Petition launched to name new component after Terry Pratchett’s colour of sorcery

Scientists proposal of Octarine, the Discworld shade visible only to wizards and cats, for newly discovered part 117 gains 12,000 signatures in two days

A petition to name one of the new elements added to the periodic table octarine, in honour of the late Terry Pratchetts colour of magic, has garnered more than 12,000 signatures in less than two days.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry( IUPAC) announced the verification of the discoveries of four new chemical elements earlier this week. Currently known as components 113, 115, 117 and 118, they will be officially named by the teams that detected them in the months to come, but chemist Dr Kat Day, who blogs at the Chronicle Flask, has put in an early bid for part 117 to be named octarine.

This petition is to name element 117, recently confirmed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, as Octarine, with the proposed symbol Oc( pronounced ook ), in honour of the late Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series of volumes, she writes in a petition to the scientists who discovered the element. At the time of writing, two days after it was launched, the bid has already garnered 12,851 signatories as well as the support of the late writers Twitter feed, @terryandrob, which is now run by his assistant, Rob Wilkins. Name element 117 Octarine? If you think thats a good idea and we do please sign the petition here, @terryandrob tweeted.

Terry Pratchett (@ terryandrob) January 6, 2016

Name element 117 Octarine? If you think that’s a good notion – and we do – please sign the petition here; https :// t.co/ j9MzGXCfFf

Pratchett, who died in March 2015, writes in his first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, that octarine is the King Colour, of which all the lesser colours are simply partial and wishy-washy reflections. It was octarine, the colour of magical. It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it seemed it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical intellect. It was enchantment itself. But Rincewind always thought it looked a sort of greenish-purple.

Days proposal for the emblem to be pronounced ook is a tribute to Pratchetts Librarian at the Unseen University. She announced the launch of the petition on her blog with another quote from Pratchett: It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what youre attempting cant be done.

Octarine, in the Discworld volumes, is known as the colour of sorcery, which forms the title of Pratchetts first ever Discworld book, the petition says. According to Disc mythology, octarine is visible only to wizards and cats, and is generally described as a sort of greenish-yellow purple colouring, which seems perfect for what will probably be the final halogen in the periodic table. Octarine is also a particularly pleasing option because not only would it honour a world-famous and much-loved writer, but it also has an ine ending, consistent with the other components in group 17.

Octarine is being counted as a mythological conception under IUPAC rules, which state that elements must be named after a mythological theory or character; a mineral, or similar substance; a place or geographical region; a property of the element; or a scientist. The Discworld narratives are certainly stories about deities and heroes, and 70 m volumes surely count for something.

Day, who has a PhD in chemistry and has taught the subject for more than a decade, adds on her blog: OK, theyre not quite as old as the Greek myths, but they will be one day, right? Time is relative and all that.

She recommended her followers to sign, speculating that the Russian and American scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Moscow, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California who discovered parts 115, 117 and 118 could be Discworld fans.

You never know, she wrote. If nothing else Im absolutely certain that Sir Terry, the author of the Science of the Discworld series of books, would have a little chuckle at the idea.

Those signing up to the petition also appeared delighted with the suggestion. Ive taught high-school chemistry for 37 years, and been a devoted Pratchett fan for over 25, wrote one. Considering Sir Terrys writing background as a reporter encompassing the nuclear energy industry, his interest in science and different degrees to which he advanced scientific curiosity in of intellect of the public, I can think of nobody more deserving of this honour.

As a graduate chemist and a Pratchett fan for more than 25 years, how can I not sign! said another. This is a very fitting tribute to a terrific human who did much to further peoples interest in science.

Larry Finlay, managing director at Pratchetts publishers Transworld concurred, saying he supposed nothing that would have pleased Terry more. Having element 117 named Octarine in his accolade would have tickled him pink, said Finlay, or should that be a greenish-yellow purple?

This article was revised on 8 January 2015, to correct the name of the blog The Chronicle Flask.

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