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New elements identified
June 8, 2011 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Two new elements have been identified. They will need to be named. The new elements have temporary titles of ununquadium and ununhexium.

"They are both highly radioactive and exist for less than a second before decaying into lighter atoms."
posted by longsleeves (135 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's ununbelievable!
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


Flameoutium, of course.
posted by The Whelk at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Two wrongs don't make a right, but two uns make an ununquadium. Check.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:38 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


As for names? Umm, make one 'Latinum', and the other one 'Murray'.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:41 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Three uns make an unununium.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2011


Three uns make a Roentgen.
posted by kmz at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


unlundunium
posted by DU at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why oh why don't they give them better names? Anything would be better. Name them after something, someone, anything.

Unimaginitivum and uninspiringium.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unobtanium and Adminstratium, of course.
posted by wellvis at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


Why oh why don't they give them better names? Anything would be better. Name them after something, someone, anything.

You know they're temporary, right? They will eventually name them after something, someone, anything.
posted by kmz at 11:45 AM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


The new specie currency will be backed by these trace elements.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:46 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Colbertium.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:46 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The formulaic names are just placeholders in the periodic table, and these will get "proper" names in time. The recently discovered 112 was, until its discovery, called ununbium, and then IUPAC asked the discovering team to propose a permanent name and symbol. So now it's Copernicium, Cn.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:48 AM on June 8, 2011


humancentipedium
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2011 [24 favorites]


Bumcivilian
posted by Harry at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Why oh why don't they give them better names?

They translate to 114 and 116. (un=1,quad=4,hex=6,ium=element.) This stays until they confirm the finding and decide on a real name. unununium, Element 111, was recently named Roentgenium.
posted by eriko at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


I would go for Unicornium and Pegasium.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tedium.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


"exist for less than a second before decaying"
Palinium, oh please, palinium
posted by Cranberry at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2011 [42 favorites]


Why oh why don't they give them better names?

It's the sort of thing people bicker over constantly. Typically, the ones who "discover" it will want to name it after their lab or a scientist (if we're lucky) or their country or nation (if we're unlucky). So people duke it out for a while, and after much debate and patriotic wrangling, ultimately Unilnonium becomes Meitnerium.

This is why Lawrencium, Berkelium, Californium, Americium, and Seaborgium are so popular in the Bay Area : Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (in Berkeley, California, USA) has historically been a hotbed of elemental research -- a number of which were discovered by Glenn Seaborg and his team.

This was covered pretty extensively in Sam Keane's The Disappearing Spoon.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hilarium.
Pandemonium.

*leaves thread for his own and the collective good*
posted by joe lisboa at 11:51 AM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would go for Unicornium and Pegasium.

Pinkiepieium.
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jumbonium!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I vote for BobLoblawium.
posted by Pseudonumb at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sooooo...what can we do with these things that exist for less than a second? Is there a practical use for these new elements?
posted by NoMich at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


kmz: "You know they're temporary, right? "

No, of course he doesn't.

Horselover Phattie: "The new specie currency will be backed by these trace elements."

TEA PARTY 3087: BRINK BACK THE ROENTIGENUM STANDARD.

either that or they'll be drinking colloidal dubnium.
posted by boo_radley at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unobtainium.

(The most insulting bit of writing in an overall insulting movie.)
posted by hank_14 at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


ununpentium was recalled because of math processor errors...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bitcoinium?
posted by jquinby at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is there a practical use for these new elements?
Conversation piece. See, we're all talking about them already.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Something I've never understood about the higher reaches of the periodic table is why any particular element _shouldn't_ exist. Obviously these get highly unstable, but is there any reason to expect that at some point the binding energy won't be such that a nucleus won't form for at least a short period of time?
posted by Schismatic at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2011


Aquarium? Totorum? Laudanum? Compendium?
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was never good at even high school chemistry, so I'm sure someone here will be happy to tell me why I'm stupid, but I just don't get this process of "identifying" new elements. Aren't they just creating in a lab the next element that should logically occur on the periodic table? Isn't the identification of a new element really more a completion of the creation of the next logical step on the table?
posted by jefficator at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2011


> Is there a practical use for these new elements?

