Step aside Halloween and Columbus Day! There’s another great holiday in October, one that is near and dear to chemistry enthusiasts: National Mole Day! This doesn’t refer to the little burrowing animal that tears up people’s yards. Instead, it is a crucial quantity that forms the basis for many measurements in chemistry. For those who haven’t taken a chemistry class in a while, let’s review!
Amadeo Avogadro was an Italian scientist from the nineteenth century who first did work in ratios between the number of atoms in a gas and the volume of a gas. This led to the concept of stoichiometry, where one can calculate the amount of chemicals needed to create reactions and predict the amount of the products of said reactions. The magic number is 6.02 x 1023. In other words, there are 6.02 x 1023 atoms in one mole of any element. In Avogadro’s honor, 6.02 x 1023 is referred to as Avogadro’s number.
Moles can also be converted into grams, which is a more familiar measurement that can easily be used in a high school chemistry laboratory. For example, the average atomic mass of sulfur according to the periodic table is 32.1, so one mole of sulfur has a mass of 32.1 grams.
What is connection between this number and a holiday in October? National Mole Day is celebrated at 6:02 in the morning and evening on October 23 every year. If you write out the numbers, that is 6:02 on 10/23. This celebration started in 1991, when chemistry teacher Maurice Oehler founded the National Mole Day Foundation (NMDF). The goal of the NMDF is to get students excited about chemistry and to show the cross-curricular connections between math and science.
Crack out your periodic table t-shirts and mugs and get ready to celebrate National Mole Day, the scientist’s favorite fall holiday! Bonus points to the teachers who dress up like a periodic table for Halloween!
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