Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 3/2/2004Ya know that strange relationship between the entertainment world and sexy science -- the one where NASA lands a probe on Mars at exactly the same time as Universal release a movie about bug-eyed Martians eating our children? I suspect others are at it.

Tuesday 3/2/2004
Ya know that strange relationship between the entertainment world and sexy science -- the one where NASA lands a probe on Mars at exactly the same time as Universal release a movie about bug-eyed Martians eating our children? I suspect others are at it. The day after Intel finally let Prescott out into the world and decide to call it a Pentium, a group of scientists announce they've created two new elements -- one of which is called Ununpentium. That stuck around for ninety milliseconds -- curiously, exactly the same time as a Prescott survives if its cooling fails -- before decaying into Ununtrium. That had a long and satisfying life of over a second -- making it a veritable Methuselah among the synthetic transuranics -- before turning into a pile of ordinary Gunkium.

OK, so it had to be called Ununpentium under the rules of the game. Following some really nasty Cold War arguments over the naming of new elements -- the Yanks wanted to call stuff LiveFreeUnderCapitalismWithGunsium, while the Ruskies favoured TheRuleOfTheProletariatGlorifiesMarxon -- people agreed to name discoveries after their atomic number. Ununpentium means element number 115; ununtrium is 113. See how it works? Shame it makes for some ugly monikers, and if this continues we'll have a hundred new elements all beginning unun. That's handy.

That's not the only odd-name fun you can have with the new Intel chip. Prescott also happens to be the name of George W Bush's grandfather, a businessmen and politician whose company interests in pre-war and wartime Germany are well worth half an hour of anyone's reading time. Unfortunately, he never seemed to have got into oil -- meaning jokes about Prescott's long pipelines will have to stay in abeyance.

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