New Element, Old News?

Pb targetIt's perhaps telling of how some of the media sees chemistry- several outlets were abuzz at the news that IUPAC has recognized a new chemical element. As for the chemistry-specific blogosphere and news outlets? By comparison, tumbleweeds. Not even Mitch weighed in. Now, it's not like we missed out on the story. When there was actual chemistry news to report, actual scientific advances, plenty of chemistry communicators were out there, covering the discovery of 112 back in 1996, and the finding that it behaves like mercury. The recent coverage appears to have stemmed from a press release from the GSI Center for Heavy Ion Research, in Darmstadt, Germany (where 112 was discovered) announcing IUPAC's recognition of 112, which took more than a decade since the element's discovery. I'm glad that 112 is finally official, but this is a bureaucratic advance, not a scientific one. I guess it's a fun news story, in that it gets people talking about what the element's name will be. Maybe I shouldn't complain- at least this story gets chemistry into the news. I suppose it just underscores the different purposes different publications and online sources have as outlets for information/analysis. What is pretty interesting, as The Great Beyond noted, is that with 112, discoverer Sigurd Hofmann and his colleagues at GSI will get to name a sixth element. According to this Wikipedia site, it seems like only Berkeley's team of scientists (which included eminent nuclear chemists Glenn Seaborg and Albert Ghiorso, among others) has had the opportunity to name more. I wonder whether naming fatigue sets in at some point. Image: Lead foil-equipped target wheel. Scientists "fired" Zn ions at this target to produce element 112. Credit: A. Zschau, GSI

Author: Carmen Drahl

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