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NYT: Scientists discover heavy new element
Element, still nameless, seems to point toward still more massive elements
By James Glanz
The New York Times
updated 4:56 p.m. ET, Tues., April 6, 2010
A team of Russian and American scientists has discovered a new element that has long stood as a missing link among the heaviest bits of atomic matter ever produced. The element, still nameless, appears to point the way toward a brew of still more massive elements with chemical properties no one can predict.
The team produced six atoms of the element by smashing together isotopes of calcium and a radioactive element called berkelium in a particle accelerator about 75 miles north of Moscow on the Volga River, according to a paper that has been accepted for publication at the journal Physical Review Letters.
Data collected by the team seem to support what theorists have long suspected but so far failed to prove: that as newly created elements become heavier and heavier they will eventually become much more stable and longer-lived than the fleeting bits of artificially produced matter seen so far.
If the trend continues toward a theorized “island of stability” at higher masses, said Dawn Shaughnessy, a chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California who is a member of the team, the work could generate an array of strange new materials with as yet unimagined scientific and practical uses.