It's just a placeholder until we can get the Anti-Suns online to generate tons and tons of the stuff and build parallel galaxies.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: "Why oh why don't they give them better names? Anything would be better. Name them after something, someone, anything."

The names Flerovium (named after physicist Georgy Flyorov) and Moscovium (named after Moscow) are apparently the proposed names, but these things take times.
posted by Plutor at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2011


Aren't they just creating in a lab the next element that should logically occur on the periodic table?

Well, yes, but the hitch is in the word "just".
posted by Wolfdog at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


> The names Flerovium

Too bad it won't be FlavorFlavium.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


Can one of them be called Santorum so it can then have an isotope called Santorum 2012?
posted by idiopath at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does something that exists for less than a second really need to be a thing? Why does said thing need a name? Not snarking, just showing ignorance and hoping for a happy answer.
posted by rahnefan at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2011


Incidentally this is going eventually going to bitch up one of my finest-honed Sporcle skills.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2011


I kind of like the placeholder names. Unununium, for example, is a pretty awesome name.
posted by delmoi at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's interesting is that if Flerovium is accepted, the abbreviations Fl, Fe, and Fr are all taken. Fo? Fv?
posted by Plutor at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2011


delmoi: "Unununium, for example, is a pretty awesome name."

Roentgenium. It was renamed seven years ago.
posted by Plutor at 12:00 PM on June 8, 2011


Is there a practical use for these new elements?

There's one theory that if we synthesize enough of these, we'll eventually reach an "island of stability" where every subsequent atom will actually be stable enough to stick around for a while -- the idea being that, in a sea of fundamentally unstable elements, there are these "islands of stability", and that the elements we're familiar with happen to occupy one of these "islands". I'm not smart enough to understand why they think this may be the case.

Anybody?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:00 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would go for Unicornium and Pegasium.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:50 AM on June 8 [+] [!]


...to balance out all of those elements named after rare earth ponies?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:00 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


NoMich: "Is there a practical use for these new elements?"

What, really? Well, in a sense, no; you'll never pick up a pail of bohrium for the home. They're proof, however, that man can (I will wax poetic) in some sense come close to achieving medieval dreams of alchemical transmutation. These things literally do not exist in nature in any way. So they're proof of scientific processes and methods of nuclear manipulation.

For practical "CAN WE MAKE TANG OUT OF IT" sort of questions, finding stable isotopes of these elements might yield less costly ways to experiment with them (and I seem to recall this is a priority for some elements). It's also broadly, theoretically possible (IANANC) that you could build up an artificial element that decays into something stable but rare (ex. taking two lead atoms, synthesizing to element x, which then leads to 3 gallium atoms.
posted by boo_radley at 12:00 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


How about just YUM?

YUMMMMMMMMM. radioactive GOODNESS. O_O
posted by lemuring at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet Albert Ghiorso, who codiscovered an incredible 12 elements (he was involved in the discovery of every element from atomic number 95 through 106) during his long career at Chicago and Berkeley. He also named most of them, starting with places (Americium, Berkelium, Californium) and moving on to famous figures from the history of chemistry and physics (Fermium, Mendelevium, Nobelium, Lawrencium). He had the humility to not name any after himself, which is why there's no Ghiorsium. But there almost was. Element 118 was isolated by a team led by Victor Ninov, who chose Ghiorso as the honoree for the name of the new element -- ununoctium would henceforth be Ghiorsium, and Ghiorso's name would appear on every periodic table for who knows how many decades -- centuries! -- to come. But Mr. Ninov lied. He used fabricated evidence in his paper on Ghiorsium's discovery. Ghiorsium became the prosaic, ugly ununoctium again, still waiting for its first appearance on Earth.

