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The periodic table just got a little (super)heavier

Everyone's favorite list of all the things that make up everything has just received four new additions.

This periodic table of elements is due for an update.
Corbis via Getty Images

You're going to have to work a little harder to impress people at the next chemists' cocktail party when reciting the periodic table of elements from memory. Four new elements have been named and added to the seventh row.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry approved including the four new elements last December, but the process of proposing names and taking comments from the public takes several months. This week it became official. Your chemistry textbook is totally out of date.

Without further adieu, allow me to introduce elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 -- nihonium, moscovium, tennessine and oganesson, respectively.

The four new elements help finish off the seventh row of the "heaviest" elements that have higher numbers of protons in their nucleus. (The aforementioned atomic numbers reflect the number of protons in the nucleus.) Superheavy elements like these four aren't found in nature, but rather are synthesized by exposing a radioisotope to another specific isotope. In rare cases the nuclei then combine to form new elements.

Four new elements fill out the seventh row of the periodic table.


The new elements were first synthesized as early as 2003, in the case of moscovium. The road to a permanent home on the periodic table involved years of confirming the new elements' existence before the IUPAC finally gave its blessing,

The elements are named either for places or people: nihonium was discovered by Japanese researchers and is named after Nihon, which means Japan; Russian-discovered moscovium is named for Moscow; Oak Ridge National Lab researchers in Tennessee discovered and named tennessine; and the Russian team behind oganesson named their element after famed Russian nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian.

You probably won't be heading out to the convenience store to pick up some tennessine to clean your floors anytime soon. The superheavy elements are also super unstable and tend to decay in just fractions of a second, giving them no real practical utility. Someday, though, researchers hope to discover superheavy elements that are also stable.

So yes, you probably should go cancel your bid on eBay for a test tube full of nihonium.