Name element 117 Octarine, in honour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

Sign the petition to name element 117 Octarine

UPDATE: Nature Chemistry have recently released a list of odds for the suggested new element names. Octarine is 1,000,000:1. And since, as we know: “Magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten,” that makes it practically a dead cert!

octarine

Octarine can famously only be seen by wizards (and witches) and cats and perhaps, now, some scientists. (Image: Discworld.com)

As you will have heard, the periodic table’s seventh row has finally been filled as four new elements have been added. Atomic numbers 115, 117 and 118 have been credited to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Element 113 has been credited to a team of scientists from the Riken institute in Japan.

Period 7 is finally filled (image credit, IUPAC)

Period 7 is finally filled (image credit: IUPAC)

These elements were discovered a little while ago, but the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) – who’s in charge of such things – have only recently verified these discoveries and asked the scientists responsible to suggest names to replace their existing temporary names of ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium.

IUPAC does have rules about naming. Namely: “Elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist.”

Now, mythological concept… that might be a bit flexible, mightn’t it? What’s the definition of mythology? Well, according to dictionary.com, it’s: “a body of myths, as that of a particular people or that relating to a particular person.” And the definition of myth is “a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.

I can work with that!

Terry Pratchett Terry Pratchett at home near Salisbury, Wiltshire, Britain - 04 Jun 2008

The late Sir Terry Pratchett at home near Salisbury, Wiltshire, Britain – 04 Jun 2008
(Image Credit: Photo by Adrian Sherratt/REX, (770612f), via theguardian.com)

So I propose that element 117, falling as it does in group 17 (the halogens), be named octarine, in honour of the late, great, Terry Pratchett and his phenomenally successful Discworld books. I’m also proposing the symbol Oc (pronounced, of course, as ‘ook’*).

As a halogen, 117 ought to have an ‘ine’ ending, so octarine makes perfect sense. Over 70 million Pratchett books have been sold worldwide, in 37 different languages, and lots of them concern heroes, gods and monsters. Ok, they’re not quite as old as the Greek myths, but they will be one day, right? Time is relative and all that.

Octarine, in the Discworld books, is known as ‘the colour of magic’, which also forms the title of Pratchett’s first ever Discworld book. According to Disc mythology (see, mythology), octarine is visible only to wizards and cats, and is generally described as a sort of greenish-yellow purple colour. Something that’s difficult to find and hard to observe; what could be more perfect?

So pop along and sign my petition. Maybe the Russian and American scientists are Discworld fans? You never know. If nothing else I’m absolutely certain that Sir Terry, the author of the Science of the Discworld series of books, would have a little chuckle at the idea.

“It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done” — Terry Pratchett

* with thanks to Tom Willoughby for the pronunciation suggestion).

EDIT:

Since I started this, one or two devoted Discworld fans have commented that I should have suggested that element 118 be named octiron instead. This is because in Discworld the number 8 has special significance, and also because octiron is the metal which is the source of magical energy, and hence leads to octarine, which is just the colour of magic.

But I’m sticking with 117 and octarine. The greenish-yellow purple description seems perfect for a new halogen, and the ‘ine’ ending is just right for group 17. Although octiron also has the right ending for group 18 (‘on’), it doesn’t quite fit since it’s a metal and group 18 is technically made up of noble gases (admittedly, when you’ve only got a couple of atoms of a thing, metal vs. noble gas might be a bit irrelevant). Plus, the fact that octarine is ‘the colour of magic’ makes it seem like a more fitting tribute, this being, as I mentioned above, the title of Terry Pratchett’s first ever Discworld book.

It’s possible I’ve spent a little too long thinking about this…

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26 thoughts on “Name element 117 Octarine, in honour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

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  3. Naming elements after ‘gods’, e.g. Thorium, Neptunium etc., might be considered naming them after a mythological concept!

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  4. Hi, I’ve just signed the petition. Don’t forget that the witches see octarine too! I personally feel that the witches are generally better at magic than the wizards because they know when not to use it (headology and all that!). Witches, wizards, the psychically inclined, cats, and possibly small children too.

