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Table of elements writ large and more fun with bacon

by Marc S. Reisch
October 9, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 40

The mother of all giant periodic tables

Photo of the periodic table of the elements on the exterior of the Warsaw University of Technology student residence.
Credit: Paulina Król/Warsaw University of Technology
Writ in stone: The table of elements at Warsaw University of Technology.

Back in June, the Newscripts gang heralded the installation of a giant periodic table of the elements on the facade of Spain’s University of Murcia chemistry building. Pedro Lozano Rodriguez, dean of the department of chemistry at the school, proudly proclaimed, “It could be the world’s largest permanent periodic table placed on a wall.”

Not so fast, says intrepid Newscripts reader Michael Koberda of Northfield, Ill., an alumnus of the Warsaw University of Technology. He recalls a student residence named the Riviera blessed with a unique chemistry feature: Smacked broadside against one street-facing exterior wall was a large stone table of the elements installed in 1963. An adjacent exterior wall was adorned with a mosaic representation of a molecule.

Alas, the mosaic is gone, victim of a building modernization project undertaken about six years ago. But the table of elements survived—and it’s a whopper, says Paulina Król, a school press officer.

The Warsaw table stretches across 246 m2. Had the molecular mosaic survived, the combined display would encompass 450 m2 of real estate. But who’s quibbling? The University of Murcia table, in contrast, spans 150 m2.

However, the Warsaw table could use an update. It stops at radium, element 88, coincidentally discovered by Polish native Marie Curie and her husband Pierre in 1898. The Spanish table runs through oganesson, which has an atomic number of 118. So for now, the Polish table wins on size, but the Spanish table wins on completeness.

Bacon to die for

Credit: Shutterstock
King of processed, high-sodium foods: Chocolate-enrobed bacon.
A photograph of several slices of chocolate-covered bacon on a skewer.
Credit: Shutterstock
King of processed, high-sodium foods: Chocolate-enrobed bacon.

The texture, the taste, and the crunch of bacon don’t need an update. But efforts to marry its good and bad attributes to unique taste sensations continue.

Another Newscripts reader, Dan Steible of Middletown, Del., saw the report in this column on the recent Camp Bacon festival in Ann Arbor, Mich., celebrating all things bacon. He felt compelled to share his sighting of an artery-clogging delicacy at his local farmers’ market: chocolate-covered bacon.

Delighted by his discovery, the Newscripts gang asked if he had sampled the chocolate-enrobed savory goody. He had not but graciously went beyond the call of duty and purchased a sample of the $33-per-kg, sweet-and-savory indulgence and declared it “quite enjoyable, with some pleasant saltiness.”

Many Camp Bacon attendees probably didn’t know or care about the latest Journal of the American Medical Association study (2017, DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.0947) associating processed high-sodium foods like bacon with deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Steible knew about the study but took a philosophical perspective.

He wrote in an email that “anyone could speculate forever on the nutritional good of chocolate defeating the nutritional bad of bacon. Or they could speculate on the bad of chocolate combining with the nutritional bad of bacon.” Like all things food, the decision of what to eat comes down to a matter of taste.

Marc Reisch wrote this week’s column. Please send comments and suggestions to


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