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July 21, 2015

Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science | Volume 2 | SCI-NEWS 9

Plutonium to be renamed Trans-NeptunianObjectium

ZÜRICH, SWITZERLAND – The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has announced today that it will temporarily change the name of Element 94 from ‘Plutonium’ to ‘Trans-NeptunianObjectium’. This new moniker will be in place until a more appropriate and permanent name can be decided upon.

Officials at IUPAC confirm that this decision was based, in part, on the decision by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006 to demote Pluto—the origin of the name Plutonium—from a planet to a minor planet. “Simply put, we don’t want our elements to be named after disgraced former planets,” said Karl-Heinz Hellwich, president of the Chemical Nomenclature and Structure Representation Division of the IUPAC. “Keeping Plutonium would have given people the false impression that the IUPAC and, by extension, the Periodic Table of the Elements, is unresponsive to scientific discoveries. We strongly believe that this re-designation of Plutonium is more in line with the exciting, hip image of Chemistry that we like to promote.”

Hellwich noted that another benefit of renaming Plutonium is to remove its chemical symbol, Pu, from the table. This symbol was intentionally selected by Glenn T. Seaborg, one of the discovers of Plutonium, as a joke, in that the letters when pronounced separately spell out “Pee-yew.” “Unfortunately, committee members did not notice that ‘joke’ back in 1941 and it has been a sore spot for us for the past 70 plus years,” noted Hellwich. “Excuse me if I sound stuffy, but I don’t feel that the names of elements should include dirty jokes.” Hellwich has confirmed that the new chemical symbol for Trans-NeptunianObjectium will be Ipp, which, according to Hellwich, stands for Interim Plutonium Placeholder.

Naturally, the decision to rename Plutonium is bound to upset some in the scientific community as well as the general public. To this, Hellwich just had one thing to say: “Get over it.”




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