You are probably familiar with Word Ladders, where you attempt to transform one word into another by switching one letter at a time, with each transformation forming a new word. This puzzle is similar. The good news is that you don't have to worry about whether your intermediate strings are words. The bad news: you can only change one atomic symbol (two-letter symbols must be contiguous, in order left-to-right) into another.
The true alchemist remains frustrated, due to an inability to turn lead into anything else, but many other transformations are possible. For example, we can change the original name for element 71, LUTECIUM, into its current name with just two transmutations:
LUTECIUM (transmute CARBON to NITROGEN)
LUTENIUM (transmute NICKEL to TITANIUM)
It's pretty easy to see you cannot do it with one transmutation, so this is the shortest such chain. (Note: it is not unique. We could have done C to S, SI to TI as well; BORON/BISMUTH works too.)
Can you make the following transformations using atomic symbol transmutations?
- WOLFRAM to TUNGSTEN
- EKASILICON to GERMANIUM
- KURCHATOVIUM to RUTHERFORDIUM
As benchmarks, I have solutions of 8, 9 and 10 transmutations respectively. Can you match or beat these?