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Physics on film

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Michael Banks: June 2011 Archives

By Michael Banks

Unobtanium, collossium and fibonaccium. Those were just some of your suggestions for the name of element 112 following its confirmation two years ago.

In the end researchers, led by Sigurd Hofmann and his group at the Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany, went for copernicium, which was finally approved by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) in July 2009.

Now we want your suggestions for two new elements – 114 and 116 – after they were added to the periodic table following a three-year review by the IUPAC, which develops standards for naming new elements and compounds.

Currently element 114 is known as ununquadium with element 116 named ununhexium.

The elements were spotted by researchers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia, back in 2004, but only confirmed last year by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and the GSI lab.

Researchers at the JINR will now get the chance to name the new elements. They will submit their suggestions to the IUPAC who will then publish them on its website for six months giving scientists and the public time to scrutinize and comment on the new name.

So physicsworld.com readers what are your suggestions?

Templeton Prize HRH & Martin Rees.jpg
Martin Rees picks up the Templeton Prize from Prince Philip
(Courtesy: Clifford Shirley)

By Michael Banks

Can you guess what these two are saying to each other?

The photo, which was taken yesterday, shows the cosmologist Martin Rees from Cambridge University picking up the 2011 Templeton Prize at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Rees was presented with the gong, which comes with a cheque for a whopping £1m, by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in a private ceremony that was also attended by seven former Templeton winners, including Paul Davis and George Ellis.

Yesterday also happened to be Prince Philip’s 90th birthday.

According to the Templeton Foundation, the prize is awarded for “progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities”.

The 68-year-old cosmologist was awarded it for his “profound insights” into the nature of the cosmos that have “provoked vital questions that address mankind’s deepest hopes and fears”.

There was some controversy around Rees being awarded the prize. Indeed, he told me he was “surprised” on hearing he had won and that he usually tries to avoid discussing science and religion with his views being “rather boring”.

There is not a £1m prize on offer from us, but physicsworld.com readers – can you guess what is being said between Rees (right) and Prince Philip in our caption competition?

If we have some funny submissions then we may be able to dig out a prize for the best one.