Upon a recent afternoon at work, I had a group of three middle-aged ladies enter the store and begin pawing through some of the quant gadgets and objets d’art that we have littered across the shelve. After a short while, one of the ladies happened upon a jigsaw puzzle that we sell that, when assembled, makes up a large periodic table. It was upon this periodic table (shown on the front of the box), that she apparently noticed the element Einsteinium. The lady let out a warm laugh and went to show the rest of her ensemble. This is how that conversation played out.
‘Look at this,’ she giggled, pointing it out to her compatriots. ‘Einsteinium. Get it?’
‘No, what’s funny about that?’ asked one of the other ladies.
‘Well, it’s a joke. See, because ‘Einstein‘ is a word for a really, really clever person, and ‘ium‘ is the bit that they put on the end of words that are used for science,’ the first lady replied.
‘Oooh, I see. Ha. Are they all jokes then?’ asked a third lady (with the second lady still looking a little confused).
‘I assume so. Lithium… Caesium… Bohrium? is that funny?’
‘Well, I think it’s funny.’
Now, despite how fond I am of collecting what my lady friend refers to as ‘blog fodder’, I did feel a strong urge to interject at this juncture, and point out that Einsteinium, not to bother mentioning the rest of them, was, in fact, a legitimate element.
‘No, really?’ the first lady replied.
‘Is that where the word ‘Einstein‘ comes from then?’ chirped the third.
I then had to tell these ladies that Albert Einstein was, of course, a real person, and to explain to them the practice of naming elements after scientists who either discovered the element, or were somehow involved in fields connected to it.
The first lady smiled and complimented my (unbeknownst to her, rudimentary) knowledge on the subject, and put the puzzle back. As the ladies continued to browse I overheard the second lady (the one who didn’t understand any of this in the first place) point out that she still had no idea what was going on, whereupon the third lady asserted that she still thought that ‘Bohrium’ was hilarious.
Oh, for the love of science.