Ghiorso's work stands on its own -- he contributed enormously to the advancement of physics throughout his long lifetime (he died last year at the age of 95), and he had absolutely nothing to do with Ninov's fraudulent results. But I can't imagine how it would feel to get that close to true immortality, and miss by so little.
posted by theodolite at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2011 [17 favorites]


Does something that exists for less than a second really need to be a thing?

Well, if that thing that only exists for less than a second causes a measurement to come out differently than theory would predict, wouldn't it be useful to have a better way to explain the cause of the effect than to just say "Well, one of those many nameless factors at work in physics must have caused the prediction to fail."
posted by saulgoodman at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dolphlundgrunium & Toocleverbyhalfnium
posted by BeerFilter at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2011


unununium, Element 111, was recently named Roentgenium

Such a loss
posted by crayz at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does something that exists for less than a second really need to be a thing? Why does said thing need a name? Not snarking, just showing ignorance and hoping for a happy answer.

Well, a second is pretty much an eternity compared to the smallest scales. Conversely, a human life is a tiny flicker of time on the grandest cosmological scale.. I see no reason why durations of existence should have any significance.
posted by Harry at 12:03 PM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I say call the two new elements Mitch and Bob.
posted by Mister_A at 12:03 PM on June 8, 2011


Afroblanco: "I'm not smart enough to understand why they think this may be the case. Anybody?"

It has to do with filled electron shells and deformed nuclei.
posted by Plutor at 12:03 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Does something that exists for less than a second really need to be a thing?

Well, from the standpoint of say, a mountain, something like WWII was just less than a second. Timescales are all relative and quanta are quanta, so yes, if it was just around for a second then it exists.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:05 PM on June 8, 2011


A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet Albert Ghiorso

Holy crap!
posted by Afroblanco at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why Lawrencium, Berkelium, Californium, Americium, and Seaborgium are so popular in the Bay Area

I hear you can buy them in the Haight right on the street.
posted by longsleeves at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


All this an no Illudium mentioned ?
posted by k5.user at 12:07 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Three uns make a Roentgen.
posted by kmz


I want to organize a boycott Roentgenium movement. Copper, silver, and gold, the most wonderful metals, got ripped off by that unreliable group-squatter. At least give it an asterisk.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:08 PM on June 8, 2011


Untz-untz-untz-ium?
posted by Tknophobia at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bert and Ernie
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:14 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Frobozznium
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2011


It has to do with filled electron shells and deformed nuclei.

Scanning the Wikipedia article to check my understanding, filled electron shells are just an analogy. Looking from the nucleus, electrons are way the heck out there, and it's strong and weak nuclear forces that influence whether the nucleus is stable, not the electromagnetic forces between protons and neutrons.

I think.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:16 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wake me up when they get to the magically stable element we can actually make use of.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:17 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can one of them be called Santorum so it can then have an isotope called Santorum 2012?

Only if we can confirm that one of the elements is a brown, frothy substance with a peculiar odor.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:18 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm waiting for someone to suggest Balonium.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:21 PM on June 8, 2011


I'm still waiting for Timonium.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2011


Tacobellium. Palacecasinoium.
posted by mazola at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like the bar to getting naming rights for a new elements is pretty high. I guess they don't want to ever rescind a name. Every one I checked seemed like it had the initial claims rejected, and took 10+ years from when the first experiment was performed.
posted by smackfu at 12:23 PM on June 8, 2011


C'mon phisics nerds name them naquadah and naquadria, you know you want to.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:24 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Baba-booeyum
posted by briank at 12:26 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was all worth it to come up with the phrase "double-magic super-deformed nuclei."
posted by aught at 12:29 PM on June 8, 2011


Yumium.
posted by Eideteker at 12:29 PM on June 8, 2011


Atmospherium!
posted by usonian at 12:31 PM on June 8, 2011


OMNOMNOMNOMIUM
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


ununpentium was recalled because of math processor errors...
I could have sworn that one was named at least 17 years ago.
posted by apatharch at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2011


MINE, ALL MINE!
posted by clavdivs at 12:34 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


QUICKLY
posted by clavdivs at 12:34 PM on June 8, 2011


I feel sorry for those kids I kick off my lawn if they still have to memorize the darn table.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2011


Two new elements "identified" seems incorrect. The first 94 naturally occurring elements were identified. All the rest were synthesized.

