Thursday, 10 June 2010

New isotopes

I reported not long ago that there's a new element known to science. Some recent news should be just as exciting as that, but somehow hasn't made the same splash. The news is that 45 new isotopes have been discovered. Discovering a new element means finding a nucleus with a number of protons never before seen, whereas discovering a new isotope means discovering a nucleus where both the number of protons and neutrons in combination have never been seen. In either case, they are nuclei seen for the first time in experiment, and they push our boundaries of knowledge and test our understanding of how nuclei are made.

The press release from the Japanese lab does a good job of explaining their experiment (smashing two known nuclei together and seeing what fragments you end up with). It's pretty exciting: They're getting really close to the r-process path: The route through the table of isotopes that happens in supernovae and is responsible for making much of the matter heavier then iron.

I suppose it makes a recent paper of mine less exciting. We only discovered two new isotopes ;-)