Friday January 08, 2016

Motörhead's Lemmy and the chemistry in naming new elements

Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister performs on the Pyramid stage during Glastonbury Music Festival on Friday, June 26, 2015 at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury, England.

Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister performs on the Pyramid stage during Glastonbury Music Festival on Friday, June 26, 2015 at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury, England. ( Jim Ross/Invision/Associated Press)

Listen 7:24

What is the ultimate achievement in popular music? Is it making it into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, or onto the cover of Rolling Stone, or being censored at the Super Bowl half-time show? Motörhead fan John Wright is aiming a little higher. In light of this week's verification and addition of four new elements to the periodic table, he's started a petition to have one of the elements named "Lemmium" -- after Motörhead-frontman Lemmy Kilmister, who died late last year. 

But what's involved in naming an element? We speak with two scientists for a better understanding of the strict rules and naming conventions governed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

Mary Anne White is a Professor of Chemical Research in the Department of Chemistry at Halifax's Dalhousie University. She's also the Director of DREAMS (Dalhousie Research in Energy, Advanced Materials & Sustainability) and she's just been named to the Order of Canada.

"They've made up rules that the elements can be named after mythical characters or concepts, minerals, geographic places, properties, or scientists."

And theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss teaches at Arizona State University. He's the Director of The Origins Project & Co-Director of its Cosmology Initiative.

"I'm not a fanatic [Motörhead] fan. But there are definitely a number of music groups that I would definitely not want an element named after... "Milli Vanillium" I don't think would be a very good name.