Is there a practical use for these new elements?

In time. Americium (atomic number 95) was synthetically produced after WW2 and today is widely used in smoke detectors.

Highly radioactive particles with very short half-lives will probably have lots of potential uses for cancer treatment.
posted by three blind mice at 12:38 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


They are both highly radioactive and exist for less than a second before decaying into lighter atoms.

"Daddy! I WANT some!"
posted by msalt at 12:44 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


HOW, sorry, how does one collect these elements, because the life span would seem to suggest the elements, if they can be used, will have to be produce at a localized level.

the ununhexium ray sounds helpful.
posted by clavdivs at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2011


The first 94 naturally occurring elements were identified. All the rest were synthesized.

Technetium does occur naturally in very minute quantities as a decay product, but it was only discovered after being (accidentally) synthesized.
posted by jedicus at 12:48 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Upsidaisium.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I hear you can buy them in the Haight right on the street.

It's true! Just last weekend I scored some high quality Americinum there.
posted by aspo at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey I have some. Shit where'd it g.... Hey there's more...fuck! Oh wait I have some over he...shit!
posted by jimmythefish at 12:54 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


thechecksinthemailium and justaminutium
posted by kozad at 12:59 PM on June 8, 2011


"Daddy! I WANT some!"
posted by veruca_msalt at 3:44 PM on June 8
posted by joe lisboa at 1:02 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think they should take advantage of the tremendous name recognition that the older elements have. How about Turbo-Helium? Hydrogen XL? Lead 2: Hyperlead?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:03 PM on June 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oliphantium. Really.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:07 PM on June 8, 2011


"Daddy! I WANT some!"
posted by veruca_msalt at 3:44 PM on June 8



I want a Collier that creates Americinum for Easter!

Whatever you say!

At least .20 micrograms a day! And by the way....
posted by The Whelk at 1:07 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sure it's already been mentioned on the blue, but the book "The Elements" is actually pretty interesting. The author combines history, cool mineral photography, and the interesting interactions you can have with the FBI trying to collect some of the more recherché elements.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:07 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's also worth noting that Uuh and Uuq were both first synthesized over 10 years ago. It's only now that the international organization that assigns names to elements has accepted the validity of the experiments that created them. I have no idea why it takes more than 10 years to get an element named, but I also imagine it's not exactly anyone's highest priority to fill out the end of the Periodic Table with all of the elements that exist for less than a second.
posted by Copronymus at 1:08 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Wikipedia: Since astatine is extremely radioactive, it should be handled with extreme care. Yeah, I'll watch out for that.)
posted by Wolfdog at 1:10 PM on June 8, 2011


I have no idea why it takes more than 10 years to get an element named, but I also imagine it's not exactly anyone's highest priority to fill out the end of the Periodic Table with all of the elements that exist for less than a second.

I think I prefer that they take their time with it. It's like a tattoo. Sure, you might have thought it was good idea to name your new element Sister Actinium, but you are going to regret that shit in a few years.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:17 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sarahium... with hope?
posted by edgeways at 1:18 PM on June 8, 2011


Scanning the Wikipedia article to check my understanding, filled electron shells are just an analogy. Looking from the nucleus, electrons are way the heck out there, and it's strong and weak nuclear forces that influence whether the nucleus is stable, not the electromagnetic forces between protons and neutrons.

