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Admittedly, if you’re not a chemist or physicist, you may find this post as boring as dirt. (Please forgive the simile, microbiologists. I know dirt is actually fascinating.) Then again, it’s not everyday a new element is added to the periodic table.

The latest addition, number 112, was discovered on February, 9th, 1996 at 10:37 PM by a team under Professor Sigurd Hofmann at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (Center for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt, Germany, who confirmed its existence by observing a characteristic “decay chain” of radioisotopes (illustrated above) that could only have originated with element 112.

Just a couple weeks ago, on February 19, that discovery was officially confirmed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), who accepted the GSI team’s recommendation of the name “Copernicium” in honor, naturally, of Nicolaus Copernicus, whom most will recall as the first scientist to stand up and declare that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way ’round. The new two-letter symbol is “Cn.”

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.

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