There’s no question some subjects get more difficult with time. While history and literature likely remain more or less constant, with some material falling away as new material is added, consider science, where constant discoveries are always being made and added to existing knowledge.
An example: within the past few days, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has approved the name and symbols for four new elements, bringing the total number of named elements to 118.
The newest additions are nihonium (symbol Nh) for the element 113; moscovium (Mc), element 115; tennessine (Ts); element 117; and oganesson (Og) element 118. All are “superheavy” elements not found in nature.
They were created in a lab by blasting beams of heavy nuclei at other nuclei located inside particle accelerators, according to CBS. They complete the seventh row of the periodic table.
What this means for my children is that there are 10 more elements to learn than when I was in high school. There were seven more elements by the time I took high school chemistry compared to when my dad finished his secondary education.
Even more staggering is the fact that my children will have to learn 42 more elements than my maternal grandfather would have had to have known. Of course, he was born in 1882 and by the time he would have been of high school age, there were only 76 named elements.
The latest elements have been named after a place or geographical region, or a scientist.
Nihonium, discovered at RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Japan, comes from the word “Nihon,” which is one of the two ways to say “Japan” in Japanese, and literally mean “the Land of Rising Sun.”
Moscovium and tennessine were proposed by the discoverers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Moscovium recognizes the Moscow region and “honors the ancient Russian land that is the home of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, where the discovery experiments were conducted using the Dubna Gas-Filled Recoil Separator in combination with the heavy ion accelerator capabilities of the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions,” according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Tennessine is in recognition of the contribution of the Tennessee region of the United States, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to superheavy element research.
Oganesson was proposed by the collaborating teams of discoverers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and Lawrence Livermore to recognize Professor Yuri Oganessian for his pioneering contributions to transactinoid elements research.
“His many achievements include the discovery of superheavy elements and significant advances in the nuclear physics of superheavy nuclei including experimental evidence for the “island of stability,” according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
The naming of an element for Oganessian marks only the second time an element has been named after a living person, the other being seaborgium, for Glenn Seaborg, who won the 1951 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and was instrumental in the discovery of 10 transuranium elements.
(Top: Periodic table of elements. New elements can be seen at far right end of seventh row.)