A while ago I was studying for my Astronomy prelim exam, and I was thinking about the Triple-Alpha process, which is one of the handful of ways that fusion occurs in stars. Triple-alpha is confusing, because most stars should not be hot enough for the reaction to occur at meaningful rates, because you have to bang a beryllium atom into a helium atom (to make carbon), and those both have significant charges on the nuclei, so they really want to repel each other rather than fuse. But as the story goes, Fred Hoyle came up with the idea that maybe there is a resonance in the resulting carbon atom that allows this reaction to proceed at a much faster rate than would be otherwise expected.

A "resonance"? This was confusing to me, since I had always thought that atoms were atoms were atoms, and you could change the electrons around, but the nucleus of an atom of a particular was always the same. Not so! Nuclei have excited states, where one nucleon is in a higher energy "shell", just like electrons can be excited into higher states. This was completely new to me, and the only explanation I could find for why it happened was this "analogy" to excited electron states. But that was unsatisfying, clearly electrons have excited states, and just saying that there's an "analogy" to nuclei feels like a very hollow explanation.

Then I remembered that the idea of electron shells is itself an analogy. Really the electrons are sitting in various eigenstates of the wavefunction, and that's if you believe that electrons are "real things", since if you go deeper then they turn out just to be quantized excitations in Fock space, which is closer to "the truth" but far further away from something we can intuitively understand. Shells are just a convenience that happen to work because you can calculate the expectation value of the distance between the nucleus and the electron, and it gets larger at higher energy states. Not to mention it all fits in with the highly-wrong picture we all have of the Bohr model of the atom. They're all analogies, convenient ones. So really I should have gone and done the quantum mechanics to show to myself that excited states of the nucleus exist, but this was about a week before I was required to have learned all-of-astronomy, so I had to skip it for more pressing topics.

I tried to sum up why I wrote down this story, but deleted it because Sir Arthur Eddington said it better:
Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.
Which is kind of corny, but gets the idea across. Physics is weird.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:19 PM on June 8, 2011 [22 favorites]


Wolfdog: "Wikipedia: Since astatine is extremely radioactive (...)"

astatine was almost given " the name helvetium by the Swiss chemist". Oh my god. Look Around You really is based on fact.
posted by boo_radley at 1:20 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discovered.

posted by trip and a half at 1:25 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I had a license to ill, I'd name an element "Illium." And then I'd build towers out of it. (Towers where you could go topless.)
posted by octobersurprise at 1:30 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Non-non-non-non-heinousium?
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:34 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafiltarium
posted by blue_beetle at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafiltarium

Take that idea over to Metatalkium.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:59 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Uppity Pigeon #2: "I think they should take advantage of the tremendous name recognition that the older elements have. How about Turbo-Helium? Hydrogen XL? Lead 2: Hyperlead?"

Shouldn't it be Lead 2: Electric Boogalead?
posted by symbioid at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fizzyliftium
posted by clavdivs at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I apologize for this oldie but goodie...I couldn't help myself. "Administratium"
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:05 PM on June 8, 2011


Vril.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:11 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I had a license to ill, I'd name an element "Illium." And then I'd build towers out of it. (Towers where you could go topless.)

I have a horse.
posted by jquinby at 2:14 PM on June 8, 2011


kiltedtaco: "I tried to sum up why I wrote down this story, but deleted it because Sir Arthur Eddington said it better:
Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.
Which is kind of corny, but gets the idea across. Physics is weird.
"

You mean JBS Haldane.

/pedant
posted by symbioid at 2:16 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I'm not going to help you name your elements if you don't post pictures.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:35 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey guys, I found a great list of names you can use!
posted by ardgedee at 2:40 PM on June 8, 2011


This is why Lawrencium, Berkelium, Californium, Americium, and Seaborgium are so popular in the Bay Area : Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (in Berkeley, California, USA) has historically been a hotbed of elemental research -- a number of which were discovered by Glenn Seaborg and his team.

