Holmium

Character – HoHolger – Stripper with the Masters of Disguise

 

Holger is a strikingly attractive Swedish giant. A former synchronised swimming champion, his hobby is all-weather outdoor swimming, but he has to find other ways to make a living.

 

Extract from The Chemical Reaction

 

The scent of sweet gale, Myrica, put Holger in mind of happier times: endless summers spent on the family island, a rocky comma with barely enough room for their summer house. More of a shack than a house, it stood in the middle of the island, between the home-made sauna at one end and the wood store at the other, beside a sheltered deepwater mooring for their little boat. 

It was here he learned to swim. As he gained confidence in the water, he swam from island to island, increasing the distance to outswim his elder brothers, uncle and father. Extending the season, swimming in all weathers. The sea temperature didn’t bother him; so long as the water remained liquid, he would swim. After Mälaren, swimming pools never felt quite right; he detested the heat, the chlorine and the confinement, although it had won him medals and allowed him to make a living for a time.

The sunlight bounced off a thin crust of ice at the edge of the lake, but the water flowed freely towards Stockholm and the Baltic Sea. Light was both good and bad. It made it easier to see what he was doing, avoiding flashlights which might be investigated by curious soldiers. But it also made him more visible.

He was hard to miss in any light. Standing six feet eight, with size 48 feet and great paddles for hands was bad enough, but the shock of pure white hair that stuck up straight, like a shaving brush, made him hard to forget. Which was why he wore a wetsuit with full hood and kept low, sticking to the water.

 

Emperor Qianlong Jade Treasure – White Elephant

Jade elephant

A Large White Jade ‘Elephant and Vase’ Group Qing Dynasty, 1759, Qianlong Period 17 cm
Inscriptiom – taiping youxiang, yutang fugui – may there be peace and may your noble house be blessed with wealth and honour.

Holmium metal – Atomic number 67, atomic mass 164.930

Ho

Named after Holmia, the Latin name for Stockholm (one of the most beautiful cities I know), Holmium was first isolated  by Swedish chemist Per Theodor Cleve in 1878.

Holumium can be used in used in lasers, magnets and control of nuclear reactors.

With the highest magnetic strength of any element, the future of quantum computing* may well rest with Holmium.

Every tweet, email, blog and novel, is made up of a series of 1s and 0s, saved on a computer hard drive that encodes that same series of 1s and 0s to a magnetic disk. The average hard drive uses about 100,000 atoms to store a single bit of information.

But with Holmium, one bit of digital information (a 1 or 0) can be stored in an individual atom.

When an electrical current is passed through a holmium atom, it causes the north and south poles to flip, replicating the process of writing information to a traditional magnetic hard drive.

As electronic devices get smaller and more powerful, atomic level quantum effects begin to interfere. Until recently it was thought that further miniaturisation would be impossible, with people talking about the death of Moore’s Law**.

But Holmium atoms stay in whatever state they’ve been flipped to, regardless of what their neighbouring atoms do, free from quantum mechanical effects.

Amazing.

Back to the Prize Crossword

Back to Dysprosium

Forward to Erbium

The Chemical Reaction by Fiona Erskine is published by the PointBlank imprint of Oneworld and is available here 

 

*The requirement to operate close to absolute zero (-273 degrees Centigrade) and the use of giant scanning tunnelling microscopes to read/write the data means that quantum computing is not coming to your smart phones anytime soon !

SETM

Scanning tunnelling microscope

 

**Moore’s Law states that the number of components that can be stored on a microchip would double every 1-2 years. Named after a prediction made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductors and CEO of Intel, talking about the decade 1975 to 1985, it proved accurate for several decades.