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Question:
How do you name elements and how are they identified?



Replies:
Actually, this is more of a "chemistry" question... The elements that occur naturally were all discovered a long time ago, so the problem of naming them does not come up anymore - they already have names. However, there are some official international organizations (IUPAP/IUPAC I think?) that are responsible for establishing the names used in scientific work, not only for the elements but also for new molecules etc. The standard way in which elements are given names is that the discoverer is allowed to pick a name - this has resulted in debates between groups in the U.S. and Russia over who actually discovered the latest heavy elements first. There are several ways to identify elements. On a microscopic scale, individual atoms can have their mass identified relatively easily with mass spectrometers, and spectroscopes of other sorts give information on the electron states, which differ very markedly from one element to the next. To actually measure how much of one element there is in something the standard approach is to use chemical extraction methods (every element has different chemical reaction properties) and count how much you get out.

Arthur Smith



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