I remember hearing that, at Berkeley, you could deliver a letter to Glenn Seaborg at Lawrence Hall, using nothing but chemical elements:

Seaborgium
Lawrencium Holmium
Berkelium, Californium
Americium
posted by jonp72 at 2:54 PM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


You mean JBS Haldane.

Damn! I'm pretty disappointed to know that didn't come from an astronomer.
posted by kiltedtaco at 3:04 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Prozacium.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:07 PM on June 8, 2011


(Wikipedia: Since astatine is extremely radioactive, it should be handled with extreme care. Yeah, I'll watch out for that.)

Considering that there's only about 30 grams of it in the Earth's crust, you're probably safe.

Aside : I always liked to imagine that astatine was named after Fred Astaire, owing to its skill at dancing around scientists' attempts to find it.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:08 PM on June 8, 2011


30 grams? Is that a lot?
posted by Wolfdog at 3:22 PM on June 8, 2011


> 30 grams? Is that a lot?

You mathematicians need to get out more.

Signed,
An Empiricist
posted by Quietgal at 3:28 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rectium?/Damnnearkilledium!
posted by horsewithnoname at 4:38 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's my proposals:

Hefnerium
Gonhorrhium
Malkovichmalkovichium
Knopflerium (bonus points for getting the reference on that)
Yumyumgimmesum
Elementium
Nasturtium
Rumplestiltskium
Scrotium
Neutrolium
Aluminium (suck it UK. We got the real shit, you can have element 116)
Premium
Voltronium
Dubstepnium

Now for REAL proposals:
Newtonium
Shroedingerium
Planckium
Feynmanium
Wittenium (or Wittium)
Maxwellium
Galileogallileium
posted by symbioid at 4:46 PM on June 8, 2011



Something I've never understood about the higher reaches of the periodic table is why any particular element _shouldn't_ exist. Obviously these get highly unstable, but is there any reason to expect that at some point the binding energy won't be such that a nucleus won't form for at least a short period of time?

Yes, there is. Nuclei are held together by the "strong force," so named because it is (ta-da) stronger than the electromagnetic force. If there weren't any strong interaction between neutrons and protons, the only element would be hydrogen --- nothing would prevent the positively-charge protons from all repelling each other.

However, there's another difference between the electromagnetic force and the strong force: electrical attraction and repulsion occur between charged particles that are more or less infinitely far apart, but the strong interaction goes away completely over a very short distance.** This distance (about a femtometer, which is 10-15 meters) happens to be the same distance people use when talking about the "radius" of a proton or neutron, because it's reasonable to say that the strong interaction is "turned off" when two nucleons aren't "touching." In a small nucleus like helium or carbon, it's fair to say that all the protons and neutrons are basically touching. However the diameter of a nucleus like uranium will be something like (240)^(1/3) = 6 times the diameter of one nucleon. Protons living on one end of a U nucleus will still be electrically repelled by the protons on the other end, but the strong attraction will be almost gone.

** Technically, the energy of an interaction in field theory goes like e-mr/hc/r, where hc = 200 MeV-fm is a constant of nature, r is the distance between the charges, and m is the mass of the particle that carries the force. Electricity is carried by massless photons, so the interaction strength is 1/r. The proton-neutron force is mostly carried by "pions," with a mass of 140 MeV, so the "characteristic length" for the strong force is about 1.4 femtometers. On contact, at r=0, the strong energy is about 105 times larger than the electrostatic energy between two protons. Exercise: use this information to predict the diameter of the heaviest nucleus where the strong energy wins, the last stable element.

There's more to it than that, though. You can't just mix together any old number of protons and neutrons so that they fit in a nucleus-sized bag --- there has to be the right mix of protons and neutrons. In the light nuclei, the numbers of protons and neutrons has to be approximately equal: most helium has mass 4, most carbon has mass 12, etc. In the heavier nuclei you start to need extra neutrons to balance the electric repulsion among all the protons. But, for instance, in heavier nuclei it matters whether the nucleons can partner up into pairs. Neutrons like to partner with neutrons, and protons like to partner with protons; a nucleus can have one unpaired proton or neutron, but there are only a handful of stable nuclei (H-2, Li-6, B-10, N-14) where there's a proton-neutron pair. Many of the odd-proton elements have only one stable isotope, and the "missing" elements technetium and promethium both have an unpaired proton.

