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Six Atoms of Element 117 Produced 213

mr crypto writes "A team of Russian and American scientists has produced six atoms of a new element, number 117, that has long stood as a missing link among the heaviest bits of atomic matter ever produced. The element, still nameless, appears to point the way toward a brew of still more massive elements with chemical properties no one can predict. The researchers say that the discovery bolsters the idea of an 'island of stability' among still heavier elements."
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Six Atoms of Element 117 Produced

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  • It has a name (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:15PM (#31755738)

    Ununseptium. It's just not the final name. I think in honor of Lost, it should be called Smokium.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:44PM (#31756014)

    Study it for a minute. The chemical properties you speak of are largely represented by the columns. Super-heavy elements would be in the middle, in their own 'new' columns.

    Wikipedia actually has an article about it: []

  • by 49152 ( 690909 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:46PM (#31756032)

    Although a temporary one. Sorry, jumped the gun :)

  • Re:No name yet (Score:3, Informative)

    by 49152 ( 690909 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:47PM (#31756048)

    It cannot be Unobtainium, they already have 6 atoms of it. That was far to easy to be Unobtainium!

  • Re:Hey chemists (Score:5, Informative)

    by modrzej ( 1450687 ) <m.m.modrzejewski@gma i l .com> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:48PM (#31756056)
    Light elements, say, those you can find in first three rows of the periodic table, can be qualitatively described using hydrogen atom-like model. Basically, it says that properties of elements are periodic, when you go through the periodic table in a consecutive manner. But then you got heavier elements. The hydrogen atom-like approximation breaks down here, the properties are still periodic, but there are many exceptions from set of simple rules that were valid for lighter elements. In some cases even quantum-mechanical methods fail to describe heavier elements, for example gold wouldn't have gold color if not treated relativistically. One can expect that going towards extremely large Z well established techniques won't prove successful.
  • Re:Hey chemists (Score:3, Informative)

    by spvo ( 955716 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:58PM (#31756134)
    People have predicted some of their properties. Since these super heavy elements are difficult to produce, and the isotopes produced are generally short lived, the only thing that can really be observed is the elements half-life.

    The models that exist for the currently known elements seem to work pretty well, but they also predict the island of stability mentioned in the summary. Basically a region of very heavy and very stable elements. So, if these elements are discovered and actually are very stable, then it tells us that the current nuclear models aren't too bad.

    Also, and this I'm not positive about, the reason the properties are likely different than the common elements is because these superheavy elements are very neutron rich and very heavy. And I think the most stable ones are supposed to be deformed as well.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:59PM (#31756148)

    What I mean is, starting with element 119 you are in to a new, 8th period of the periodic table. Ok well each two periods adds new blocks due to the electron shells. Starting at element 121, you are in that new block. As such there isn't anything to compare it against. You are now dealing with g-block elements, which don't exist in lighter elements.

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:09PM (#31756226)

    Nope. Not at these atomic numbers.

    Outer electrons start to move at appreciable fraction of speed of light, so relativistic effects begin to affect chemical properties.

    A good example of relativistic effect - color of gold and copper.

  • Re:Hey chemists (Score:5, Informative)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:13PM (#31756252)
    Why can't this be predicted? An element is defined by the number of protons in the nucleus, right? So why is it difficult or impossible to predict what happens when you add another proton?

    Because most of the interesting properties of an element are not defined by the number of protons but by the number of electrons and which orbitals they are found in in the ground state.

    The orbitals are not simply layers like a layer cake and they don't fill up in a strictly one-two-three kind of order. The way the lanthanides stick up out of the periodic table is due to the fact that an outer orbital fills in before one of the inner ones does for those elements.

    The fact that sodium behaves like potassium is not because of the number of protons for each, for example, it is because the number of electrons to balance those protons results in one electron in the outermost 's' orbital. The atom prefers to get rid of this electron, making the + ion. The inert elements are all due to the fact that they have the right number of electrons to completely fill the outer shell. Chlorine and the elements in that column lack completeness by one electron, so they prefer to pick up one electron and form the - ion.

    H2 is stable because the two H atoms share the two electrons, making a complete outer shell. Na2 is not stable, because even though they'd share the outer electron and make a complete 's' orbital, the outer shell of Na has more than an s orbital.

    It's all an electron thing, not proton.

  • Island of stability (Score:3, Informative)

    by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:26PM (#31756346) Homepage
    Although there is a predicted island of stability (due to being nearer to a nice magic number []). However, TFA's statement about these elements lasting days or years is wildly optimistic. By most estimates it isn't likely that we will have elements which are stable for more than at most a few minutes. However, that doesn't sound sexy so everyone talks about the island of stability a lot. A lot of scifi has had fun with the idea of very stable elements in the island being not only stable but having really weird properties (allowing warp drives, wormholes and other fun stuff). However, more likely than not even if we can make these larger these elements they won't more than a few seconds. And we will only be able to make them in very tiny quantities. Of course, they certainly won't allow stargates and all that fun stuff either, but that's at least fun to dream about.
  • Re:still more... (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:45PM (#31756480) Homepage

    > I was thinking of the "unobtanium" in Avatar.

