Nature’s Sudoku Nearly Complete — Scientists Have Filled The Seventh Row Of The Periodic Table

Every science textbook in the world may now need to be updated, according to the Guardian: four new super-heavy chemical elements were discovered by scientists in Russia, America and Japan last year. On December 30, 2015, the new elements were verified by experts at the U.S.-based International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the global organization that governs chemical nomenclature, terminology and measurement.

The elements have been formally added to the table, just in time for a new year of schooling that will need to incorporate a revised chemistry curriculum.

The new elements were discovered by scientists in Japan, Russia and America. This is the first time the table has had to be updated since 2011, when elements 114 and 116 were added.

Professor Jan Reedijk, the leader of the Inorganic Chemistry Division of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, spoke to reporters about the “cherished table” and the excitement of researchers who have been part of this update.

“The chemistry community is eager to see its most cherished table finally being completed down to the seventh row.

“IUPAC has now initiated the process of formalising names and symbols for these elements temporarily named as ununtrium, (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118).”

Reedjik stressed that the names of the new elements are temporary. The tongue-twisting ‘U’ names — ununseptium, ununoctium, ununoentium and ununtrium — are likely to be changed to something more memorable and significant in time. The Guardian notes that new elements can be named after minerals, places of significance, their properties, or even after a mythological concept or after the scientist involved in their discovery.

Yahoo Finance reports that the Japanese research team who discovered element 113 has been granted the right to name it. The institute told reporters on Thursday that element 113, temporarily named Ununtrium, is the first on the periodic table to be discovered by Asian scientists, and will be the first to be named by Asian scientists.

A team led by Kosuke Morita was awarded the right to name the element from International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP). They successfully created the synthetic element three times from 2004 to 2012. The scientists slammed lighter nuclei into each other and tracked the decay of the radioactive superheavy elements. They were able in three cases to detect and document the presence of Ununtrium, which is highly unstable and only exists for fractions of a second before decaying into other elements.

Citizens of Japan have won about 20 Nobel prizes in science and medicine, including two in 2015. The Riken Institute has, however, has a scandal-plagued history — last year they were forced to withdraw flawed research that had been billed as a scientific breakthrough in stem cell reproduction.

Russian and U.S. scientists working together had won the naming rights for the three other elements: ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118).

“IUPAC has announced that Morita’s group will be given priority for the discovery of the new element, a privilege that includes the right to propose a name for it. Several studies published from 2004 to 2012 have been construed as sufficient to ratify the discovery and priority.”

Science News reports that the American/Russian team who were awarded the discovery of 115, 117 and 118 also originally laid claim to element 113. It seems researchers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California believed that it was they who had had detected element 113 after experiments in 2004 and 2007.

The decision was ultimately made to grant that discovery to the Japanese team, who must have made the discovery simultaneously, and documented it more thoroughly.

The exact reasons for IUPAC’s decision to award 113 to the Japanese team should become clear in 2016 when the details of the research are released.

Dawn Shaughnessy, who leads the Livermore group in California, said that being recognized for three of the four new discoveries was enough of an honor.

“I’m personally very happy with IUPAC’s decision.”

[Image by Ty Milford / Getty Images]