Last week, the New York Times reported that two new elements will be added to the periodic table -- livermorium and flerovium. Quite a mouthful. The names were chosen by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. But don't worry. They're not official until completion of a five-month public comment period.
Well, I got a comment. Those names stink.
According to the New York Times, the process for naming the new elements was extremely arduous. One of the scientists involved said they began with 50 possible names.
And livermorium and flerovium were the best they could come up with? They've got to be kidding. Hey, maybe it takes an Einstein to discover new elements but it doesn't take one to create better names.
As anyone who ever took grade-school chemistry knows, elements are the building blocks of the universe. Do you really want to be built out of livermorium or flerovium? I didn't think so.
A rose by any other name may smell as sweet. But new element names that are long, convoluted and difficult to remember make life harder for everyone -- especially pre-med students. That's why scientists should stick to the discovering and let liberal arts majors do the naming. As a speech major who got college science credit for a course titled "Physics For Poets," I feel eminently qualified. (Full disclosure: I attended the State University of New York at Buffalo. It's the Harvard of Buffalo.)
So how do we proceed? First, let's find out more about the properties of these new elements. According to the LiveScience web site, the elements are large and unstable. That immediately suggests several names: Netflixium, Iranium, Eurozoneium, Obamacareium, NewtGingrichium, to name just a few. The LiveScience web site also states that these elements are not found in nature and can only be created in a lab. DonaldTrumpium?
We could also apply naming techniques that are used for consumer products such as cars, toothpaste and cereal. That means you'd want something short and snappy. It's got to stick in your head. How about blingium? Or poledanceium.
Another technique, popular with mobsters and gang members, could also be applied -- nicknames. So maybe the new elements could be called fatsium or oldmanium or slickchickium. You get the idea.
Or maybe we should go in a completely different direction. The scientific community loves to use naming opportunities to pay tribute to themselves. They've already got elements named Einsteinium and Nobelium. So they might like naming the new elements after other famous scientists. But I've got a better idea. Let's name them after all scientists. How about geekium or nerdium?
Whether or not you like any of my suggestions, make your voice heard. You've got five months to tell the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry that the names currently proposed are terrible. If they don't hear from you, nothing will change. Because right now they think it's a done deal. Dr. Terry A. Renner, executive director of the chemistry union, has said that barring "a major kerfuffle," the names livermorium and flerovium will be approved next May. I hope not. Even kerfuffleium would be better.
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