Philip Ball on the new elements

"It is fair to say that the periodic table holds more interest and glamour for the public than it does for the working chemist."

- Philip Ball, writing in Nature

The scientific discipline of chemistry enjoyed some rare limelight recently when four new elements joined the famous Periodic Table. But as Ball points out in this week's issue of Nature, it's not exactly rocket science. Instead, it's list-making, an activity common in many branches of science that grips the popular imagination but yet does not adequately capture what it is that scientists actually do. Taxonomy is important and can help scientists see important patterns, but it is just the housekeeping framework of a much more interesting and fundamental endeavor: finding out how it all works. Ball also suggests naming one of the new elements "levium" after Primo Levi, whose lab lit novel/autobiography The Periodic Table is a firm favorite on our List.

We approve.