How do you name elements and how are they identified?
Actually, this is more of a "chemistry" question... The elements
that occur naturally were all discovered a long time ago, so
the problem of naming them does not come up anymore - they already
have names. However, there are some official international organizations
(IUPAP/IUPAC I think?) that are responsible for establishing the names
used in scientific work, not only for the elements but also for new
molecules etc. The standard way in which elements are given names
is that the discoverer is allowed to pick a name - this has resulted
in debates between groups in the U.S. and Russia over who actually
discovered the latest heavy elements first.
There are several ways to identify elements. On a microscopic scale,
individual atoms can have their mass identified relatively easily
with mass spectrometers, and spectroscopes of other sorts give
information on the electron states, which differ very markedly from
one element to the next. To actually measure how much of one element
there is in something the standard approach is to use chemical
extraction methods (every element has different chemical reaction
properties) and count how much you get out.
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Update: June 2012