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"My feeling is that the chance of our surviving into the twenty-first century as working civilization is less than fifty percent but greater than zero."
- Isaac Asimov

Illyrion  
  Super-heavy and super-stable elements with atomic numbers greater than 296.  

"Mouse, what does Illyrion mean to you?"

He considered. "An Illyrion battery makes my syrynx play. I know they use it to keep this moon's core hot. Doesn't it have something to do with the faster-than-light drive?"

Mouse, there is noticeably less Illyrion in your syrynx battery, by a factor of twenty or twenty-five, than there is, let's say, radium in the fluorescent paint on the numerals of a radium dial watch. How long does a battery last?"

"They're supposed to go to fifty years. Expensive as hell."

"The Illyrion needed to keep this moon's core molten is measured in grams. The amount needed to propel a starship is on the same order. To quantify the amount mined and free in the Universe, eight or nine thousand kilograms will suffice...

"Katin, what is Illyrion?"

"Psychophysics 74 and 75. I went to the library. The best definition is the one given by Professor Plovnievsky in his paper presented at Oxford in 2238 before the theoretical physics society. I quote: 'Basically, gentlemen, Illyrion is something else.' One wonders if it was a happy accident from lack of facility with the language, or a profound understanding of English subtlety. The dictionary definition, I believe, reads something like, ' ...general name for the group of trans three-hundred elements with psychomorphic properties, heterotropic with many of the common elements as well as the imaginary series that exist between 107 and 255 on the periodic chart.'

"You know that as you mount the chart of atomic numbers past 98, the elements become less and less stable, till we get to jokes like Einsteinum, Californium, Fermium with half lives of hundredths of a secondó and mounting further, hundredths of thousandths of a second. The higher we go, the unstable. For this reason, the whole series between 100 and 298 were labeledó mislabeledó the imaginary elements. They're quite real. They just don't stay around very long. At 296 or thereabouts, however, the stability begins to go up again. At three hundred we're back to a half-life measurable in tenths of a second, and five or six above that and we've started a whole new series of elements with respectable half-lives back in the millions of years. These elements have immense nuclei, and are very rare. But as far back as 1950, hyperons had been discovered, elementary particles bigger than protons and neutrons. These are the particles that carry the binding energies holding together these super nuclei, as ordinary mesons hold together the nucleus in more familiar elements. This group of super-heavy, super-stable elements go under the general heading of Illyrion. And to quote again the eminent Plovnievsky, 'Basically, gentlemen, Illyrion is something else.'

Technovelgy from Nova, by Samuel R. Delany.
Published by Doubleday in 1968
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