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Elements on my mind

March 7, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 10

I suppose that like many other readers of C&EN, I fall behind your production and output. Indeed, sometimes I make no effort to read back issues in turn. Recently, I put aside the Oct. 19, 2015, issue to perhaps drop you a note about the University of Oklahoma’s revamped chemistry graduate program (C&EN, Oct. 19, 2015, page 38). This morning, I perused the Dec. 7/14, 2015, issue with coffee and dwelled on the Newscripts addressing Irish entrepreneur Cillian McMinn’s elements collection project (C&EN, Dec. 7/14, 2015, page 56). The wonderful and constant interest in the periodic table is a joy to most of us aged chemists and obviously to some young ones too.

When I started graduate school in 1952 (I said aged), there were two other students sharing the lab. One, who was a year ahead of me, we’ll call D. The other, two years ahead of me, we’ll call F. D barged right in and said, “Look what I can do.” He went to the chalkboard and started writing, from memory, the periodic table. It was like a bar trick for him. Shortly afterward, F did the same thing. When I inquired why, F responded that D was such a nuisance with it, F started to memorize the table in self-defense.

From the Web

Credit: Courtesy of Robert Krickl
Credit: Courtesy of Robert Krickl




Re: “World’s Largest Salt Cube”

Readers got a kick out of the Newscripts profile of Robert Krickl and his construction of the world’s largest crystal structure model, made from custom-designed balls and sticks.

It is dedication like this that causes civilians to doubt our hypotheses and dissemination. ... crazy is as crazy does. BUT IT IS AWESOME AND I TOTALLY WOULD HAVE HELPED HIM AND SLEPT IN MY CAR ...
Jason Hofstein via Facebook

I wonder if he had to redo any of it because he accidentally introduced a grain boundary.
James Maslow via Facebook

In the end, we all have our apartments filled with atoms
Ramón Miranda Quintana via Facebook

Dude loves crystals.
Neal Schmidt via Facebook

Join the conversation.

The following semester, a new instructor offered a course in the chemistry of the less familiar elements. (Oklahoma’s new program includes the class “Chemistry of the Periodic Table,” which reminded me.) D and F enrolled and reported back that in the first session the instructor complained that students did not know the periodic table and asked the class to take a sheet of paper and write the parts of the table they could remember. The entire class, which was D and F, obliged.

The course never met again.

Harvey Alter
Frederick, Md.



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