Friday, October 23, 2020

Vital Viewing (Scientific Measurements Edition)

 

No, not Stella's.

It's National Chemistry Week, and one day out of that week, October 23, is set aside as a holiday. What holiday you ask?

                                                      !!!!! Mole Day !!!!! 

Now, it's not a federally-recognized holiday, so your mail will still get delivered, and, at least in previous pandemic-free years, kids didn't get off from school. In fact, it's an in-school holiday. The following video will explain the particulars.



That woman's charming Southern accent can't quite make up for the dryness of the subject matter. Perhaps we can make it less dry with some interesting visuals: 

If you were listening carefully to either of those two videos, you would have heard the name of Amedeo Avogadro, the late 18th-early 19th century Italian scientist who theorized that equal volumes of gasses under the same temperature and pressure will contain the equal number of molecules. Honestly, I can't think of any reason why they wouldn't, but apparently it was something that couldn't be proved at the time. Here's what Avogadro looked like:


He looks like a bit of a grump, doesn't he? The historical record doesn't say whether he was or not, but he would have had much to be grumpy about. Not only was his theory met with indifference by the scientific establishment, but the University of Turin sacked him after he took an interest in politics--he backed a revolution. He was eventually rehired after everybody had lightened up a bit, including the King of Sardinia (Italy was not yet a unified country, part of the reason for the rebellion.) But getting back to his theory, it increasingly gained favor in the years after his death--I guess you could say Avogadro was the Vincent van Gogh of atomic-molecular theory--especially when an Austrian scientist named Josef Loschmidt used the theory to buttress his own theory concerning the size of molecules. Then in the early 20th century a French physicist named Jean Perrin (by the way, I don't walk around with these names in my head; I only learned of the existence of Avogadro, Loschmidt, and Perrin about a half an hour before I started putting this post together) used Avogadro's theory to buttress--now we come to someone I have heard of--Albert Einstein's theory, not the one about relativity (he had others), but having to do with Brownian motion, or the movement of particles. Amidst all this theorizing a number emerged, 6.02×1023 , and that, my friends, is a mole (symbol: mol), because to write it any other way you'd have zeros all over the place as so many atomic-scale particles can sit on the head of a pin that angels have to find some other place to hang out. And if you look at the tail end of that number, you'll understand why October 23 was chosen as the date of the holiday. But, you know, I think this explanation is getting a little dry, and I don't have a charming Southern accent to make up for it. So lets hear what these young ladies have to say, or sing, about what I just told you:


I wonder if those girls put that video together themselves. It they did, and it's something anybody can do with equipment bought at Best Buy, it makes me wonder why anyone bothers with movie and TV studios anymore. Are they just tax shelters?

I'm sure when you were all going to school yourselves, and attending science class, you saw something that looked like this on the wall: 


Well, as a way of celebrating Mole Day, student and faculty at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, got together and--well, see for yourself:


So if you're ever in Rhode Island, and need to consult the Periodic Table, just rent a helicopter, and it will be right there.

Though the above video is of a college, Mole Day is still more of a secondary education thing, designed to get kids interested in science before they get to college. One high school teacher came up with this nifty bit of encouragement: 

 The message seems to be: study hard, go to college, and once you get out, there'll be a job waiting for you in the Pentagon.

You may be wondering about all these teenage-produced videos. Well, they seem to be extra-credit assignments, such as this one:


I'd give it an A, and a VMA Award as well.

Finally, a bit of animation:


Disney by way of Best Buy.


You hear so much in the news these days about teenagers stealing drugs from the school nurse's first-aid station, or  having sex on the wrestling mats in the gymnasium, or setting fire to the World Book encyclopedia set in the school library, or spiking the coffee in the teacher's lounge with Robitussin, or pushing elderly hall monitors down flights of stairs, or--uh, I better stop before I start giving somebody ideas.

The truth is that teenagers, and teenagers' personalities, comes in all shapes and sizes, some good, some bad, and just about everything in between, and it's refreshing to know that there are still high school kids who avail it upon themselves to learn something while in the classroom, such as the ones found in these videos. They are the scientists of tomorrow. Either that, or future contestants on America's Got Talent



Happy Mole Day. Try not to blow up the lab.

20 comments:

  1. I was a young person who was often interested in learning but I do remember chemistry being a stretch. Those videos of laboratories do bring back memories.

