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October 24, 2006

Happy Mole Day!

Yesterday, October 23 (10/23), from 6:02am to 6:02pm, was Mole Day, a day to celebrate Amedeo Avogadro's discovery of the constant 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power.

It may not be apparent from reading this blog, but I was a huge chemistry geek in high school. I took two years of chemistry (regular and AP), and in the tenth and eleventh grades, chemistry was my favorite subject. I loved the neatness of balancing chemical equations and the knowledge of how to turn one substance into another (I guess that is technically alchemy, but they do bear a resemblance). Yes, I liked history too, but it didn't fire me up the way a good chemical equation could. Once, in a fit of post-AP boredom, my friends Libby and Clare and I broke into the chem lab to precipitate silver out of a solution. We let the silver dust dry, but couldn't get it hot enough to melt and solidify, so we just gave the dust to our teacher as a gift. I don't think he quite knew what to do with it...

But despite being such a chem geek, I didn't know about Mole Day until yesterday, when David came home from work and told me about it! There was a big mole celebration at Belleville High School, which was written up in yesterday's Ann Arbor News. It had caught David's attention because Avogadro's Number was the topic of discussion at a recent M--- family bar night. I can't remember how it came up, but I was shocked at how long it took me to remember Avogadro's constant and the significance of the mole. After all, for two years, the mole was my basic unit of measurement!

So what is a mole, exactly? It is a unit of measurement consisting of 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd of whatever. For example, a mole of books is 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd books. Why would you want a mole of books? Well, you wouldn't -- that is even more books than I have to read for prelims! The mole is the basic unit of measurement in chemistry because it is the basis for chemical weights. For example, the chemical weight of Hydrogen is 1, which means that a mole of hydrogen atoms weighs 1 gram. I guess the mole doesn't have much significance beyond that, which is probably why I promptly forgot about it after I passed the Chemistry AP!

Posted by eklanche at October 24, 2006 09:23 AM

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