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The elusive number 113

Scientists’ creation of a new “superheavy” element—the culmination of a nine-year project—may change chemistry

By Philip Ball   November 2012

After scientists ran out of “natural” elements to discover, they raced to make “synthetic” atoms

The periodic table of elements just got a new member. At least, maybe it did—it’s hard to tell. Having run out of new elements to discover, scientists have, over the past several decades, been making “synthetic” atoms, too bloated to exist in nature, which survive for just an instant before they splinter in radioactive decay.

But this is increasingly difficult as the atoms get bigger. The new element recently claimed by the Nishina Centre for…

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