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Cracks in the Periodic Table

The discovery of element 117 filled the last remaining gap in the periodic table as we know it. But even as it is being completed, the table may be losing its power
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In 2010 researchers in Russia announced they had synthesized the first few nuclei of element 117. This new type of atom does not yet have a name, because the science community traditionally waits for independent confirmation before it christens a new element. But barring any surprises, 117 has now taken its permanent place in the periodic table of elements.

All elements up to 116, plus element 118, had been found previously, and 117 filled the last remaining gap in the bottom row. This achievement marks a unique moment in history. When Dmitri Mendeleev—also Russian—and others created the periodic table in the 1860s, it was the first grand scheme to organize all the elements known to science at the time. Mendeleev left several spaces blank in his table, and he made the bold guess that someday new elements would be discovered that would fill those blanks. Countless revisions of the table followed, but all of them had gaps—until now. With element 117, the periodic table is complete for the first time.

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