Science News

4 new elements added to the Periodic table

It was recently confirmed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) that four new elements have been successfully synthesized. Their atomic numbers are 113, 115, 117, and 118. With these four new elements we finally fill out the 7th row of the Periodic table.

If you have been living under a rock or you just need to brush up on your chemistry and periodic table trivia then watch this great video by Socratica.

Three groups were credited with creating these elements, hailing from Japan, Russia, and the US, they spent many years gathering enough evidence to convince IUPAC and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAC’s sister union for physics, IUPAP) experts that they had indeed succeeded in their synthesis.

This is difficult because all four of the new elements are very unstable superheavy metals and they decay extremely fast. To create the elements heavy metals were bombarded with ion beams. The detection of the new elements can typically only be measured by means of reading the nuclides and radiation which are put out upon their inevitable decay, which takes delicate instruments and a lot of repeated experiments to ensure their findings are correct. The groups would need a lot of evidence ro support each claim.

Element 113 – ununtrium (temporary name)

This was the first element to be discovered in Easten Asia and was created by  Kosuke Morita’s group. These scientists worked at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science in Japan. They first claimed to have created the element in 2004, but needed more evidence to support their claim as their were still uncertainties which needed to be accounted for.

This element was developed by shooting a beam of zinc-70 at a heavy metal target of bismuth-209. By 2012 they had enough evidence to support their findings.

The next two elements:

Elements 115 – ununpentium (temporary name)


Elements 117 – ununseptium (temporary name)

were created by a collaboration between three institutions.

  1. The Lawrence Livermore National Library – US
  2. The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research – Russia
  3. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory – US

and lastly,

Element 118 – ununoctium (temporary name)

which was also created by the Lawrence Livermore-Joint Institute for Nuclear Research collaboration in published work from 2006.

Now that IUPAC and IUPAP have determined that the discoveries are indeed a reality, and the new elements are officially being added to the periodic table, the institutions responsible for finding them will be awarded the honors of naming them.

Pretty much what this all means is that now all those posters, mugs, t-shirts, and tapestries are ALL WRONG! and you need to go buy new ones.

Sadly, it will be a bit longer before the textbooks can all be updated, as the names and symbols will need to be approved by the inorganic chemistry division of IUPAC, who will also submit them for public review. There are an assortment of rules which govern what you can name an element, and these will need to be abide by. The Royal Chemistry Society has a nice list of them here.

They predict it to take between four to six months at the present moment to name the four new elements.

Now, with that behind us, we have to look forward to the next set of elements. Evidently, researchers expect there to be a stable area as we get further on into the superheavy metals beyond atomic number 118. It looks as if time will tell…


LightSail Project Picks Up Wind

LightSail with solar sails deployed

LightSail captured this image of its deployed solar sails in Earth orbit on June 8, 2015. The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society made history on June 26th, 2015 raising $1.24 million dollars by using crowdfunding to privatize their LightSail project, and subsequently changing the way we think about space exploration.

With media figurehead Bill Nye from your favorite kids show “Bill Nye the Science Guy” leading Tthe way as The Planetary Society’s CEO, and other notable scientists, such as Neil Degrasse Tyson sharing his enthusiasm about the project, this non-profit organization has been able to launch a test flight LightSail prototype into low orbit and despite some technical setbacks, the picture to the left shows the end result. Here was their original Kickstart video, and  the deployment of their LightSail Satellite in the testing facility. Also, here is a Lightsail, Then and now excerpt by Bill Nye on the original idea presented by Carl Sagan. Oh, and just because it needs to be seen, Bill Nye as SpeedWalker. (Sorry Bill, had to do it.)

The Planetary Society’s goal is to construct lightweight satellites and spacecraft that are able to “sail” just like a normal sailboat, using the “sun’s wind” or the radiation and photons which radiate out from the sun (and any star) both day and night. It’s literally sailing on sunlight. The current models being designed have a 344 square-foot solar sail, rather than chemical fuel. Ultimately, the Planetary Society believes that space sails could be a reliable, low-cost way to propel all kinds of little satellites (or CubeSats) and maybe even with a large enough sail manned spacecraft, through space.

The videos linked above will help with the science portion, as Nye and Tyson do a pretty good job explaining the science behind the sails. The big thing to remember is that photons don’t have mass, but they do have momentum. And when they reflect off the shiny mylar surface of a solar sail, some of that momentum gets transferred to the sail.

The prototype launch on May 20th, 2015 was just a test of the sail’s deployment mechanism, and after opening and running some tests the prototype fell back to earth and burned up in its return through the atmosphere. The Planetary Society plans to send up a fully operating version come next year. It’ll be attached to Prox-1, a small autonomous satellite designed to inspect other spacecrafts. Prox-1 will launch on a SpaceX rocket called Falcon Heavy, which is in essence a NGO-built solar sail launching on a privately owned rocket (nice right?)

