Petition launched to name new element ‘Octarine’ in honour of Terry Pratchett

Octarine is the colour of magic in the late author's Discworld series 

Heather Saul
Saturday 09 January 2016 15:51

Terry Pratchett fans are calling for the beloved author to be honoured by naming a new element in the periodic table after his popular Discworld book series.

Element 117 was recently confirmed by the International Union of Applied Chemistry and given a temporary symbol of Uus. Now, Dr Kat Day, a chemist, blogger and self-proclaimed “huge” Pratchett fan wants 117 to be named octarine [Oc] as a tribute to Pratchett, who passed away aged 66 from Alzheimer's disease.

And she is not alone. Over 30,000 people have signed her petition, which has even received the backing of Pratchett's official Twitter account.

Octarine is the colour of magic in the series and the eighth colour in the Discworld spectrum. To those who could see it in the novels (that's wizards and cats), it takes on a greenish-yellow-purple hue.

Dr Day told The Independent naming the new element octarine would be a fitting tribute to Pratchett. "I follow the science stories, and of course, the new elements were everywhere," she said. "I was speculating over possible new names, and considering the 'ine' ending for group 17.

"I'm also a huge, long time, Pratchett fan and the idea just popped into my head: octarine ends in 'ine'! And it's 'the colour of magic', which is the title of his first ever Discworld book. What better tribute could there be? I had a feeling that Terry Pratchett would, if he was still with us, think that having octarine in the periodic table would be a fantastic (in the very literal sense of that word) idea. Of course, he had a great interest in science and co-wrote several popular science books, and there are lots of little sideways science references in his Discworld novels."

In her Change.Org petition, Dr Day writes: “Octarine is being counted as 'a mythological concept' under IUPAC rules, which state that elements must be named after 'a mythological concept or character; a mineral, or similar substance; a place or geographical region; a property of the element; or a scientist'.

“The Discworld stories are certainly stories about gods and heroes, and 70 million books surely count for something.”

The petition faces competition from another calling for the element to be named after the late Motorhead frontman Lemmy, but Dr Day is still hopeful it could be considered.

"It's up to the scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, who discovered the element, to propose names, then the IUPAC has to agree them. But you never know, perhaps one or more of them is a Pratchett fan? Perhaps he's inspired them, as he has so many others. After all, a species of turtle has been named after him, Psephophorus terrypratchetti, so why not name an element after one of the ideas in his books? As he wrote, ‘million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten’.”

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