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Taking a shine to number 100

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2:52pm, May 28, 2003

Scientists have for the first time literally shed light on properties of the radioactive element fermium–a metal discovered some 50 years ago.

Spectroscopy, or the measurement of the wavelengths of light that materials emit or absorb, is a standard way to probe characteristics of materials, including what energy levels their electrons can assume. However, spectroscopy of heavy elements, such as artificially made fermium, element number 100, is difficult because such substances are scarce and decay soon after they're made.

Now, Harmut Backe and Norbert Trautmann of the University of Mainz in Germany and their colleagues report using their own particularly sensitive method to measure wavelengths of light absorbed by some of the elem

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