Kryptonite Handbook

Originally uploaded by urbanbohemian.

From the Associated Press:

New mineral found has same composition as fictional kryptonite

Associated Press

LONDON — A mineral recently discovered in Serbia has the same composition as kryptonite — the fictional substance that robs Superman of his powers — the British Museum said today.

While the material is not a perfect match, its chemical breakdown is strikingly similar.

A drill core of the unusual mineral was unearthed in Serbia by the mining group Rio Tinto PLC, which turned it over to mineral expert Chris Stanley at the Natural History Museum for analysis.

“Towards the end of my research I searched the Web using the mineral’s chemical formula, sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, and was amazed to discover that same scientific name written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luthor from a museum in the film Superman Returns,” Stanley said.

The material is white, powdery and not radioactive — unlike the glowing green crystals usually depicted in the Superman comics. It will be formally named Jadarite when it is described in the European Journal of Mineralogy later this year.

Approximately 30 to 40 new minerals are discovered each year, the museum said, although usually only in the form of a few grains only visible under the microscope.

From Kripke’s Naming and Necessity p.: 156

There were two theses: first, a metaphysical thesis that no counterfactual situation is properly describable as one in which there would have been unicorns; second, an epistemological thesis that an archeological discovery that there were animals with all the features attributed to unicorns in the appropriate myth would not in and of itself constitute proof that there were unicorns.

So…kryptonite remains undiscovered?

21 Responses to “Kripkenite”

  1. cirdan says:

    Damn, you beat me to it :)

  2. Kryptonite has not been discovered. Krytonite is a fictional mineral froma fictional planet. What we discovered was an Earth mineral with a suprisingly similar chemical composition to the one that they picked for the fictional stuff….this mineral is ‘jadanite’ not kryptonite.

  3. Pete Mandik says:

    I don’t see what your point is supposed to be. Is Kryptonite essentially fictional? Is the reason it hasn’t been discovered that anything that actually is discovered is necessarily nonfictional?

  4. I agree with Richard.
    What is fictional can’t turn out to be real. Even if a Twin Earth is discovered where there is a person named Sherlock Holmes which did everything that A.C.Doyle described in his stories, and if it is just a matter of coincidence, that twin Earth person wouldn’t be the Sherlock Holmes from the stories.

    There is interesting possibility though - if one says “everything described in A.C. Doyle stories can be taken as a true description of the events on the twin Earth”, than I guess by reinterpretation we can take the stories to be in fact a historical claim about the twin Earth Sherlock Holmes. But I think only together with that claim of that person, which would be like some kind of “decoding” instruction for changing the meanings from what A.C.Doyle meant to real references.

  5. Pete Mandik says:

    R & T,

    But how do you know it’s fictional in the first place?

  6. Pete Mandik says:

    Also: how can a chemical compound be necessarily fictional?

    Consider the following analogy. Suppose that in a James Bond novel, a character mixes a drink that no one has ever mixed before - say it’s three parts gin and one part maple syrup - and they call it “The Puppy Crusher”. Suppose at some later date an actual bar tender mixes up three parts gin and one part maple syrup. Is it necesarily true that that drink isn’t a Puppy Crusher?

  7. Pete,

    Yeah, it seems there is possibility for a complication there.

    I would say that The Puppy Crusher is a description of a drink with components which are real. I.E. “gin” and “maple syrup” in the story refer not to fictional things, but to real things. So, in this case I would agree that when we have a clear “description reference”, it might in fact turn out that the thing exists.

    On other side “kryptonite” and “Sherlock Holmes” are, as silly it might sound, kind of fictional rigid references, and not mere descriptions. And because those “rigid references” are from the start connected to imagined/not real thing, they are necessarily such.

  8. Johann Klaassen says:

    On the other hand I want to get my hands on (a) a Puppy Crusher and (b) soe of that there Kripenite! Woo hoo!

  9. AG says:

    There is some sleight of hand in this example in the following way. When considering the usual examples the rigid designators are chemical or atomic descriptions - at least that’s what comes close as possible to expressing the real stuff in itself. But for kryptonite, I would say “the stuff that kills superman” is a more rigid designator than the proposed chemical composition and so discovering a material with this composition is analogous to discovering Gold in two instances where one is AU and the other FeS2. The chemical composition becomes secondary, and possibly even accidental.

    So then, what if what was discovered could in fact kill superman? Well it might, but since it’s possible that it won’t, its status as kryptonite doesn’t uh, supervene, on the chemical composition.

