Four New Elements Added to Periodic Table: What Will We Call Them?

By Suhay, Lisa | The Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

Four New Elements Added to Periodic Table: What Will We Call Them?


Suhay, Lisa, The Christian Science Monitor


What's in a name?

When the four new elements just added to the periodic table get official names, don't expect Unobtanium or T.Lehreronium to emerge.

Naming new chemical elements is a super-serious business.

Biologists have the leeway to honor cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants by naming a Hawaiian mushroom, Spongiforma squarepantsii. But don't expect a new element to be named after Harvard mathematician Tom Lehrer, writer of the beloved Element Song.

The four new substances are in the transfermium category, having an atomic number higher than fermium, which is element 100.

They are the first to be added to the table since 2011 and are currently known as 113, 115, 117 and 118. The new elements were verified on Dec. 30, 2015 by a team formed from the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUAPAP). They've been given temporary names - ununtrium (113), ununpentium (115), ununseptium (117) and ununoctium (118) - before their discoverers assign permanent replacements.

All four are artificially made "superheavy elements," that break down quickly into lighter substances. The creators of element 113 are the RIKEN team in Japan. Element 118 was a collaboration between the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The remaining elements were created by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee for the discovery of elements 115 and 117.

Social media immediately weighed in.

Looking at the naming rules for the new chemical elements. They should definitely call one of them Anti. pic.twitter.com/4TFJWyxXoW- - Mint Royale (@MintRoyale) January 4, 2016

Today is also the day that I read about the Transfermium Wars, an epic name for bickering about naming new elements. https://t.co/ nWPTPVXc4v-- Joby Hollis (@Jobium) January 4, 2016

"I always tell my students that in biology you've got to watch out because we will name something after just about anything you can dream of," says Arthur Bowman, a biology professor at Norfolk State University in Virginia. "In 1977, Arnold Menke named a wasp the Aha ha - after what we say when we find something new."

While IUPAC rules allow elements to be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property, or a scientist, Janan Hayes, professor emeritus at Merced College in Merced, Calif., says in an interview that it is highly unlikely that anything non- traditional will be chosen.

"Naming an element isn't what it used to be," says Dr. …

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