Goodbye Ununbium, Hello Copernicium

Thirteen years after it was discovered by Dr. Sigurd Hofmann at the Center for Heavy Ion Research in Germany, element 112 has been given a proper name in honor of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Henceforth, new periodic tables will no longer list this element with its placeholder name ununbium (Uub) but with its permanent name. Dr. Hofmann chose to honor Copernicus for a variety of reasons one being he wanted to avoid any divisive politics associated with naming an element after something based on German nationalism. Thus, he broke with recent tradition and chose to name the element after someone who was not one of his countrymen. Copernicus was a polish scientist known to most people worldwide for his careful work to discount the “Earth is the center of the universe” heliocentric cosmology theory.

I do foresee some difficulties ahead for the new symbol of element 112, Cp. This is an abbreviation that has been used in the field of chemistry for many years to designate the cyclopentadienyl ion commonly used in organometallic chemistry. This ion, made up of five carbon and five hydrogen atoms often has its Cp abbreviation used in molecular formula notation. Most chemists will not confuse the issue but I have a feeling those who are not involved in the science on a daily basis may get this symbol mixed up.

That being said, I think this is a great name for element 112 and does honor to science and chemistry.

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