New Elements
Posted: 10 June 2016 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Back in 2009 I added all (as of that date) the names of the chemical elements to the Big List. But science marches on, and since then six new elements have been named (four this month). They are:

Element 113, nihonium

Element 114, flerovium

Element 115, moscovium

Element 116, livermorium

Element 117, tennessine

Element 118, oganesson

All that’s needed now is for Tom Lehrer to add another stanza to his song.

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Posted: 10 June 2016 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The four named this month (113, 115, 117, 118) are in probationary stage and the names won’t be official for 5 months, giving time for petitioners to raise objections, make other suggestions, etc.

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Posted: 10 June 2016 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m curious why these elements are being described as having been discovered. They’re constructs, not artifacts.

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Posted: 10 June 2016 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Good point. My guess is that discovery is what scientists do. Engineers construct things. The scientists are using the term they’re accustomed to using when describing their work.

But it’s likely that these elements do exist in nature, such as in a supernova. They’re just unstable and their instantiations don’t exist for very long.

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Posted: 10 June 2016 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The fact that 118 protons and 176 neutrons will stick together for several hundred microseconds can justly be called a discovery.

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Posted: 10 June 2016 10:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The scientists are using the term they’re accustomed to

But they surely know the Tom Lehrer song too, so perhaps they feel it has to rhyme somehow with Harvard

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Posted: 11 June 2016 02:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m not sure how these things get constructed, but if it’s by whanging on stuff with a metaphorical hammer and sorting through the mess to see what happened then I would guess that discovered is a perfectly valid term.

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Posted: 12 June 2016 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Faldage - 11 June 2016 02:52 AM

I’m not sure how these things get constructed, but if it’s by whanging on stuff with a metaphorical hammer and sorting through the mess to see what happened then I would guess that discovered is a perfectly valid term.

Yes, I considered that point of view, but it seems to me the only thing you’ve discovered in that scenario is that your experimental technique works to achieve the desired result.

Nothing important; I was just musing about the words.

I recently saw The Martian and there’s a scene where he’s recounting the problems he’s facing with regards to making a necessary journey and he says his only hope is to “science the shit” out of things and it rang odd to me because I saw every one of his issues as an engineering problem, adapting existing equipment to new tasks, so I would have said “engineer the shit” until I remembered the character was a botanist, and they, of course, see themselves as scientists, not engineers. I’ve met physics professors who were of the Sheldon Cooper school and looked down on engineers as being those who served a lesser god. The whole “discovering new elements” deal seems like pure engineering at this point, but then I don’t exactly move in those circles and I’m a pragmatist by nature so I have mad respect for engineering. Science often blurs the line between art and craft.

So Dave’s comment about “discovery” being what scientists do sorta fits in with all that.

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Posted: 13 June 2016 02:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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happydog - 12 June 2016 02:12 PM

… the only thing you’ve discovered in that scenario is that your experimental technique works to achieve the desired result.

My point is that we are whanging away and sorting through the mess.  The purpose of the whanging away was not to discover eleventeenium but to see what we can see.  We might discover eleventeenium in the rubble but we might, instead, discover forty-elevenium.

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Posted: 13 June 2016 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yes, and I also realized… Hey, they’re seeing a part of nature that’s never been seen before, if that’s not a discovery, what is? The fact that they knew where to look is irrelevant.

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Posted: 13 June 2016 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The whole “discovering new elements” deal seems like pure engineering at this point

The construction of the accelerators, and perhaps the actual conduct of the experiment, is an engineering problem, but the search for new elements is science, not engineering. Do these elements actually exist? (i.e., looking for further confirmatory evidence of theory) Is there an “island of stability” that exists at higher atomic numbers? What properties and structures do these higher elements have? They’re trying to find out more about the universe we live in; that’s science, not engineering.

Turning those elements into something useful would be engineering.

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