Mole Day 2012

We’re guessing that this event didn’t show up on your calendar.  Today is Mole Day!  And we don’t mean that furry little rodent that just trashed your garden.  Or that dark growth you keep discussing with your dermatologist.  The mole we commemorate today is … a number!

But this is not just any number.  It is 6.022 x 10 23.  (In case the fonts are not kind to us, the term after the multiplication sign is 10 raised to the 23rd power — which makes this a really huge number!)  And this last term in this number are why today of all days is Mole Day:  10/23.  As in October 23.  Get it?  Alas, the subtle humor of the Chemist is often lost on the masses.

And Chemist Amedeo Avogadro discovered this number.  It is an essential part of modern Chemistry, in that it links a count to a mass of a substance.  Every laboratory has a mass measuring device — a scale or a balance — to determine the quantity of matter being examined.  But different forms of matter have varying masses, so finding the mass of a sample does not directly tell us how many particles of that form of matter are present.  That is Avogadro’s great finding: “his” number tells us the number of particles that are present in one mole.  Using the “molar mass” of a substance then allows us to convert a mass into a number of particles.

While chemistry is at the very heart of what water system operators accomplish every day, we rarely need to delve into Chemistry at this level.  But you might stop by the lab today, and wish the members of your water quality team a happy mole day.  They’ll know what you mean.  And then they’ll probably tell you some joke that you won’t get.  Chemists!

For more on Mole Day, see:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/its-national-mole-day-celebrate-accordingly/264003/

Don’t let the jocularity of Mole Day keep you away from your studying for the upcoming Water Treatment Operator certification exam on November 17.  And remember that MOST is here to help you prepare.

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