New Heavy Elements Need Geeky Names

Geek Culture

The journey to gain official status can be a long trip. Take Elements 114 and 116, for example. First created in a lab a dozen years ago, the isotopes were the focus of a few collaborative teams of scientists working to prove their existence back in 2004. After three years of review, a committee of chemists and physicists finally agreed to add them to the official Periodic Table of Elements.

Periodic Table of ElementsPeriodic Table of Elements

The Period Table of Elements officially got a little bigger (source:

The new elements were created in an accelerator by hurtling calcium together with curium (forming Element 116) and plutonium (forming Element 114). The Joint Working Party (JWP) reviewed the scientific evidence supporting claims of discovery for several heavy elements, but only these two made the cut. Two groups of scientists now get the credit: the “Dubna-Livermore collaboration” from Russia and California.

All of that is good for science and inches us all closer to the Island of Stability, a Holy Grail for this area of research where heavy elements (around atomic weight 300) might have half-lives of days or year instead of seconds. The exciting part for science geeks, though may be this perk:

With the priority for the discovery established, the scientists from the Dubna-Livermore collaborations are invited to propose a name for the two super-heavy elements, elements 114 and 116. The suggested names will then go through a review process before adoption by the IUPAC Council.
source: International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry

The two elements-to-be-named-later are currently going by the uninspired monikers of ununquadium and ununhexium. Now the heaviest elements in the Table, they are deserving names appropriate for their big-time and highly radioactive status. Lest we be stuck with Oganessianium, here are a few geekier ideas:


The upcoming reboot of the Planet of the Apes will see James Franco working on a cure for Alzheimers that leads to intelligent primates and a war between species. There are probably no radioactive isotopes involved. However, if Ceasar, the first beneficiary of the super intelligence treatment, knew he was being honored by lousy human bastards with a new element, I’m certain he would reconsider the revolution.


Leave it to an absent-minded professor to invent a substance that defies gravity. The recipe of classic Flubber (as opposed to the kids science project) is a a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but it likely would benefit from the inclusion of one of the new heavy elements.


Remember a simpler time, when there were only five elements? What better homage to the past than to name the newest elements in honor of a future Ultimate Weapon Against Evil.


2011 hasn’t been kind to the North Siders. The Cubs have lost seven straight and are the third worst team in Major League Baseball (thank you, Houston and Minnesota). Things were different back in 1906, though, when the Cubbies won a record 116 games. Seattle tied that high-water mark in 2001, but they needed more games and, face it, have better karma. (NOTE: Perhaps this is less geeky than science fiction, but only the radioactive power of heavy elements can erase a weekend of Albert Pujols’ homers from my memory.)


Imagine what Dr. Emmett Brown could have done with an isotope 20 protons bigger than plutonium. The DeLorean might have been able to discharge the Flux Capacitor at a more fuel-efficient speed than 88 mph. It’s been 26 years since we were introduced to this technology, and it’s high time for this great scientist to be honored.

The IUPAC report concluded that evidence for the other three isotopes under consideration were “not conclusive” and did not meet the criteria for discovery. So, if the Russians cannot be persuaded, maybe some of these suggestions might find their way to Teams 113, 115 and 118.

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