Argon is the atomic couch potato

The recent naming of elements 110, 111, and 112 on the periodic table got me thinking. Not about chemistry, but about the history of other elemental labels.

Certain ones, like einsteinium and the new copernicium, are clearly namesakes (which the New York Times mistakenly capitalized). Other elements, like Americium, Berkelium, Californium are placesakes. But after the obvious origins are ticked off, logic behind the names for life’s building blocks get fuzzier, (unless you happen to know Sanskrit, Greek and Latin). I set out to find the stories behind the elemental names and while I was at it, I unearthed why some elements have seemingly unrelated symbols, e.g. Au for gold. Continue reading

Denial fueling debate: The social context of climate science

The problem with climate change science is not the science. The methods are not revolutionary and the results are not falsified. The controversy lies in the fact that climate scientists are producing a quantitative assessment of a lifestyle. Ppms and ˚C are the units of critique and modeling results recommend cultural change.

There is scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2010 found >97 percent of the 1,372 climate researchers interviewed agreed that we are impacting climate. So why is the public’s concern about global warming decreasing and the percentage of Americans who think it will never happen on the rise?

Nothing makes a culture dig in its heels like a paradigm shift. The thing about paradigm shifts though, is that their acceptance has a pattern. Steven Sherwood, author of Science controversies past and present, shows how society’s reaction, particularly in the U.S., to climate change science mimics its reaction to other major shifts. Continue reading