Ytterbium, pronounced [ee-tur-bee-um], is a lanthanide metal and the 70th element in the periodic table. Its name comes from the Swedish village of Yyterby, where a sample was first discovered, and it is one of the rarest of the ‘rare earth’ metals.
Ytterbium is used as the basis of some atomic clocks, These extremely accurate clocks count the microwave signals caused by electrons jumping around inside the atom, and clocks using ytterbium are the most stable in the world. Radioactive ytterbium is also a useful source of gamma radiation used in medicine.
This is a general science zone, where we will meet five scientists from different areas of science.
There is a scientist who is looking at the tools that bacteria use to get inside our bodies, another who designs software for powerful supercomputers that can simulate a universe, and another who is trying to understand how children can learn languages easier than adults. There is also a scientist who analyses samples of chemicals that come from space to understand how life on earth started, and another who studies how a parasite changes the colour of its insect host to make it less appetising to mice.