Thursday, May 20, 2004

You'll never have an element named after you.

I just read that two new elements have been synthesized, ununpentium and ununtrium. There are those who are are concerned about the deep scientific implications of these discoveries, ranging from technological possibilities to extraterrestrial connections. Certainly a couple of new elements, bringing the total of known elements up to 116, is a big scientific deal.

What got me is the naming. It used to be that an individual (Einsteinium, Fermium ) or a place (Californium, Americium), or even a Disney Character could be recognized and immortalized with an element name. But no more.

Now, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, which somehow has jurisdiction over such matters, has decreed that all new elements are to be designated with "culturally neutral" names. To make this easy (and remove any trace of creativity from element names) they arrived at the convention of naming new elements by the latin pronunciation of an element's atomic number. So that's where you get un-un-pent-ium for element 115. Boring, execept maybe in that specific case for Macintosh enthusiasts.

So I have to forget about Natalizium as an official element. But that doesn't mean that I can't name something without any offical basis. There's precedent, after all. So, as of today, I herby declare that rubbery substance that is affixed onto the point of new retractable rollerball pens to prevent drying out in storage as Natalizium. Even though it's not even an element (a compound would be more like it), it'll do. Just remember that next time you buy a package of pens.


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