Cesium IS Caesium, too

Not only do elements have slightly different names in different languages, some elements on the periodic table have multiple spellings in English. Cesium is one such element.

In British English and by the IUPAC standard (the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry), it is officially spelled as "Caesium". In the United States, though, we don't have time for useless vowels; Cesium is the preferred spelling for yanks.

The battle between the UK and the US wages on...

So what nation is using the correct spelling?

The collective of human knowledge on the internet is condensed on Wikipedia, so the accuracy of that information is vital for the future success of our species. This is why Wikipedia requires strict sourcing and constant edits and drafts. The naming of the page for the 55th element is in constant contest. Cesium or Caesium? One editor volunteered a case study on the word in different languages, as seen in the table to the right.

If you notice that the word for the element Cs is similar in almost every language, you are already keen to an important part of naming chemicals and other important science terms; cognates.

Bosniak: Cezijum

Catalan: Cesi

Czech: Cesium

Corsican: Cesiu

Welsh: Cesiwm

Spanish: Cesio

Esperanto: Cezio

French: Césium

Galician: Cesio (elemento)

Croation: Cezij

Ido: Cesio

Italian: Cesio (elemento)

Latvian: Cēzijs

Lithuanian: Cezis

Hungarian: Cézium

Dutch: Cesium

Norwegian (both languages): Cesium

Polish: Cez

Portuguese: Césio

Cognates help us quickly communicate ideas across languages

Cognates are words that by definition "have the same linguistic derivation as another; from the same original word or root (e.g., English is, German ist, Latin est, from Indo-European esti )." There are innumerous cognates in Chemistry and science.

IUPAC naming standards helps chemists name and identify molecules quickly

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry is responsible for the naming of all discovered and known chemicals. The strict standards of naming help scientists across the globe communicate on the same molecules.

Different industries within the domain of chemistry have various other naming agencies and standards. Cosmetic ingredients, for example, are listed using the INCI system (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient), while food ingredients must adhere to FDA listing standards. These names do not always match the IUPAC names.

IUPAC standards have rules for prefixes (meth, eth, prop, but, etc.), numbering, root words and suffixes. The study of naming things is known as "nomenclature" and adhering to a strict nomenclature means other chemists can identify the exact molecule you are discussing.

Nomenclature is a big part of Organic Chemistry. If you ever take organic chemistry, you'll be expected to know how to name molecules like 3-methylbutan-2-ol

Not all words are cognates in EVERY language. English really had to break the mold when it came to the name for this tropical fruit.

These nations are fighting over more than just the spelling of Cesium...

...because Cesium is really rare and expensive!

Like many other valuable rare-earth metals, Cesium has a host of uses in electronics and other valuable industry applications. Due to lack of supply, the cost of Cesium is very high. Consider that at the time of this writing, Gold is at $55/g, while Cesium is at $83/g.

All of the world's big governments rely on digital materials built with Cesium, so every nation wants to ensure their access to the element. Currently, most Cesium is being produced in China, while the United States has no access to ANY domestically mined Cesium. If China wanted to cut off our supply, we might lose access to valuable research in the chemical and electronic fields.

Cesium is also really reactive and ignites rapidly into flame once it contacts Oxygen.

What are the technical applications of Cesium?

For thousands of years, humans used the sun and other astronomical bodies to measure time. The ephemeris second was defined relative to the solar year (31,557,600 seconds per year). Sun dials are evidence of this methodology of timekeeping.

As NdGT Peele might say, "A second is cosmically meaningless." While our time on the planet may seem long to us, it is a minute fraction of our universe's existence. A better way to measure a second was needed to shift away from the cosmic basis of the second.

A new standard for the second was required to ensure that our base unit for time was accurate. Chemists settled on the subatomic activity of the Cesium atom, since this time frame was always the same and close to our original solar second.

The second is pretty complicated. This guy over here is way smarter than me and does a better job of explaining it.

Everyone jumped on board with the Cesium standard, so the whole world can count a second reliably.

Chemists making clocks back in the day.

Chemists making clocks in the modern age.

Chemists making clocks around the world.

Cesium OC (10 pts)

2 points - Copy the Cognate chart embedded here. Add 5 new terms under the word category at the top of your chart.

Cognates (CESIUM)

2 points - Measure the speed of your typing at typeracer.com. Collect evidence of your results with a screenshot.

5 points - Complete a longitudinal study of your typing over a course of time. 1 point for the embed

Longitudinal Study of Typing