So, you’re a chemist and you’ve finally decided to find out what all the fuss is about with this thing called Twitter. You decide to sign up, but, for whatever reason, you don’t fancy using your own name. Maybe an element; that would be cool wouldn’t it? You are a chemist after all. Maybe you work with Grubbs’ catalyst a lot, and you like the idea of being @ruthenium. Or perhaps Stille/Suzuki/Heck couplings are your thing and so @palladium seems appropriate. Not into metals? Well why not @fluorine, @helium or @bromine?
Well, I’m sorry to report that all of those are taken, but there are 114 named elements (we’re ignoring those ununelementium placeholder names) to choose from. Surely some of the more exotic elements must be there for the taking? Well, no. Gone. All of ’em. Thought you’d sneak in and claim one of the two newest additions to the periodic table @flerovium or @livermorium? Sorry, you’ve been beaten to them.
OK, you’re not going to be defeated. You’re smart. How about a bit of a twist? Perhaps you could be @deuterium or @tritium. Sorry, gone and gone. Ah, but what about elements 13, 16 and 55, with the variations in their spelling? Well, @aluminium and @aluminum are both taken. The same goes for @sulfur and @sulphur (the latter of which is unacceptable anyway). Both @caesium and @cesium have been claimed too. And whether it’s ironic (or you just can’t spell), somebody has even beaten you to @flourine.
Somewhat disappointingly, many of the elemental accounts have very little to do with the element in question — or with chemistry. I’m not going to cover them all (they are linked in the periodic table at the bottom of this post if you care that much…), but thought I would highlight some of them. First up is @nitrogen, simply because his bio states that, “I ponder the universe and eat bacon” — I wish I did that for a living. Another intriguing bio belongs to @neon, who is a “Gangnam style professional dancer” — alas, it is a protected account, otherwise I imagine it would be followed by billions of people by now (rather than the 191 it currently has).
The first account with a pretty strong link to its elemental name is @titanium, which is run by the Titanium Information Group. If you are wondering, they are “an association of titanium suppliers, fabricators, users and researchers, working together to promote the use of titanium”. I’m sure all 62 of their current followers are getting their fill of titanium trivia. The first bio that I happened to notice containing the word ‘chemist’ is that of @gallium — he’s only got 16 followers but says he is a nice guy, so why not give him a follow?
I feel that I must mention @technetium, a Brand Marketing Company, mostly because they only have 225 followers at the moment. Perhaps they need to hire a company to improve their brand. In fact, maybe they should use the services of Promethium Marketing (@promethium) who have a much healthier 5938 followers. Although the first line of their Twitter bio states, “We ignite passion”. Well, I don’t know about you, but that conjures up some weird (and frankly disturbing) mental images for me.
The one other element that sticks out is xenon — for no other reason than the fact that the account has been suspended. Naughty @xenon.
The final word goes to @dysprosium. There is a grand total of 0 tweets from this account, it only follows one other account, and has but 2 followers itself. So why am I pointing out this account? Well, the avatar is a picture of Paul Émile (François) Lecoq de Boisbaudran who was the first person to identify the element dysprosium. De Boisbaudran also discovered a number of other elements, including samarium, europium, gadolinium and gallium — it’s all in the Wikipedia article, which is worth a look.
Edit: OK, I initially limited this to @elementnames, but I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t give @DrRubidium an honourable mention. Follow Ray, she’s awesome. Seriously.
Edit (Jan 24, 2018): Table finally updated to include the four most recent additions to the periodic table, nihonium, moscovium, tennessine and oganesson. Also note that some of the comments above about certain Twitter handles no longer hold true: @nitrogen seems more normal now, as does @neon, alas – and @technetium seems to have a new (protected) owner. It seems that @xenon is still suspended though, so there is that.
And here’s the periodic table of Twitter, with all the accounts linked: