Ununseptium

Animal, vegetable or mineral? Actually it’s one of the latest elements to have been ‘discovered’, and definitely one of the heaviest so far.

Ununseptium is just a temporary name of the element with symbol Uus and atomic number, Z=117, with just about 6 atoms successfully synthesized and detected earlier this year, during a joint Russian American collaboration, which involved  a complex process of reaction between isotopes of Calcium and Berkelium, and the resultant synthesis of two neighboring isotopes neither of which decayed to isotopes of any known element. This was officially acknowledged after it was published  in the Physical Review Letters recently.

Don’t be alarmed if this sounds too nerdy. It’s all about recalling a few basic concepts from your college science classes; nothing nerdy about that.

The discovery fills a gap in the currently known  periodic table since the next element Ununoctium (z= 118) was created a few years ago; Ununseptium bolsters the hope of finding the so-called “island of stabliity” among super-heavy elements with half-lifes longer than a tiny fraction of a second, extending in fact to days, years or even longer to be useful.

In case you’re wondering, ununseptium is just a standard rendition of one-one-seven in Latin. To confuse us more – but in fact to enllghten us too – this new kid on the block of the Periodic Table is also called eko-astatine, because it was predicted – according to the system adopted from the originator of the periodic table, Dmitry Mendeleev by later scientists like Glenn Seaborg – to belong to the halogen family, and does indeed fill the blank spot  exactly one row below the naturally occurring but highly radioactive  halogen Astatine (‘eka’ is the Sanskrit word for one – geddit?)

If you are wondering about the reason for the subterfuge of this coded terminology, think of Ununbium , first created in 1996, but not officially recognized until 2009 with a proper name.  Copernicium – named after the great astronomer Copernicus of course – is so far the highest-numbered element (z=112) to have that distinction.
Go figure!

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