Rewrite the textbooks! The seventh row of the periodic table of elements, which had previously included some glaring gaps, has now been officially filled in thanks to the discovery of four elements new to science, reports the Guardian.
The gaps in the table indicated that new discoveries were possible, so the news is exciting for scientists for whom the empty slots represented an irksome, unfinished puzzle. The four new elements — which occupy the 113th, 115th, 117th and 118th positions — have the monikers Uut, Uup, Uus and Uuo respectively, but these designations will soon change as the elements' discoverers get to choose new names for them.
It's an honor and a privilege for the discoverers, especially since the periodic table is such a ubiquitous and universal chart. The scientists' accomplishments truly get branded in timeless form.
“To scientists, this is of greater value than an Olympic gold medal,” said Ryoji Noyori, a Nobel laureate in chemistry.
The honor is particularly prestigious to the team of scientists from the RIKEN institute in Japan, who were credited with discovering element 113. It will be the first element in the table to be named in Asia, and there's already speculation that it could be named "Japanium" to salute the milestone.
There's a bit of vanity — a sort of scientific divinity — associated with the newly discovered elements, since none of them occur naturally. They are all man-made, created by smashing smaller nuclei together at high speeds and tracking the following decay of the radioactive superheavy elements. They only exist for a fraction of a second before falling apart, which is part of what has made their discovery so elusive.
The additions appear to complete the periodic table, since each row is now of uniform length, but researchers are already hard at work to see if a whole new row might one day be added. The Japanese team that discovered element 113 now plans to “look to the unchartered territory of element 119 and beyond."
So perhaps our quest into creation has only just begun.