World’s Largest Periodic Table

Graduate students from the UT Health Science Center worked with over 100 elementary, middle, and high school students to try and set a new world record for the largest periodic table of elements yesterday. Every school chose an element and painted a canvas tarp for that element.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our high school team chose iron because it is the 26th element and Theodore Roosevelt (the name of my school) was the 26th president. Each decorated tarp is 12 feet by 15 feet. When put together, the entire periodic table of 118 chemical elements is more than 22,000 square feet. That makes it big enough to cover most of the football field at Gustafson Stadium.

pt1 pt2 pt3 pt4

We Have Iron For The World’s Largest Periodic Table!


Thanks to the team at the Teacher Enrichment Initiatives (TEI) in the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center a San Antonio (UTHSCSA), we have been invited to join in the construction of the world’s largest periodic table!


UTHSCSA’s TEI seeks partnerships between the faculty and staff of UTHSCSA and K-12 teachers in the San Antonio area. They offer a wealth of resources for science teachers, including a multidisciplinary health science curriculum aligned to state and national educational standards, and teacher professional development programs.

We chose the chemical element iron with the symbol Fe from ferrum, with Latin roots meaning to bear or to carry, because its atomic number is 26. As it happens, our high school is named after the 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, who had an iron constitution and wrote in a letter to New York legislator Henry Sprague on January 26th, 1900:

Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.

Bully! I think that Mr. Roosevelt would be proud!

Eminemium (Parody of Choose Yourself)

Tim Blais montage

Tim Blais of A Capella Science Source: YouTube

Eminemium is a parody of Eminem’s Choose Yourself by Tim Blais on his A Capella Science video project. You can watch the video below.

Tim Blais captures the scene of the Manhattan Project on that fateful day, July 16, 1945:

They’ve armed the weapon
Countdown clock is set and
J. Robert Oppenheimer is sweatin’.
Eyes are red and he’s nervous
‘Cause on the surface this is Armageddon.
The shock bomb, but we’re set upon and threatened
And with no sound, the whole Alamogordo ground
Is glowing and cowed under one smoldering cloud.
He’s choked and wowed, everybody’s open-mouthed,
And over the ground the shock front blows, kapow!

Blais is a physics master’s student and musician who resolved the tension between his creative and academic side by allowing these two aspects of himself to work together. His musical creations result from unaltered sounds from his mouth, throat, and vocal cords.

He continues:

Snap back to the alchemy,
Hope before tragedy,
Showed with bold math that we broke the whole atom.
We choked; controlled action with poles of cold cadmium coat
To go capture neutrons and slow fracture
We broke, postponed that and we chose to go fashion
A most radioactive plutonium gadget then
Fat Man and Boy and Enola goes laughin’
As Nagasaki is blown and Hiroshima’s blasted…

The rest of the song is a historical distillation of the Cold War with the admonition “You gotta choose yourself how to use it / The knowledge you hold” because “So here we go, it’s our shot / Feel frail or not / This is the only world and humanity that we got.” Tim Blais manages to take a brilliant work by a brilliant artist and transform it into a clever piece about the social responsibilities of scientific discovery. Brilliant!

If you like him as much as I do, all of Blais’ tracks are available for download at Apple Music.



I was familiar with Hugh Aldersey-Williams’ previous book Periodic Tales, so when I saw his new book Anatomies at our neighborhood library I was eager to read it. This time, the author offers his entertaining blend of science, history, and culture on the subject of the human body.

Aldersey-Williams tells an engaging narrative that spans from ancient body art to modern plastic surgery. He witnesses the dissection of a human body, tries his hand at drawing in an art class, and visits a morgue. His stories do not just come from science and medicine, but also from the works of artists, writers, and philosophers throughout history: Rembrandt to Frankenstein, Descartes to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like a good friend having a conversation over coffee, he shows how attitudes toward the human body are as varied as our postmodern culture, as he talks about fig leaves, shrunken heads, Einstein’s brain, bloodletting, tattooing, and fingerprinting, as well as other things.

I bought a copy for my own library.

Nobel Prize 2013

"Prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind."

“Prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”

The 2013 Nobel Prize awards for chemistry, physiology or medicine, and physics were recently announced as they are every year at around this time and posted here.

The Nobel Prize awards were established in 1895 according to the will of Swedish chemist, engineer, and inventor Alfred Nobel and endowed by his estate. Other than the three natural science awards, Alfred also wanted awards for literature and peace. All five Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901. In 1968, Sweden’s central bank established and endowed the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their 300th anniversary. This prize for economics in honor of Alfred Nobel was first awarded the following year.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences grants the prizes for chemistry and physics (and economics), while the Karolinska Institute grants the prize for physiology or medicine.

The Nobel Prize awards are presented in Stockholm, Sweden (except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo, Norway) every year on December 10, which is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

The Nobel Prize science medals were designed by Swedish engraver Erik Lindberg in 1902. The Latin inscription on the medals is

Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes

and can be translated as And all who found new arts, to make man’s life more blest or fair. The inscription is from Book 6, line 663 of Vergil’s Aeneid:

And poets, of whom the true-inspired song deserved Apollo’s name;
and all who found new arts, to make man’s life more blest or fair;
(translation by Theodore C. Williams)

For the chemistry and physics medals, Erik Lindberg chose to show Nature being unveiled by the Genius of Science. For the medal for physiology or medicine, Erik chose to show the Genius of Medicine gathering water to quench the thirst of a sick child.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Chemistry: Genius of Science unveiling Nature

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry is awarded to Université de Strasbourg scientist Martin Karplus, Stanford University School of Medicine scientist Michael Levitt, and University of Southern California at Los Angeles scientist Arieh Warshel for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Physiology or Medicine: Genius of Medicine quenching the thirst of the Ill

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine is awarded to Yale University scientist James Rothman, University of California at Berkeley scientist Randy Schekman, and Stanford University scientist Thomas Südhof for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Physics: Genius of Science unveiling Nature

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded to Université Libre de Bruxelles scientist François Englert and University of Edinburgh scientist Peter Higgs for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.