Mole Day commemorates the international unit for amount of material. A mole is like a dozen. It’s a name for a number of things. One mole of anything consists of 6.02 × 1023 of those things. The mole was chosen so that the mass of a mole of something in grams is the same value as the mass of one of those things in atomic mass units. One mole of water consists of 6.02 × 1023 water molecules and weighs approximately 18 g since one water molecule weighs …
| 2(1 proton)
||1(8 protons + 8 neutrons)
| 2 atomic mass units
||16 atomic mass units
| 18 atomic mass units
The number 6.02 × 1023 is known as Avogadro’s constant in honor of the Italian chemist Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro (1776–1856) who conceived of this scheme for quantifying amounts of material in 1811. He never calculated the constant himself (probably because he used up all the space in his lab log writing his incredibly long name). That was first done by the Austrian chemist Johann Josef Loschmidt (1821–1895) in 1865.
Avogadro’s constant is a number that’s so large it’s difficult to comprehend. The only things that anyone would ever measure in moles would be tiny — atoms or molecules. When applied to everyday objects, the results are ridiculous.
Mole Day was started by a group of chemistry teachers in the 1980s as a way to raise awareness about chemistry. The Mole Day website is run by a US tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Wisconsin called the National Mole Day Foundation, Inc. IRS records published at watchdog.net indicate assets in excess of $30,000! I’ve been to their website. I’ve worked on several websites. The Mole Day website is no $30,000 website. The page layouts look locked in mid ’90s html and their jokes are so bad they make the notoriously lame jokes of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers seem uproariously funny in comparison.
- What is Avogadro’s favorite kind of music?
- Rock ‘N’ Mole
The best joke on Mole Day is the choice of the day itself. Mole Day begins every year at 6:02 AM on October 23. If one uses the American style of writing dates with the month preceding the day, that’s 6:02 10/23. There is no equivalent to Mole Day in Europe where the tradition is to write the day before the month. There is no 10th day in the 23rd month since there is no 23rd month in Europe or anywhere else in the universe as we currently know it. Mole Day ends at 6:02 PM on the same day, which is another witticism that wouldn’t work in Europe where 6:02 PM would be written 18:02.
I feel sorry for the Europeans missing out on this great event. There is a serious deficiency in nerd-related holidays outside the US. Even Pi Day (3/14) doesn’t work for them. Of course, we can all enjoy Powers of Ten Day (10/10), which was two weeks ago (or fifty weeks away). The only other days I know of with international numerical significance are the Square Root Days (4/4/16, 5/5/25, 6/6/36, etc.).
Physicists have it a lot easier than the mathematicians and chemists. We have Newton’s birthday (December 25th) which always seems to be filled with lots of celebration.