    The next point would be, and I hate to go Quine on y’all, but I can’t help think we can’t so trivially divide reality from fiction. What if we discovered the ark of the covenant? Would we really have discovered the “ark of the covenant” or would we need further information about the documentary hypothesis? Did a bunch of priests make it up whole cloth, did Moses write everything as it happened, did the priests speculate and guess right, did they go on a hunch inspired by a (angry) deity? What further facts about the Old Testament would have to be in place in order to ever discover the “ark of the covenant?”

  10. AG,

    While, as I said in my comment I agree that Kryptonite is kind of rigid designator, I think it is supposed to designate a fictional mineral, and that because of that it is necessarily so. After all, because it is a part of a fictional story, we can do whatever we want with it, we can say that actually the formula tag in the museum was a product of the mistaken analysis.

    But I can’t see what is problematic in dividing fictional from real. I mean, sure, we might not know if some thing is fictional or real (e.g. unicorns), but IF they are fictional, i.e. if they were imagined as a kind as part of the story, they can’t turn out to be real, as the origin of the usage of “unicorn” would be to mean something fictional.

    Cheers! (Raising a glass of Puppy Crusher)

  11. Hello Everyone,

    Someone agrees with me? Cool…

    One thing we need to keep in mind is the distinction between natural kind terms and artificial kind terms, so there may be a difference between ‘kryptonite’ and ‘puppy crusher’ on this account, but more importantly here is the answer to Pete’s question (taken from the passage Pete Quotes from the appendix to Naming and necessity

    The epistomological theisis is more easily argued. If a stopry is found describing a substance with the physical appearance of gold, one cannot conclude on this basis that it is talking about gold; it may be talking about ‘fools gold’. What substance is being discussed must be determined as in the case of proper names: by historical connection of the story with a certain subtance. When the connection is traced, it may well turn out that that the substance dealt with was gold, ‘fools gold’ or something else. Similarly, the mere discovery of animals with the properties attributed to unicorns in the myth would by no means show that these were the animals the myth was about: perhaps teh myth was spun out of whole cloth, and the fact that animals with the same appearance actually existed was mere coincidence. In that case, we cannot say that the unicorns of the myth really existed; we must also establish a historical connection that shows that the myth is about So, in Pete’s story we would need to determine if by ‘gin’ he meant gin, or vodka, or someother thing that we haven’t heard of and so on. If he did mean gin by ‘gin’ then Tanasije is right. But in the case of kryptonite, I think it safe to assume that they made it up ‘whole cloth’ and that any connection to reality is purely accidental. So to determine if something is necessarily fictional we need to trace the causal/historical chain back to the initial baptisism and find out if it involved a real object or was made up out of the blue. If the latter, then the stuff in question is necessarily fictional.

    On the other hand though, I have been meaning to ask whether or not this chemical composition was part of the original story or if it was added by this new director of the recent Superman Returns?

  12. Dang! Did I forget a tag? Obviously that last paragraph/question is mine, not Kripke’s :)

  13. Dang! :0 Did I forget a tag? The Kripke quote ends with ‘…what the myth is about’ and my comments start with ‘So, in Pete’s story’

    Sorry about that!!

  14. That was a weird moment when Kripke started talking about Pete, negating his own theory.

  15. uh…is everything going to be blockquoted now?

  16. Wow, Ok, it’s fixed…I thought I had killed the brain hammer!!

  17. Richard, you said…

    On the other hand though, I have been meaning to ask whether or not this chemical composition was part of the original story or if it was added by this new director of the recent Superman Returns?

    Would you say that it would make some kind of difference in relation to the issue?

  18. [...] Brain Hammer Pete Mandik’s Intermittently Neurophilosophical Weblog « Kripkenite [...]

  19. GNZ says:

    as I understand it the formula is added by the Superman returns guys. It also requires florine and possibly by implication also radioactive krypton or a high mass radioactive element. The comics and the TV series imply it was a high mass radioactive metal that is for some odd reason fairly stable (250,000 yr half life) although the name sugests some sort of krypton/oxygen combination.

  20. Thatnks for the info GNZ

    Tanasije, it would matter only in so far as we want to determine if the chemical compound was completely made up, or if the author had heard about the actual chemical compund and was including it on purpose. Which, if you buy the Kripke line like I (and I think you) do, will determine if the stuff discovered is really Kryptonite…but this gets us into tricky issues about story continuity…