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Volume 520 Issue 7546, 9 April 2015

The most dramatic modern revision of Mendeleevs periodic table of elements came in 1944 when Glenn T. Seaborg placed a new series of elements, the actinides (atomic numbers 89�103), below the lanthanides. In this issue of Nature, Yuichiro Nagame and colleagues report the first measurement of one of the basic atomic properties of element 103 (lawrencium), namely its first ionization potential. Lawrencium is only accessible via atom-at-a-time synthesis in heavy-ion accelerators, so experimental investigations of its properties are rare. Nagame and colleagues were able to reduce the number of atoms required to measure the ionization potential from billions to thousands, and these results � in agreement with the latest theoretical calculations � show that the last valence electron in lawrencium is the most weakly bound one in all actinides and any other element beyond group 1 of the periodic table. This signature � in a region of the periodic table where the sheer size of the atoms means that relativistic effects play a crucial role � confirms the end of the actinide series at element 103. Cover: Nik Spencer/Nature.

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