With two new elements on the periodic table this month, NPR offers a step-by-step tutorial on how you, too, can add an element—if you’ve got an atom-smashing device lying around. First, you have to make a new element by slamming atoms of two elements together and hoping their nuclei join. “These two species combine perhaps once out of a billion billion collisions,” notes a scientist (who happens to be chair of the Joint Working Party for the Discovery of New Elements). "That's a billion billion." If you get really, really lucky, you’ve created a new element.
But don’t expect to show it off: It’s usually detected only by a computer, and the newest elements decayed in less than a second. You'll need other scientists to approve your element by recreating it. Finally, an official board will ask you to name your element. It’s a very competitive process, and the two latest elements, 114 and 116, haven’t yet gotten names—though word is they’ll be named “after a scientist named Georgy Flyorov, and another after Moscow,” says an expert. (Read more periodic table stories.)