… and I was off.

Now there’s a coincidence

So… there is your first coincidence. “Gold Coast”… gold is an element… no? …. Ok, don’t worry, I can (and will) do a lot better than that!!!

Anyway, I had the idea and I started developing conceptual sketches over a period of months. My boss had a small fleet of Mobile blood screening vans that roamed the outback of Australia, raising the awareness of Heart disease.

I’d often be sitting in the van waiting for the next victim to arrive so I could steal a drop of blood from them, wait a few minutes for the results and then waffle on about the benefits of antioxidants and a Mediterranean style diet. So during those lazy minutes (sometimes hours) I would read and sketch… and the more I worked at it this new project the more I thought that I was onto something!

On the back burner

Anyhow… I’m the king of unfinished projects. I was young, restless and wanted fun, adventure and really wild things. So the sketch pad stayed at the bottom of my rucksack and finally after 13 years of travel I returned home and the sketch pad made its way to the bottom of my wardrobe. But the idea was not forgotten!

Time marches on

About 6 years ago go when my partner (Ruth) and I were home schooling our two children (Logan and Harry) I had the idea that my superhero/elements card game could be a great project to finally get stuck into, so I dug out the old sketches, put them up on the wall and start developing the game in earnest. Six years later the final game was printed.

But, enough of the background… You want to know about the weird coincidences!

More coincidences

So, here’s the first one…

While developing the game, I discovered that the last element to be named at the time was element 112 – Copernicium (my surname is Cope). Now, of course I haven’t discovered any elements, but I must admit I thought it was rather cool to discover my surname hidden in the last element on the Periodic Table. Furthermore… the name ‘Cope’ means ‘a maker of capes and cloaks’. Well I always thought that was rather dull, but once I had made the connection that my game was based around superheroes and the number one piece of costume attire for a superhero is a ‘Cape’!

What’s in a name?

This in turn lead me to want to discover the origins of my surname, and it turns out to have its root in old Norse, (Thor’s native language – Thor wears a cape, is a superhero in Marvel and there is an element names Thorium). And that word is Kapa… so this nice triangle of coincidences lead me to choose the name Kapa for the game. It was only later that I discovered that ‘Kapa’ is an acronym for ‘Knowledge At the Point of Action’ and the whole game is based around knowledge, and what is more point of action than an atom?

It was at this point that I realised a few strange coincidences were taking place and these bizarre happenings began to increase and over the next few months I’m going to put them down in this blog and I will let you decide if it is just a pure mathematical coincidence or whether something more magical is moving.

The coincidences are based around 4 things:

The number 42, Nordic mythology and of course Superheroes and Elements.

To be continued…

So… I hope you liked this first instalment. I’m off to start trying to remember all the weird connections! Cos there is a lot of them and they get stranger and stranger…

On a foot note: Kapa, according to the Urban Dictionary means ‘a scruffy individual’, and I’ve never been known for my sense of fashion…!

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Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival

I just wanted to say thank you to Herstmonceux for an incredible weekend at their astronomy Festival. It was a year ago when we first launched the cards at Herstmonceux and we repeated it again this year. We also performed our first show about superheroes and the elements to a very enthusiastic crowd. I thought they were going to put us in one of the tents but instead we did the talk in a disused copper domed Observatory.

It had the wonderful coincidence because it was in one of these that MegaMind and Metro Man fought each other  in the superhero cartoon film that pits knowledge against superpowers! So it was the perfect setting for our talk. We also had some fun with the Stormtroopers who eventually took my Thor hammer and confiscated it. But I eventually got it back and as I finally left on the Sunday afternoon carrying said hammer it started to thunder and lightning, perfect!!! I have been invited back again next year and hope to expand the show and add more demonstrations. So thanks again Herstmonceux and I recommend their festival weekend as an incredible way to view the stars in this iconic and legendary venue.

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150 Years of the Periodic Table

There has been a lot of beautiful and strange coincidences that have manifested themselves while I have been developing the game. Least of all is that by pure beautiful coincidence it just happens to be the official year of the periodic table of the elements, because it was 150 years ago that Dmitri Mendeleev finally handed over his periodic table of the elements. Born in Russia 1834 Mendeleev’s biography deserves some mention. He’s is a story of survival, struggle and genius . A mention must be made of his mother who recognised his abilities and when he was 15 took him on a 1000 mile journey to try and get him into a university. He was denied a place at Moscow but eventually made it to St Petersburg where they accepted him . Tragically shortly afterwards his mother died.

There were many people who were involved in the foundations of the periodic table of the elements but it was Mendeleev who added the finishing touches. He claimed to have envisaged the complete table in a dream. His real daring was to leave out spaces in the table that didn’t fit his hypothesis and have the courage to say that those spaces would be filled with elements that would be discovered in the future…and he was right. Not only that… he was to be able to estimate their atomic weights and their properties!

For me it was pure luck that we have launched our game on the same year as in the periodic table’s 150th birthday as being celebrated around the world as one of the most important Concepts and discoveries in science.

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