    "Unobtainium" is much, much older than that silly movie.

  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:49PM (#31756512)

    More accurately, the classical velocity of the electrons, if you calculate it from Newtonian principles, approaches (or even exceeds) the speed of light. Nevertheless, the electron does not "move" when in a bound state, from a quantum perspective.

    It's interesting that even when a less accurate physical theory is technically wrong, it may still have some predictive value.

  • Re:Hey chemists (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:02PM (#31756596) Homepage

    Most of my questions are based on the apparent fact that for any given number of protons in the nucleus, there is exactly one element with that amount.

    That's the definition of an element, yes.

    If that were true, it would seem that given the number of protons, you would be able to deduce certain properties about the element (if there was only one possible configuration of electrons for a given number of protons).

    There is one set of possible electron orbitals, yes, but the problem is that with large elements like this the number of orbitals is very large and their behavior is non-obvious. You can't just look at element 117 and say that oh, the outer-most shell (the one that matters most with regards to chemical behavior) is one electron short of being full in the non-ionized element, so it's going to behave like Florine. There's a lot more going on in this element.

  • Re:No name yet (Score:3, Informative)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe@jwsmy[ ].com ['the' in gap]> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:13PM (#31757072) Homepage Journal
    &#1089;&#1090;&#1086; &#1076;&#1077;&#1074;&#1103;&#1090;&#1085;&#1072;&#1076;&#1094;&#1072;&#1090;&#1100;

    Just put that into Google, and it'll show up highlighted in the searches. Chrome offers to translate the page, so you get it in English too. :) It's not like it really matters which way I show it, it's not like you can read Cyrillic if you asked. :)
  • Re:still more... (Score:4, Informative)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:13PM (#31757076) Homepage

    > perhaps it is the dark matter.

    No. Whatever dark matter is, it cannot be baryonic matter of any sort.

  • Re:still more... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:36PM (#31757184)

    No, Dark matter isn't a superheavy element, inert or otherwise.
    Here's why:

            We have some observations of nearby spiral galaxies, that seem to show dark matter. It is revealed by gravitational influences on the visible parts of those galaxies. These include the speed the visible parts rotate at, around galactic centers that are probably supermassive black holes. The speed of rotation doesn't fall off according to the normal square/cube function for gravity, and adding enough conventional type matter to get anything like the observed numbers for motions means that conventional matter would all be trying to fall into the center, not exist as a rather extended cloud that show effects all the way to outside the major arms of the spiral galaxy.
            Either we see galaxies of some somewhat differing ages and seriously differing sizes and masses, and yet somehow, all of them have a cloud of normal but unilluminated matter, that is at a particular stage of infall, and all of those galaxies will be past that stage within a very few million years, or else they are surrounded by something that isn't normal matter, and doesn't want to pack down as tight as normal matter, or start clumping enough to shine like stars as normal matter does. Astronomers don't like theories that say we are observing a very statistically unusual and unstable state that just happens to look like a normal condition from our especially privileged viewpoint. Ergo, there's some kind of matter that won't fit on the periodic table no matter how much you extend it.
          Now just what other restrictions there are, that's debatable. When dark matter was first proposed, it was supposed to make the whole universe have enough mass that it was just barely, exactly, geometrically flat (that is, it wouldn't expand quite forever, wouldn't have an overall curvature that counted as either 'open' or 'closed', and certain other numbers, such as the Hubble constant, would be exactly enough to give us a universe with what is called an omega of exactly 1). Some theories also proposed a role in this for what was/is called dark energy.
          Recent observations of very distant galaxies have revealed a lot of previously unaccounted for normal matter, enough that normal matter may make up much more of the universe as a whole than we thought for about the last thirty years. Maybe that's even enough to mean we don't need much or any dark matter at all to make omega = 1. But, we now have actual observations of what appears to be some kind of dark matter. So even if one of the original reasons for suspecting dark matter existed is invalid, and even if we could be certain there isn't as much of the universe made of dark matter as that reason suggested, now we have to explain the observations that say there is at least some dark matter around.

  • by quanminoan ( 812306 ) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:04AM (#31758066)
    And it explains why mercury is liquid: []
  • Re:No name yet (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @08:39AM (#31759870)

    russian for 119 would be:

    sto dyevyatnadtsat

    Slashdot is irritating in that it doesn't support unicode. Apparently, if 7-bit ASCII was good enough for my father, it should be good enough for me.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.