Post Tagged with: "Periodic Table"

The Periodic Table of Element Eytmologies

The seventh row of the periodic table is complete, resplendent with four new names for the elements 113, 115, 117 and 118. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (the organisation charged with naming the elements) has suggested these should be called nihonium (Nh); moscovium (Mc); tennessine (Ts) and oganesson (Og) and is expected to confirm the proposal in November.

Yuri Oganesyan., CC BY-SA

The three former elements are named after the regions where they were discovered (and Nihonium references Nihon the Japanese name for Japan). And “oganesson” is named after the Russian-American physicist Yuri Oganessian, who helped discover them.

After years of having to make do with temporary monikers while the elements were officially being added to the periodic table and evaluated by the IUPAC, these new names are much welcomed by scientists. Alas, those calling for names in tribute to great folk of popular culture have gone unheeded; Octarine (the colour of magic, according to Terry Pratchett), Ziggium (in tribute to David Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust) and Severium (in tribute to Alan Rickman and via Severus Snape) will not adorn the updated table.

Instead IUPAC have followed their rules which stipulate that “elements are named after a mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object); a mineral, or similar substance; a place or geographical region; a property of the element; or a scientist”.

But there wasn’t always such an organisation overseeing the names of the elements. Most of them have come about via contorted etymologies. So to give you an idea of the diversity of the most famous of scientific tables, I’ve turned it into an infographic and summarised a few of the eytmologies in numbers.

The Periodic Table of Elements’ Etymology.
Andy Bruning, Compound Interest, Author provided

Click here for a larger version.

Two of the elements stink. Bromine means “stench” and osmium means “smells”. France also appears twice on the periodic table in the form of francium and gallium (from Gaul) and its capital city, Paris, gets a mention (in the form of lutetium).

Three sanskit words – eka, dvi and tri, meaning one, two and three – were prefixed to elements and used as provisional names for those that had yet to be discovered. Eka- is used to denote an element directly below another in the table, dvi- is for an element two rows down and tri- is three rows beneath. Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev first used this nomenclature to fill in the gaps in his early periodic table, so element number 32 was known as eka-silicon until it was discovered and named germanium in 1886. Similarly, rhenium was known as dvi-manganese until 1926. Some 14 elements have had eka names including our four new additions which before their discovery were known as eka-thallium, eka-bismuth, eka-astitine and eka-radon.

Four of the elements are named after planets (Earth – in the form of tellurium, Mercury, Neptune and Uranus). A further two are named after dwarf plants (Pluto and Ceres), while one after a star (helium from the Greek for the sun – Helios) and another after an asteroid (Pallas) feature on the periodic table.

Five elements are named after other elements: molybdenium is from the Greek for lead, molybdos, while platinum comes from the Spanish platina meaning “little silver”. Radon is derived from radium, zirconium has its roots in the Arabic zarkûn meaning “gold-like” and nickle is from the German for “devil’s copper”.

Eight elements were first isolated from rocks quarried in a the small village of Ytterby in Sweden. Four of those elements are named in tribute to the village (ytterbium, erbium, terbium, yttrium).

15 are named after scientists, only two of whom were women: Marie Curie and Lise Meitner are immortalised in curium and meitnerium.

18 elements have had placeholder names derived from the Latin for the elements atomic number (for example ununoctium, now oganesson). This was introduced to stop scientists fighting over what their discoveries should be called. Nobody wants a repeat of the three-decade long “Transferium Wars” when battles raged between competing American and Russian laboratories over what to call elements 104, 105 and 106.

42 elements’ names are derived from Greek; 23 from Latin; 11 from English; five are Anglo-saxon; five German; five Swedish; two Norse; three Russian, and one apiece for Japanese, Sanskrit, Gaelic, Arabic and Spanish.

118 elements appear on the periodic table, and the seventh row is complete, but that doesn’t mean the table is finished. Laboratories around the world are busy smashing atoms together in an attempt to forge new even heavier elements. The hope is that before long these latter day alchemists will hit upon the fabled “island of stability”; a region of the table that harbours elements with half-lives much longer that the sub-second lives of nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson.

Infographic for this article was made by Andy Brunning/Compound Interest

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By June 11, 2016 4 comments Uncategorized

The Disney Periodic Table: Clever Hook or Abomination?

We’ve all seen the plethora of faux periodic tables. I’ve ranted written about them before.

And now Disney (not content with trying to taking ownership of every  story ever) has chipped in with its own version of the periodic table.

At least it resembles the original, all the symbols are their, numbered correctly and laid out in the familiar way. But no longer do the symbols represent elements. Instead manganese has become Mulan, neon has transmutated into Nemo, and lead has been replaced by Pooh Bear (at least they are both rather dense). The only element that survives intact is copper, all be it in dog form and where cobalt should be.

Now I’m in two minds about this one. On the one hand it might serve as a way to get a bit of chemistry onto the walls of Disney fans and maybe they’ll then graduate onto the real version. But on the other hand it just makes me feel a bit sick :-/

So what do you think? Is it a clever way to elicit an interest in chemistry in those that might otherwise be more interested in fairy tale princesses or is it just an abomination?


By March 27, 2015 9 comments Uncategorized

The Underground Map of the Elements

My son loves trains. So I came up with a train related twist to an inspection of the periodic table. We sat and cut up a copy of the table and then rearranged each element as a ‘station’ on an underground rail system. Each line represents a characteristic shared by the elements on that line. map 1.4

After (quite) a few drafts, and more time than I care to admit, we ended up with this.

It was constructed with the help of Metro Map Creator (no way I could have done it without this neat web app). If anyone fancies building some more lines I’ll happily send you the saved file (share using a creative commons attribution, non-commercial, share a like license) .

Let me know if you spot any errors.


Thanks to Shaun, Max, IanMitch, YulLabrat and Stu (alway handy to have a Nature Chemistry editor check your work)  for spotting some mistakes. All corrected now.

Now on version 1.4. New line added, to show elements that were discovered via synthesis and then found in nature.

By August 27, 2013 21 comments chemical education, fun

Speaking of To Many Periodic Tables…

My wife and I married 4 years ago overlooking the ocean in Palos Verdes, California. It was a very small wedding (n = 8) without a reception. A month ago, we finally got the chance to bring all our friends together for a better-late-than-never celebration in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My wife insisted we have a periodic table of cupcakes for dessert.

Two days before the party we learned that the business that was going to provide the cupcakes closed up shop. After a panicked internet search and a few telephone calls we found our last-minute, aptly named savior: Cupcake. With less than a 24-hour notice they had 120 cupcakes waiting for us to pick up.

Below are photos of the final display as well as a ‘flavor map’. The element labels/toppers were made out of colored, melted chocolate.  Looking back, my only regret is that I only had two cupcakes.

By July 11, 2013 5 comments fun