Scientists at Lund University in Sweden announced yesterday that experiments they had conducted confirmed the existence of a new element with the atomic number of 115, the heaviest ever discovered.
The experiment is not the first time that ununpentium—a temporary name that translates roughly to "one-one-five-ium"—has appeared but it instead confirms research conducted by Russian scientists about a decade ago. The highly unstable, super-heavy element was produced by firing calcium at a film of americium, and if the two elements fused together, it would produced ununpentium. The experiment was only about to produce about a few dozen of these atoms and only for a fraction of a second, but the mere existence of such an element could have vast consequences. The heaviest commonly-occurring element is uranium (atomic number: 92), which—if you haven't heard—has a wide variety of worrisome uses. (For those who haven't taken a physics class in a few years, the atomic number refers to the number of protons in the nucleus of the atom.)
According to the press release casually announcing a whole new building block of the universe, "A committee comprising members of the international unions of pure and applied physics and chemistry will review the new findings to decide whether to recommend further experiments before the discovery of the new element is acknowledged."
If the committee formally acknowledges the element, then it can be given a proper name, the process of which is sometimes "nearly as arduous." In 2011, Livermorium was named based on the location in which it was discovered, Livermore, California. Might we suggest calling the new element George? Has the name George had its moment yet in 2013?
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