From there you can come up with more complicated models for nuclei. Other people (including me) have talked about the shell model, which says that nucleons in a nucleus stack up in shells in the same way that electrons do in an atom, for the same reasons (having to do with the symmetries of spin-half particles). There's also a "liquid drop" model that says, basically, it makes more sense in a big nucleus to forget the nucleons and think of the whole nucleus as a vibrating, incompressible fluid. All of these models give predictions for the shape that a nucleus will have (francium, for instance, is pear-shaped), how long it will live, what particles it will emit when it decays, and what energies those decay products will have. It's relatively easy to make a model for stable and nearly-stable nuclei, where simple approximations work. The more exotic nucleus data you have to compare with, the better your model has to be to match all the data at once.

Coming up with a model that describes exotic nuclei is interesting not only because of fundamental questions (like the two-atom chemistry experiment showing that copernicum is chemically more like mercury than like radon), but because the pathways for making heavy elements in stars all involve detours through unstable elements. Describing unstable elements (or excitations in stable elements, as killedtaco said) is an important part of understanding the puzzle of quite how we have come to exist, here on our metal/rock planet, with water and sunshine. That's why we do it.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:00 PM on June 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


Fudge Ripple.
posted by jonmc at 5:13 PM on June 8, 2011


Sooooo...what can we do with these things that exist for less than a second? Is there a practical use for these new elements?
Here you go
posted by Flunkie at 5:48 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


the life span would seem to suggest the elements, if they can be used, will have to be produce at a localized level

For an example of this: technetium-99m, a particular isomer of an isotope of Tc which is used in medicine, doesn't last long enough to ship. Instead, hospitals have a device called a "technetium cow" containing a molybdenum isotope which continually produces Tc-99m as a decay product. (The molybdenum doesn't last too long either; it's produced in nuclear reactors. But it lasts long enough to ship.)
posted by hattifattener at 8:31 PM on June 8, 2011


Handwavium. Adamantium. Wooium. Encomium. AWopBoppaLooBopAWopBamBoomium.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:28 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Robertmitchium
posted by MarchHare at 9:37 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first 94 naturally occurring elements were identified. All the rest were synthesized.

New elements are "identified" in the sense that it is learned that it's possible for them to exist under certain coditions.
posted by longsleeves at 10:10 PM on June 8, 2011


Knopflerium (bonus points for getting the reference on that)


Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits.

+1 for me!
posted by XhaustedProphet at 10:15 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two new elements...

n00bium and newbieium?
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 11:49 PM on June 8, 2011


Hitlerium and Godwinium
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:05 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Santorum, of course!
posted by hal_c_on at 6:49 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


They need to consider the musical possibilities.
posted by warbaby at 7:08 AM on June 9, 2011


But, why did I suggest that? (I'm sure you know, but still...)
posted by symbioid at 8:16 AM on June 9, 2011


ohmahgodium

shitgotreallium

ohellnawzium

lulzium

getoffmylawnium
posted by liza at 8:52 AM on June 9, 2011


Whenever I hear arguments about who is to be honored with an element, I like to recall that there's an unremarkable village in Sweden named Ytterby, population ~2000, which happens to be near a mine.

The element ytterbium is named after it.

So are yttrium, terbium and erbium.
posted by alexei at 1:01 AM on June 10, 2011


MeFi's favorite chemist (well maybe not, but he's my favorite chemist) Martyn Poliakoff, CBE discusses this subject on The Periodic Table of Videos. First link is previously.
posted by lordrunningclam at 12:11 PM on June 10, 2011


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