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Element of the Month - Phosphorus

Element of the Month (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. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51398485

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. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-and-why-do-fireflies/ 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 (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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