Chemical Poems: Ytterbium

Chemical Poems: Ytterbium

Author: Mario Markus

To date, 118 chemical elements have been found. Professor Mario Markus, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany, takes a look at each element, presenting a poem based on its natural properties along with a scientific overview of each element.

All 118 poems – as well as some poems about elements that only exist in theoretical simulations – are published in the book Chemical Poems: One On Each Element by Mario Markus. ChemViews magazine will publish a selection of these poems over the next months.




Silvery metal. Density: 6.97 g/cm³. It was discovered in 1878 by the Swiss scientist Galissard Charles de Marignac in the mineral Gadolinite.
The name comes from Ytterby, a mine in Sweden where ytterbium, terbium, erbium, and yttrium were first found in minerals.

Its electrical resistance increases tenfold when raising the pressure from 16,000 to 40,000 atmospheres, and suddenly falls to one hundredth of the value when the pressure is further increased [1]. This property of ytterbium has been used to measure pressure waves due to nuclear explosions, for example of the bombs “Trinidad”, “Little
Boy” and “Fat Man” in 1945, “Hurricane” in 1952 and “Smiling Buddha” in 1974.

[1] R. A. Stager, H. G. Drickamer, Science 1963, 139, 1284.


The instant
that appears
without existing,
as no one could witness
its passage.
And there are
neither verbs
nor adjectives,
for the mouth of the giant
that pronounced them
fell to pieces.
The moment of “Fat Man”,
“Smiling Buddha”,
“Little Boy”.

The instant
in which Ytterbium,
hidden in the mountain,
tells us that death
forty thousand


Professor Mario Markus, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany.


Mario Markus Chemical Poems; one On Each Element

Chemical Poems – One On Each Element,

Mario Markus,

Dos Madres Press 2013.

ISBN: 978-1-933675-98-5
Perfectbound, 308 pages, English, $30


Interview with Mario Markus:  Poetry and Chemistry,
ChemistryViews 2013.

The poems have also been published in German in:


See all poems published so far by ChemistryViews.

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