Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Welcome, Akirium?

Researchers at RIKEN in Japan announced today that they had most likely synthesized a few atoms of Ununtrium, or Element 113. Despite previous detections of the element by both RIKEN and a Russian group, further investigation by various international scientific agencies did not award naming rights to either party.

It'll never happen, but I can dream...
c. Katsuhiro Otomo
Now, I'm neither a physicist nor a nuclear chemist, so I'll leave explaining of atomic decay patterns to Phillip Broadwith over at Chemistry World. But I do love a good periodic table naming story, so I kinda hope that the Japanese group wins out. Not to disparage Russian nuclear research - it's top-notch - but they've named a few already (Dubnium, Flerovium), and most of the rest have come from Europe, the U.S., or come up through antiquity.

So, what would a Japanese-discovered element be called? Researchers at RIKEN have suggested some fairly bland entries: "rikenium," or "japonium," reflecting tradition in naming the new element after its place of discovery (wouldn't that second one be "nipponium?"). Names can also honor the researcher, which here might mean "Moritum."

Of course, I like to dream about names just slightly further afield. Akira, one of the more successful manga and a cultural touchstone, would make an excellent eponym: "Akirium."

Readers, what would you name a new element, if you had the chance?

Update, 9/27/12 - Readers from the Twitterverse suggest a few more candidates: "Nintendium," "Friday13eon," "Sonyicum," "Unlukium," and "Sushinium."


  1. Akirium is a great suggestion. If not that, then how about "Totorium," in honor of Totoro?

  2. I like the sound of "Jellium," but the solid state physicists would probably kill me for doing that. They'd have to rewrite all their books.

    I suppose one well-worn element naming tradition is to honor famous nuclear physicists/chemists who have passed on - I'm drawing a blank at the moment who would be suitable, but I'm sure there are a few good candidates.

  3. Some names that haven't gotten much (if any) attention: sakharovium, gandhium, erisium (Eris is the Kuiper Belt object that may be larger than Pluto; this would have been a good name for 104 since Eris is the goddess of discord).
    Odd story: way back when 104 was discovered, I had a dream that it had been named "chasjorn californium" (egad!). I later dreamed that it was "seaboreckium" (where the eck did the eck come from?). The third time was the charm: "sentesmium" - that name sounds great altho it's (as far as I know) totally meaningless.

  4. I'm not positive, but nipponium may be ruled out because it has been previously used.

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