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Category Archives: Appendices

Four elements have new names announced following their recognition last December.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry officially recognized elements 113, 115, 117, and 118, filling out the seventh row of the periodic table. As is the traditional in chemistry, the naming rights go to the discoverers: scientists at RIKEN in Wako, Japan, named element 113, and a Russian-U.S. collaboration named the others.

These elements are not found in nature as they are all short-lived and highly radioactive. They were all created in high-energy physics laboratories where lighter nuclei were smashed into one another and scientists looked for signature radioactive decays that should come from the new elements.


Credit: E. Otwell


Element 113 is “nihonium”, chemical symbol Nh. Its name comes from the Japanese word “Nihon,” (tr: Land of the Rising Sun), a name for Japan.

Element 115 is “moscovium,” chemical symbol Mc, after the Moscow region, home to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, where the element was discovered in collaboration with researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Element 117 is “tennessine,” chemical symbol Ts, after the home state of Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee. (Livermorium, Lv, is already element 116.)

Element 118 is “oganesson,” chemical symbol Og, after the Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian, who contributed to the discovery of several superheavy elements.

The proposed names are expected to be confirmed in November, following a period of public consultation.

Links: IUPAC press release; NY Times coverage; Nature news.


Here is a consolidated list of errors from the text’s first printing. Many of these have already been posted here as separate chapter updates. (Our publisher will make the necessary corrections to the printed book at the earliest opportunity.):

p. 25, Figure It Out 2.3: The last paragraph (about Fraunhofer) shouldn’t be there. Instead, it should be at the end of the caption of Figure 2-4 on p. 26.

p. 64, Q34: 1 Angstrom should be listed as 1010 m, not 108 m.

p. 64, Q41: Ditto

p. 78: There is an error in the equation relating the apparent magnitude and brightness of stars in Figure It Out 4.1.  In this equation, 2.512 should be raised to a power equal to (mB−mA).

p. 92, Q1: We could more clearly say “On the top picture” instead of just “On the picture” – since there are now two pictures on the opening page of the chapter (and the stars are somewhat too dense for individual clarity in the bottom picture).

p. 190: First sentence of Section 7.4d: “a little larger” should be “a little smaller” for the relative sizes of Triton and the Moon.

p. 309, Q53, there is a printing error when going from the bottom of column 1 to the top of column 2. At the top of column 2, the “(e)” should be boldface, there should be a period after “1/16”, and the remainder of the text should be deleted.

p. 363, column 1, second line from the bottom: When referring to the event horizon: “1/3” should be “2/3”, i.e. the sentence should read “Its radius is exactly 2/3 times that of the photon sphere…”

p. 391, column 2, second line from the bottom: for Spitzer, “Section 3.8c, Figure 3-32a).” should say simply “Section 3.8c).”

p. 392, column 1, line 5: At the end, add “(See Section 3.8c, Figure 3-32a.)”

Appendix 3C, column 3 header: “105 km” should be “106 km”

In Physics Today, July 2014, Clive Speake and Terry Quinn describe how measurements of G, Newton’s constant of gravitation, have not improved in accuracy as much as might have been expected since Cavendish used the idea to ‘weigh the Earth’ over 200 years ago.

Link: the Physics Today article.

The International System of Units (SI, from the French Système International d’Unités) is about to be radically redefined.  The seven familiar base units will be replaced by constants of nature that are, on the whole less familiar to the general public. No more will mass be defined by a kilogram in a vault in Paris.


Credit: NIST

David Newell of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explains the proposed changes in this article in Physics Today.

p. 563, Appendix 3C Our Solar System: Orbital Properties of Planets

The units of the ‘Semimajor Axis’ second column are out by a factor of 10; they should be 10^6 km, i.e. millions of kilometers. (The equivalent column is shown correctly in Appendix 3D.)

An international team of researchers, led by physicists from Lund University in Sweden, have confirmed the existence of what is considered a new element with atomic number 115. The experiment was conducted at the GSI research facility in Germany. The results confirm earlier measurements performed by research groups in Russia.


By bombarding a thin film of americium (atomic number 95) with calcium ions, the research team was able to measure photons in connection with the new element’s alpha decay. Certain energies of the photons agreed with the expected energies for x-ray radiation, which is a ‘fingerprint’ of a given element.

The new super-heavy element has yet to be named officially, but is known as ununpentium (from its atomic number, 115). A committee comprising members of the international unions of pure and applied physics and chemistry will review the new findings to decide whether to recommend further experiments before the discovery of the new element is acknowledged.

The original press release may be found here. The results were published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Physicists at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sèvres, France, used a torsion balance to measure Newton’s constant of gravitation, G. Their new combined result, using two independent methods is

G = 6.67545(18) × 10−11 mkg−1 s−2

with an uncertainty of 27 parts per million. This is 241 parts per million above the 2010 value recommended by the international Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), quoted in Appendix 2A. Their paper will be published in Physical Review Letters.


Credit: BIPM


(See also ‘A Closer Look 5.3’ and ‘Figure It Out 5.2,’ both on p. 110.)