WATCH: Tom Lehrer's Elements Song Updated to Include Newly Named Chemical Elements

By James O Malley on at

Above: A no-doubt 100% realistic illustration of what modern chemistry looks like.

Big news in chemistry in the last 24 hours, as it turns out that everything you learned in school science lessons is now out of date. Well, maybe.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has confirmed the official names of the latest four elements to join the end of the periodic table, following a five month consultation period.

Here's the new names to add to the part of your brain dedicated to pub quiz knowledge:

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113,
  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115,
  • Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117, and
  • Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118.

And here's the new periodic table, where I've subtly marked on the location of the new elements:

Oganesson is perhaps particularly interesting to someone with my GCSE-level chemistry knowledge - it's the first synthetic Group 18 element, and despite being on the end of the table it is not thought to be one of the Noble gases. In fact, it is massively unstable and scientists predict that it would be a solid, rather than a gas, under normal conditions.

The Union notes that all of the names are in-keeping with chemistry tradition, and are named after a place, a region or a scientist, and have been named by their discoverers. Nihonium is named after Nihon, a Japanese word for... Japan. Moscovium is named after Moscow, Tennessine is named after - you guessed it - Tennessee. Oganesson meanwhile is named after Yuri Oganessian, the scientist who led the team that discovered some of the heaviest elements in the periodic table.

While this is no doubt exciting news for chemists everywhere, it does create one massive problem: The elements song is now even more out of date. You know the song I mean:

Written in 1959 by humorist Tom Lehrer (who, surprisingly, is still alive), it is based on the Major General's song from Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. As it currently stands, it is now 16 new elements out of date.

And this is where geek songstress Helen Arney comes in. In a video that has been hastily recorded in order to keep up with the frenetic pace of science, she has recorded her own version of the song - complete with a new verse to bring it up to date.

(Helen does all sorts of brilliant nerdy things, you should check out her work.)

Good work, science.