Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why Nuclear Physics is So Hard

I'm not a physicist, and barely remember the difference between protons and neutrons. Really. Probably it's the way they choose the names, having nothing to do with the physical properties of the elements, and not even sounding cool. I mean, Uranium, Plutonium, Titanium have cool names. Krypton -- cool name. "Carbon" is at least descriptive, deriving from the Latin for burning. I've always thought "Gold", "Iron", and "Lead" were onomatopoeic. And everyone knows that "Sodium" is Greek for "soda pop". Good names, all, and they don't sound phake and made up.

But "Hassium"? "Bohrium"? Not cool, not descriptive. These are vanity names, like getting your name in a phony star registry, or some weak license plate, except it goes in the encyclopedia. Yes, I know there's this tradition for naming the radioactive ones after people, but that kind of thing ought to be left to the entomologists, hadn't it? I mean, what if there's a disaster, and Jonesium kills a bunch of people and gives the rest weird cancers? How will ol' Doc Jones feel about his legacy then, hmm? Ok, how are his great grandkids going to take it? Better to be devoured by wasp larvae, I say. So clearly, we need better, less risky names for these elements.

Let's see, an element that sticks around for 30 seconds and then goes away. I believe I can come up with a few right here, even without some fancy-shmancy degree:

It's a wonder they don't put me in charge of much here at the gas station.