In 1979, the International Union of Pure and
Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), a group of scientists
from around the world, made some rules to help
other scientists understand each other when
talking about undiscovered elements. According to
these rules, each element has a temporary name
that is built from its atomic number. For example,
un- means 1 and tri- means 3, so element number
113 is called ununtrium.
Several elements have been made and
discovered since 2000. In order of discovery, they
are atomic numbers 116 (livermorium), 118
(ununoctium), 115 (ununpentium), 113 (ununtrium)
and 117 (ununseptium). Because these elements
are fairly new, the best place to look for
information about them might be the scientific
journals where they are first published: Physical
Review C, Journal of the Physical Society of
Japan, and Physical Review Letters.
You might have noticed that many of these
elements still have temporary names. Who gets
to choose a new element's permanent name? The
first team of scientists that can convince IUPAC
that they really made a new element. This takes a
lot of work and a lot of time. When the scientists
at IUPAC are satisfied with the winners' work, the
new name will be officially announced.
I don't know how many new elements have been
created in the lab, but elements behave
according to known laws of physics, so we can
predict what elements there will be if we can pump
them up enough. Supernovae and other very
powerful events in space can create elements that
we cannot make on Earth; it's just that these
elements decay so fast that we never get a chance
to look at them.
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