Bismuth is, to me, a perfect metaphor for the thoughts behind technopaganism. When refined, it naturally forms into iridescent crystals reminiscent of computer circuitry. It is the heaviest stable element, generally non-toxic, and can be made into jewelry or other forms of art.
Quoting from the Wikipedia article:
“Bismuth is a chemical element with the symbol Bi and the atomic number 83…Bismuth was long considered the element with the highest atomic mass that is stable. However, in 2003 it was discovered to be weakly radioactive: its only primordial isotope, bismuth-209, decays via alpha decay with ahalf life more than a billion times the estimated age of the universe. Because of its tremendously long half-life, bismuth may still be considered stable for almost all purposes.”
Naturally-occurring bismuth at left; bismuth crystals at right, without trademark oxidation sheen.
When refined into a purer form, bismuth takes on an incredibly-ordered geometric pattern, forming “hopper crystal” staircases, due to the fact that the outside of the crystal grows faster than the interior:
“Bismuth is a brittle metal with a white, silver-pink hue, often occurring in its native form, with an iridescent oxide tarnish showing many colors from yellow to blue. The spiral, stair-stepped structure of bismuth crystals is the result of a higher growth rate around the outside edges than on the inside edges. The variations in the thickness of the oxide layer that forms on the surface of the crystal causes different wavelengths of light to interfere upon reflection, thus displaying a rainbow of colors…
“Though virtually unseen in nature, high-purity bismuth can form distinctive, colorful hopper crystals. It is relatively nontoxic and has a low melting point just above 271 °C, so crystals may be grown using a household stove, although the resulting crystals will tend to be lower quality than lab-grown crystals…
“Bismuth oxychloride (BiOCl) is sometimes used in cosmetics, as a pigment in paint for eye shadows, hair sprays and nail polishes. This compound is found as the mineral bismoclite and in crystal form contains layers of atoms (see figure above) that refract light chromatically, resulting in an iridescent appearance similar to nacre of pearl. It was used as a cosmetic in ancient Egypt and in many places since. Bismuth white (also “Spanish white”) can refer to either bismuth oxychloride or bismuth oxynitrate (BiONO3), when used as a white pigment…
“Scientific literature concurs that bismuth and most of its compounds are less toxic compared to other heavy metals (lead, antimony, etc.) and that it is not bioaccumulative. They have low solubilities in the blood, are easily removed with urine, and showed nocarcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic effects in long-term tests on animals (up to 2 years). Its biological half-life for whole-body retention is 5 days but it can remain in the kidney for years in patients treated with bismuth compounds.“
The following fantastic art was created by “BismuthGuy” on DeviantArt.com:
Other art from the internet:
If you’re interested in creating your own bismuth sculptures, here is a YouTube video explaining some of the process: