Some Philosophical Issues

  • Helge Kragh
Part of the SpringerBriefs in History of Science and Technology book series (BRIEFSHIST)


Research in superheavy elements (SHEs) is not only a highly specialized branch of modern science its history also casts light on problems of a more general nature. One of these problems, a classical one in the history of science, is the uneasy relationship between physics and chemistry in transdisciplinary research. Another problem of a philosophical nature relates to the very meaning of the concept of discovery. The transuranic elements are not discovered in nature, but created or manufactured in the laboratory. What does it imply, more precisely, to assign priority to a certain collaboration for having discovered—or created—a new element? Lastly, one may question if all officially recognised superheavy elements exist in the sense ordinarily associated with the term existence. After all, they have very short lifetimes and disappear almost instantly after having been created. Even though nuclides of the heaviest elements have undoubtedly been identified, it does not follow that they can rightfully be classified as chemical elements on par with ordinary elements.


Superheavy elements Transfermium working group Discovery Ontology Existence Creation 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Niels Bohr ArchiveNiels Bohr InstituteCopenhagenDenmark

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