Element 112 Discovered!! … thirteen years ago


So a team of scientists first created element 112 back in 1996, but it was only recently that they have been given credit for the discovery.

There are a lot of interesting things to look at here. First of all, it was created by smashing zinc atoms into a target made of lead. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that, when it comes to physics and chemistry, one of our most robust and useful techniques for studying small particles is the simple act of crashing them into one another. Of course, it’s far more sophisticated than a toddler in a sandbox crashing toy cars into each other, but the motivation is largely the same: to see what will happen.

It’s interesting to note here that it took thirteen years for credit to be awarded. That’s thirteen years of data analysis and experiment replication. Thirteen years of deciding whether the data collected constituted clinching proof that one or two atoms of this “unubium” were created. And it’s not like these atoms stick around either. They don’t exist in nature and so, you have to manufacture them.

This is closely linked to what I was talking about just the other day. Pure research. The knowledge that unubium exists has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on life. It’s not like this element is going to find its way into the components of a microwave oven. There is utterly no use for something that has a half-life of a handful of milliseconds–though according to Wikipedia, there’s an isotope of this element which has a half-life of 29 seconds!

Which brings me to my final point about unubium: it’s a stupid name. And, truth be told, it’s apparently a placeholder name while the team that discovered it comes up with a better one. So what is a bunch of scientists going to do? They’re going to name it after a famous scientist. And as good an idea as that is, I think I have a better idea.

As many are aware, a great man has passed away recently. The man who made kung fu a household word. He also died in a way that might be considered classy if you have a certain personality type. And since he had absolutely nothing to do with chemistry or physics, but managed to open many minds up to a wider world of mystery and intrigue and mysticism, and since he managed to die right around the time when this discovery was made official, I propose that this new element be named: Carradinium.

au revoir