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    • They will, of course. It’s not up to me, or anyone that signed the petition, to decide. But you never know, maybe one of them is a Pratchett fan? Stranger things have happened. A species of turtle was named after Terry Pratchett, so why not have one of the concepts in his books in the periodic table? 🙂

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  5. I doubt that Discworld will one day become Mythology. Personally, I find it irritating to associate science with magic, but that is just me. However, Octarine might have a chance. Octarine could represent a “property.”

    Apparently, something special about Uus is that may be located in the ‘island of stability.’ “The Dubna team [that discovered Uus] believes that the synthesis of the element is direct experimental proof of the existence of the island of stability.”

    “In nuclear physics, the ‘island of stability’ is the prediction that a set of heavy isotopes with a near ‘magic number’ of protons and neutrons will temporarily reverse the trend of decreasing stability in elements heavier than uranium.” (There’s that word ‘magic’ again.)

    “In nuclear physics, a ‘magic number’ is a number of nucleons (either protons or neutrons) such that they are arranged into complete shells within the atomic nucleus.”

    Octarine might have a chance: As you pointed out the word ‘Octarine’ fits nicely with the other halogen names, and as you know ‘-ine’ is a common suffix for chemicals, referring to it being like the prefix, (although I don’t think it’s a fixed standard.) Chlorine means green like, or literally pale green, due to the light green tint of the liquid. Florine means flow like, do to the fact it was used in smelting to cause better flow of metals. Iodine means purple like, do to the color of it’s vapor…

    Dr Kat Day ‘Octarine’ seems clever since Uus may have proved the existence of the ‘island of stability’ which requires a near ‘magic number’ of protons or neutrons. Perhaps, the category of property with a relationship to myth or pseudo myth maybe appropriate. (I have known people who treat Discworld as almost myth.) Plus the the name fits nicely with the other group 17 names. 🙂

    I came to that conclusion on hearing about the proposed name before reading your blog entry. I located your blog entry because I suspected that maybe you had given it more thought than just being a Discworld fan, and I see you have given it more thought. 🙂 I’ll vote for that!

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  6. In case you are curious, this is where I first heard of your proposal/petition. (And, I’m not a chemist, I saw the Guardian post, and then went and read about the new element. Then located your blog entry. 🙂 Good luck! I think it’s clever and has a chance! Better than ‘Lemmium’. I don’t know but I don’t think Uus is a heavy metal. Maybe you can tell me but as a halogen, I don’t think it’s a metal. 🙂

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    • Thanks! I’m glad you like it! Element 117 technically falls into group 17, which contains the halogens. This would put it into the non-metals section of the periodic table. That said, when you only have a few atoms of a thing, these distinctions are a bit irrelevant. No one is ever going to collect enough of it to observe its properties (well, probably – stranger things have happened!)

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      • 🙂 “The Dubna team [that discovered Uus] believes that the synthesis of the element is direct experimental proof of the existence of the island of stability.”

        “In nuclear physics, the ‘island of stability’ is the prediction that a set of heavy isotopes with a near ‘magic number’ of protons and neutrons will temporarily reverse the trend of decreasing stability in elements heavier than uranium.”

        “In nuclear physics, a ‘magic number’ is a number of nucleons (either protons or neutrons) such that they are arranged into complete shells within the atomic nucleus.”

        Wouldn’t that count as a property?

        Octerine references magic and so does Uus, and it’s related to a ‘magic number’ of protons or neutrons. ??? 🙂

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  7. As a serious Pratchett fan, I can genuinely say… I am against naming this new element octarine. Octarine is a colour. If you want to name an element after something Discworld, use narrativium, the most common element on Disc.

    That said, element 117, it should clearly be Spartanium.

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  8. Pingback: Petition Created to Name New Periodic Table Element After Terry Pratchett’s ‘Colour of Magic’ | Night Swan Journal

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  10. Ununseptium is not a greenish-yellow purple colour because following the pattern of the halogens it is black.

    Sorry(I’m a chemistry nerd)

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    • Yes I know, but on the other hand, since we’ll never have enough atoms of it to produce a visibly-coloured sample, I think we can think of it REPRESENTATIVE of the halogen group…

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