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Each week on TestTubePlus, we pick one topic and cover it from multiple angles. This three-episode, mini-series takes a deeper look at the periodic table of elements. Over these three shows, host Trace Dominguez has talked about how the periodic table was developed, changed the course of modern science and chemistry, and why we still need it today. To kick the series off, the first episode looked at how the it came to be and what it might have ended up looking like if things didn't fall into place. Yesterday's episode focused on why Dimitri Bonavich Mendeleev, the eccentric Russian scientist who first published the periodic table, was such a visionary. In today's final episode, Trace will describe who's "in charge" of the table, why some elements have such crazy names, and what happens is a new element is discovered.
By design, the Periodic Table is a constant work in progress. It's managed by the International Union of Pure Applied Chemistry, IUPAC, which revises the periodic table as new data becomes available. The most recent version of the periodic table was approved on February 19, 2010. One of the first thing you probably noticed when you looked at the table was that some of the elements have some really strange names. The roots of some names might be kind of obvious (Einsteinium was named after Albert Einstein), but others are just downright strange: Ytterbium, Ununoctium, and Praseodymium to name but a few. The scientists who synthesize each new element are allowed to recommend permanent names for their creations, but that's only after the IUPAC can verify that they really created the element, a process which often takes years.
But there have been a number of disagreements. The name of Element 41 was not agreed on for 150 years: Americans wanted to call it "Columbium", while it was called "Niobium" in Europe. IUPAC decided officially to name it "Niobium" in 1949 (sorry Columbus!)
TestTube Plus is built for enthusiastic science fans seeking out comprehensive conversations on the geeky topics they love. Each week, host Trace Dominguez probes deep to unearth the details, latest developments, and opinions on big topics like boobs, porn, the ocean, stereotypes, fear, survival, dreams, space travel, and many more.
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How Do They Name New Elements? (Slate.com)
"Over the weekend, a team of Russian and American scientists announced that they had very briefly created two new chemical elements, ununtrium and ununpentium. How did they come up with those names?"
The periodic table: how elements get their names (BBC)
"Most people could name many of the elements, but how many of us know how they got those names? Each of the 115 known chemical elements was discovered over the last few thousand years, from before recorded history began to the nuclear laboratories of the 21st century."
Dmitri Mendeleev (FamousScientists.org)
"Dmitri Mendeleev was passionate about chemistry. His deepest wish was to find a better way of organizing the subject. Mendeleev's wish led to his discovery of the periodic law and his creation of the periodic table - one of the most iconic symbols ever seen in science: almost everyone recognizes it instantly: science has few other creations as well-known as the periodic table."
Moseley's Periodic Table (Corrosion Doctors)
"Mendeleev ordered his elements in order of their relative atomic mass, and this gave him some problems. For example, iodine has a lower relative atomic mass than tellurium, so it should come before tellurium in Mendeleev's table - but in order to get iodine in the same group as other elements with similar properties such as fluorine, chlorine and bromine, he had to put it after tellurium, so breaking his own rules."
The Origins of the Periodic Table (MentalFloss.com)
"To be fair, Mendeleev's thought process also appears to have been a little bit different than Meyer's. After noticing several patterns, he decided to create a card for each of the 63 known elements that would include the symbol, atomic weight, and chemical and physical properties. He arranged the cards on a table in order of atomic weight and grouped elements with similar properties."
History of the Development of the Periodic Table of Elements (BPC.edu)
"Before written history, people were aware of some of the elements in the periodic table. Elements such as gold (Au), silver (Ag), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), tin (Sn), and mercury (Hg). It wasn't until 1649, however, until the first element was discovered through scientific inquiry by Hennig Brand . That element was phosphorous (P). By 1869, 63 elements had been discovered."