Sunday, November 6, 2011
Nerds Around the World, REJOICE!!!
Just this past Friday, the General Assembly of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics bestowed names upon the three newest elements. Numbers 110, 111, and 112 have now been given the names of Darmstadtium, Roentgenium, and Copernicum, respectively. On the periodic table you see above, Darmstadtium and Roentgenium already appear with their names in place. The last orange block you see with the temporary designation of Uub is now Cn, or Copernicum. These are elements actually "born" in a laboratory setting, and are categorized as "super heavy" or Transuranium elements. See more of the fascinating story here.
I remember being a young child and going to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and seeing this huge wall display of the Periodic Table of the Elements. I didn't even know what it was at the time, but something about the placement of the elements, the form of the table, the different colors, numbers, really caught my attention. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that even back then I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I still think so. There was, suddenly, ORDER in the universe to me, a sense of perfection, an idea that things belonged together in a certain space. My parents, not experts in the sciences, tried to explain it to me, but I craved more information. As I had so many times before, and so many times after, I went home that day and looked it up in our set of Encylopedia Britannicas. I was hooked. Somehow, it just all made sense. I was in love with one of the most astonishing discoveries mankind had ever made.
There was a very interesting show on, I believe, the Science channel a couple of months ago. It was a two-parter on the discovery of elements (which actually arose quite by mistake when alchemy failed to yield gold from disparate parts - thus the discovery that gold is an element and cannot be "made" from anything else) and how they came to be arranged in a chart that assigned elements by atomic number, increasing in number of protons in the nucleus as you go down and right on the table. They are then grouped in columns and rows depending on chemical reactivity and other properties. How beautiful is that? And how beautiful are the minds that understood this for the first time in history?
So, there you go. Just a bit of interesting news today, and a homage to one of the fathers of modern science - Nicolaus Copernicus himself. I can't think of a more fitting tribute to the man who was audacious enough to believe the Earth actually revolved around the Sun.