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Discworld fans stake claim to element 117

'Octarine', surely, Pratchett petition proposes

By Lester Haines, 11 Jan 2016

Campaigning Terry Pratchett aficionados have followed the lead of Lemmy fans in demanding that one of the four new elements recently admitted to the periodic table be named in honour of their hero.

Last week, we reported that an online petition is calling for either element 113, 115, 117 or 118 to be dubbed "Lemmium".

Cue elemental petition number two, which asks that 117 be christened "'Octarine', with the proposed symbol Oc (pronounced 'ook')".

The blurb elaborates:

Octarine, in the Discworld books, is known as 'the colour of magic', which forms the title of Pratchett's first ever Discworld book. According to Disc mythology, octarine is visible only to wizards and cats, and is generally described as a sort of greenish-yellow purple colour, which seems perfect for what will probably be the final halogen in the periodic table.

The appeal is directed at the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

As the discoverers of 117, provisionally dubbed ununseptium, or Uus, the two labs have first dibs on proposing a permanent moniker. IUPAC has the final say, however, and notes that newbies "can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist".

In defence of their suggestion, Lemmium backers state "an astrological object (a star) has been named Lemmy to meet the IUPAC naming recommendations".

The Octarine lobby seems to have a stronger case, and is playing the "mythological concept" card. The petition concludes: "The Discworld stories are certainly stories about gods and heroes, and 70 million books surely count for something."

As we've previously noted, scientists aren't much cop at thinking up snappy titles for their elemental discoveries. Back in 2012, 114 and 116 were officially named flerovium and livermorium, after Russia's Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions (a lab forming part of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. ®

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