One of my interests at ScienceThrillers.com is the role fiction and creative nonfiction can play in advancing scientific literacy. In other words, can a good story be used to teach science?
“His Majesty Xenon,” a short story by Sarah Gianakon, is part of a series of ScienceThrillers exclusive original works that combine creative writing and science. Enjoy how Sarah cleverly personifies an element and tosses all kinds of chemistry puns & tidbits into her tale. I did!
“From His Majesty Xenon, King of Xenopoulos, to His Subjects”
by Sarah Gianakon
A ScienceThrillers.com exclusive original story
My Loyal Peasants:
Recently, some caustic acid of contempt toward my exalted state has entered my orbit. A fair few of your number have been charging a compound of malicious tales that question my authority as your benevolent self-appointed king who has ruled over you all for billions of years. These would-be tyrants accuse me of “riding high with nothing to show”—not to my face, mind you—but as they bond under the influential pressure of alcohol absorption inside my kingdom’s bars and taverns. It just so happens that ethanol (C2H5OH), my top-secret and most revered covert operator in my entire kingdom of Xenopoulos, has reported to me every output from those twisted tongues.
Now I, a tolerant and compassionate monarch, had initially decided not to react to these radical delusions of unstable subjects. However, their numerous, ongoing lies, now diffused throughout the atmosphere, have led me to reconsider. Last night, as I paced my royal domain, I absorbed a newly launched insult from one of my agitators: “Xenon is four times as dense as air, so he can’t think!” With the help of my advisers, I concluded that I must address my right to remain king.
Although I cannot rival the claim to fame that Emperor Carbon and the Sovereign Mistress Oxygen can boast, or the many talents and victories of President Hydrogen, my energy output is remarkable, and I do possess my ample share of stunning triumphs. Thus, today, I will address my traitors’ accusations, scorch them with my blistering words, and continue to reign over Xenopoulos with my iron fist.
First off, as a noble gas, it only fits that you recognize me as your monarch and accept the five other noble gases, my closest relatives, as my stable advisers. My critics bellow that I, an inert gas, think of myself as “too far above other elements” to naturally react with them, and thus, characterize me as exceedingly arrogant, strutting about my castle. In defense, I praise myself as a monarch who dislikes forming bonds with selected elements of my population, as this would produce consternation among those not so favored. In addition, my presence is not easily detected since I am colorless and odorless. On the contrary, some of my most outspoken, heated irritants have quite an odor threshold! More importantly, however, my claim to the throne is unassailable because of my rarity. I take up only 0.1 parts per million in our entire atmosphere. That equals .000001 percent! This angle of observation confirms that I deserve elaborate respect, security, and admiration.
Furthermore, my allegiant serfs, you all know that my power is not based on fearfulness, but on essentiality. Do observe that a considerable part of human social life traces back to me. For instance, without me, people would not have the movie theaters that bring them those joyous vibrations. You know about those screens that enthrall them, those movies they discuss at the dinner table, and that actor who triggers those exhilarating squeals. It just so happens that I exist in those high-intensity arc lamps for motion picture projection. Also, without me, they would not have strobe lights. People love to use them in their theater productions, as their flashing light freezes a moving object. Obviously, show business cannot continue apart from me. In addition, consider the thrill of texting; I even coined the name for a famous cell phone line—yes, Xenon. Moreover, I function in quality flash cameras. I often wonder why I find myself behind the lens instead of in front of it. The paparazzi should chase me all day. Anyhow, you should see the point: I reside as a vital element in many common amusements.
I also serve the automobile industry. Of course, I accept rides only in the most sophisticated motor cars, like the Mercedes Benz, where I illuminate the road ahead with a clarity and brightness never before experienced, even by the most discriminating drivers. I perform in a jewel-like manner because my radiance in headlamps lasts three times longer than the halogen family, and unlike my base competitors, I do not contaminate the environment. I expect to dominate the transportation industry in the future, so rest assured that you will be hearing quite a bit about my talented output.
In addition to my growing popularity with the amusement and automobile industries, the medical field adores me. Two of my radioactive isotopes (xenon-127 and xenon-133) aid in a substantial medical advancement: studying the flow of blood through the brain and air through the lungs. As the patient inhales the radioactive gas through a tank, I move through the body, giving off radiation so doctors can tell whether the patient’s lungs are working properly. Now, another health-related victory for my faithful peasants to consider: I am highly praised for pain-free extractions of wisdom teeth and insertions of those awful stitches. I will soon vanquish inferior anesthetics, as I perform 50% more potently than the standard N2O! Clearly, I play quite a noble role in human well-being.
You see, I firmly believe that a monarch of my royal caliber should retain his crown by a solid record of accomplishments which accurately reflect my shinning and incorruptible value. Until a short fifty years ago, people considered me only as an inactive element, hence my Greek name, Xenon, translated “stranger.” Look how far I have come since then! I foresee myself playing major roles in many technological advancements within the next few decades that will further add to my list of radiant achievements.
So now, I summon any hopeful usurper: present whatever you have done against the extensive quality of my triumphs. If I come up short, I will happily yield to you my crown. However, if the production of your energy is judged as deficient, I will react with a negative charge: dismissing you to many moons of corrosion and isolation. I now conclude with this solemn admonition: to those of you with uncontrolled, twisted output, I advise that you discontinue your frequent bonding at my pubs and taverns; to those free radicals that disperse toxic, false charges, your years are numbered.
(aka King Xenon)