As previously stated, the project is the realization of an old idea ranging back into the time of Carl Sagan who started The Planetary Society not too long after he spoke of it on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1976. (make sure to at least check that clip out, Carl Sagan was not only Bill Nye’s mentor, but a great spokesperson for the sciences)

With our help as members and donaters to the cause, we the public have succeeded in bringing an idea to fruition. Together we as fellow scientists, citizens, and those rare and novel space pirate daydreamers sigh, can push the frontier that a majority of governments have come to neglect. I think space privatization is the future of space exploration, and it’s pretty obvious Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson agree. With everyone’s help we can leave behind the red tape and issues with funding, pushing ourselves forward and out into the stars. Here is an excerpt from Bill Nye off TPS’s website:

Join or Donate to The Planetary Society

We are Your Place in Space!

Bill Nye thumbYou and I are wowed and awed by the discovery of new things, the mysteries of science, the innovations of technology, the bravery of astronauts, and by the stunning images sent back to us from other worlds.

Support The Planetary Society and together we will explore space.

Together, we will work to seek answers to those deep questions: Where did we come from? and Are we alone?

Let’s change the world!

Bill Nye's signature
Bill Nye
CEO, The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the United States.

And since I am a big Carl Sagan junkie, feel free to enjoy this video.




Concerning Neurotransmitters: N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG)

Overview of transmitter
CHEM218 Seminar

NAAG2Neurotransmitters are chemicals that enable the communication of signals between nerve cells and other cells. They act as “signal bearers”, leaping across the synaptic cleft, exiting the axonic surface of one neuron and attaching to receptor proteins on the dendritic surface of another neuron.

Neurotransmitters also enable nerves to communicate with muscle cells, gland cells, and various other tissues types throughout the body. Typically residing in synaptic vesicles, the neurotransmitter N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG) is the most concentrated peptide in the brain, being the 3rd most prevalent neurotransmitter, and is found throughout the central nervous system (CNS).[1][2] Research supports its role as a regulator of synaptic release at central synapses, a co-transmitter at the vertebrate neuro-muscular junction (NMJ), and a unique biomarker for cognitive function.[2][3]

NAAG may contribute up to ~25% of the acetate signal that is usually ascribed to N-acetylaspartate (NAA) which is of relevance in cognitive development [2], while coinciding drops of NAAG and NAA are possibly linked to multiple brain disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS).[2][3]

N-acetylaspartylglutamate or NAAG: The above figure depicts NAAG’s molecular structure in a ball and stick fashion. Below it is depicted again, but this time the individual atoms are labelled to highlight the actual organic groups within the structure. As you can see the molecule has multiple organic functional groups present:


  1. The two types of functional groups are circled in yellow in figure-1 (negating the peptide)
  2. The structures labeled 1, 2, and 3 in are carboxylic acid groups, consisting of a ketone and alcohol group at the terminal end of a carbon chain.
  3. The structures labeled 4, and 5 are amide groups, consisting of an amine situated next to a ketone.

Physical & Chemical Properties: NAAG, is a neuron-specific dipeptide[2] falling under the classification of organic peptides. Some physical attributes are as follows:

  • Molecular formula: C11H16N2O8
  • Molecular weight: 304.25334 g/mol
  • Water solubility: 3.29 mg/mL
  • Refractivity: 64.06 m3·mol-1
  • Hydrogen Bond Donor Count: 5
  • Hydrogen Bond Acceptor Count: 8
  • Rotatable Bond Count: 9
  • Heavy Atom Count: 21
  • Formal Charge : 0

Synonyms for NAAG:

  • a-Spaglumic acid
  • Acetyl-a-L-aspartylglutamic acid
  • Acetyl-alpha-L-aspartylglutamic acid
  • alpha-Spaglumic acid
  • Isospaglumic acid
  • N-(N-Acetylaspartyl)glutamic acid
  • N-Acetyl-a-aspartylglutamic acid
  • N-Acetyl-a-L-aspartyl-L-glutamic acid
  • N-Acetyl-alpha-aspartylglutamic acid
  • N-Acetyl-alpha-L-aspartyl-L-glutamic acid
  • N-Acetyl-L-aspartyl-L-glutamic acid

NAAG is primarily located in the CNS and neurons produce NAAG using NAAG synthetase I (NAAGS I as there is an NAAGS 2 and NAAG 2 molecule[4]), an enzyme that controls the synthesis of NAAG.

NAAG is typically co-released with a primary transmitter, (i.e. glutamate) under conditions of elevated neuronal activity. The primary transmitter is released into the immediate synaptic space, and the peptide is released perisynaptically where it activates presynaptic and glial type 3 metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR3) its primary receptor.[1][2][3]

NAAG is inactivated by two different eznymes: glutamate carboxypeptidases II (GCPII) and III (GCPIII), forming N-acetylaspartate (NAA) and glutamate (Glu), which are transported to glial cells (grey matter).

NAAG’s prevalence and usage tends to be associated with Laboratory chemicals, and the manufacture of substances.[5] It has also found use as a anti-allergic medication (NAAXIA) in eye drops and nasal preparations.[6]

NAAG is available for purchase through typical chemical vendors, and is biologically prevalent, found to be present in mammalian cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), blood, and urine.








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