Pleased to announce I’m back on my bullshit. Welcome to the Bismuth Day Thread, home of the fighting bismuth. Please stop by the gift shop on the way out.
Bismuth is element #83, and occupies a weird place, as brought to my attention by Theo Grey’s The Elements – a coffee table-must for people who want to know about the stuff that stuff is made of. The elements immediately before bismuth – mercury, thallium and lead – are hideously toxic. The elements after it are all radioactive. But bismuth – pure, sweet, innocent bismuth – just wants to make you feel better.
Bismuth subsalicylate is the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol. Exactly how it works is still unknown to science. Don’t think too hard about it, Mr. Tuttle.
Metallic bismuth is just as delightful: As it cools, it forms crystals that look like the ruins of ancient alien ziggurats. It’s possible to make these at home over a stove – bismuth melts at 271.5 °C/520.7 °F – but for safety reasons, I don’t encourage it.
Sadly, bismuth isn’t forever. Long thought to be the heaviest stable element, bismuth has since been found to be very, very slightly radioactive, with a half-life of 20 billion years. That’s longer than the current age of the universe, but someday, all the bismuth will be gone. Cherish it while you can.