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Last gap closed in periodic table

On Friday Physical Review Letters will post a report from the Russian atomic collider in Dubna claiming to have found the mysterious "Element 117," which sits on row 7 below such favorites as flourine, chlorine, bromine and iodine.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

One of my favorite tunes growing up was Tom Lehrer's song The Elements, which was merely the periodic table sung to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Major General's Song."

(The version above, from Useless Bay in Seattle, is based on a live recording, probably from An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, which I wore the grooves off of back when recordings had grooves.

The lyric concludes, "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." In fact the periodic table of that time had a whole row of empty spaces, row 7, elements that should theoretically exist but had not yet been found.

Among those elements that didn't make it into the song were Rutherfordium, named for New Zealand's Ernest Rutherford, father of nuclear physics, and Copernicium, named for the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Now that last theoretical hole has been filled.

On Friday Physical Review Letters will post a report from the Russian atomic collider in Dubna (for which the element Dubnium is already named) claiming to have found the mysterious "Element 117," which sits on row 7 below such favorites as flourine, chlorine, bromine and iodine.

Making this happen took the creation of 22 milligrams of berkelium (number 97 if you're keeping score at home), which as the name implies is as flaky as a hippie at a Dead concert. But they did it. Hole filled.

Since it took Russian-American cooperation to make it happen, maybe they can make some heads explode at Fox News by calling it Obamium. Or they could honor another Russian scientist. Lobavchevskium?

One more serious point. The discovery could point the way toward finding many more elements, even relatively stable elements, an "island of stability" with elements that could exist for days or even years before decaying.

Wikipedia says Dr. Lehrer is still with us, age 81. So, uh Maestro? We need another tune. The new element doesn't yet have a name. Maybe we could call it Lehrerium?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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