    Happy Mole Day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brian, I had a chemistry set as a kid, but all I remember being able to do with it is combining chemicals and making them change colors, as if they were Easter egg dyes (not that I suggest using a chemistry set for such a purpose, lest the acid burn right straight through to the yolk.)

      Delete
  2. Science - Schmience! It's bad for business and I'm against it!!!

    Hi, Kirk!

    First, a scary thought for H-ween: Stella Stevens turned 82 this month.

    I must have skipped chem class and hung out at the Dell the day this lesson on the Mole was taught. If Amedeo Avogadro had invented Italo-disco, it would be easier for me to understand his accomplishment. It is indeed encouraging to see all of these homemade videos of students getting their nerd on and celebrating Mole Day instead of spreading trash on social media. Thanks for walking us through the history and principles behind a little known international holiday that falls within National Chemistry Week.

    Now that I've learned about "the Avogadro constant" I'd like to share Shady's constant: The number of particles of factual substance in a Donald Trump answer is always = ZERO.

    Enjoy your weekend, good buddy Kirk!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shady, I never heard of this holiday until last week. I go to YouTube to see if I can possibly make a post of it, and find that there are DOZENS of videos, mostly high-school student produced, dedicated to it! Since they all repeat the same basic information, I had to be judicious about which ones I used, but this post easily could have had three times as many clips. Now at my age I'm hardly surprised by my own ignorance of teenage culture, especially when it comes to music or slang, but science? I knew I just had to do a post on it then.

      Delete
  3. Are you SURE today is mole day? "Mole Day... October 23, denoted 10/23 in the US, is recognized by some as Mole Day. It is an informal holiday in honor of the unit among chemists. The date is derived from the Avogadro number, which is approximately 6.022×1023. It starts at 6:02 a.m. and ends at 6:02 p.m. Alternatively, some chemists celebrate June 2 (06/02), June 22 (6/22), or 6 February (06.02), a reference to the 6.02 or 6.022 part of the constant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mike, in my research (or all-night jam session) I did come across the alternative dates you mention, but the October date seems to be the most popular, especially when it comes to high school celebrations, my main reason for doing this post.

      Delete
  4. Oh, I love the chemistry nerds (well, to a point). (Not so much that first woman. Sorry.) Happy mole day, which is also a sometimes delicious Mexican chocolate sauce.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mitchell, I believe the Mexican sauce is briefly mentioned in that final video. A mole, i.e., secret agent, is shown enjoying a dish.

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Debra, they already have. It's called "matter".

      Delete
  6. Hello Kirk, I have forgotten many things from school days, but 6x10^23, Avogadro's number, will always remain firmly embedded in my mind. I used to be a whiz at stoichiometry.

    When people write about end-of-the-universe theories, one possibility they mention is that in a different vacuum state, Avogadro's number could change. The implications of that are rather mind boggling.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim, I'm afraid I had to look up "stoichiometry" which I see is defined as: "the relationship between the relative quantities of substances taking part in a reaction or forming a compound, typically a ratio of whole integers." Had I known that earlier, I could have titled this post "Vital Viewing (Stoichiometry Edition)"

      As for end-of-the-universe theories, the only one I can think of at the moment is the 1980s DC Comics mini-series Crises of Infinite Earths, in which a Superman on Earth-One and another Superman on Earth-Two was somehow a cause of concern. Avogadro's number wasn't mentioned, but perhaps it should have been.

      Delete
    2. Hi again, A simpler definition of stoichiometry would be "balancing chemical equations." Since individual, countable molecules are what interact, the mole is quite convenient as a unit of measurement. The definition you looked up is correct but rather wordy. --Jim

      Delete
  7. Ya know, I still don't know what a chemistry mole is. I have, however, seen naked mole rats at the San Diego Zoo. No relation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Remember, Deedles, moles are blind and may not know they're naked.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. That is funny! I remember this from a few years ago. I studied chemistry at University and sucked big time at it. I really wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps...he studied chemistry - BSc (1st) then PhD then post doc research. I honestly didn't have the brain for it, but he did. Sadly he passed away 2002 - I do miss him too much. At the age of 40, I am still looking for my talent and niche!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh that periodic table brought back panic flashbacks. I was a biology major in college and we had to take both basic chemistry and organic. Even with visuals and that chest of colored balls and the attachments (can't remember what it was called), I couldn't visualize any of it.
    I don't remember a lot of my chemistry, except that I was not good at it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JM, I think having to memorize everything takes the fun out of science.

      Delete

In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.