Demonstrating that chemistry can be fun, Saint Mary's College students celebrated National Mole Day in the lobby of the J.C. Gatehouse science building. National Mole Day, said Carrie Webber '04, vice president of the Science Club, is commemorated every year, on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m.

"There are some people who start the day with breakfast at 6:02 a.m.," she said. "We didn't do that! It's pretty hard to get up at 6:02 a.m."

Webber and Abbi Zito '04 decorated the lobby space much like a birthday party, complete with balloons, ribbons, placards, candies such as tootsie "moles" (tootsie rolls), and games.

"It's an educational thing," said Zito, "to get people to understand what a Mole is. It's also silly and fun." What is a Mole? A Mole is a measuring unit used in calculations in chemistry. It is represented by the numerical figure 6.02 x 10 23, which is known as Avogadro's Number. Amadeo Avogadro (1776-1856) was an Italian scientist considered to be one of the founders of the discipline of physical chemistry. Trained as a lawyer, he took private lessons in mathematics, eventually making the natural sciences his career.

The National Mole Day Foundation (www.moleday.org) was founded in 1991, and since then, celebrations have spread across the world, mainly as an education tool to help explain one of the basic concepts in chemistry. This year's theme is "Rock 'n' Mole."

Moles are used in measurements at the microscopic level, Zito explained. But, it can be difficult to convey the notion of a Mole because it is a mathematical concept; it isn't quite like measuring objects or substances by weight or volume. To help, Webber and Zito posted intriguing facts around the Gatehouse lobby:

"If you distributed a Mole of pennies evenly to everyone in the world, everyone would have $1,000,000,000,000"; and

"One Mole of marshmallows would cover the United States to a depth of 600 miles."

"It's useful to get people to think about it as a big number to describe really small things," said Zito.

Webber and Zito also posted the Mole Pledge: "I pledge allegiance to the Mole, to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and to the Atomic Mass for which it stands, one number, most divisible, with atoms and molecules for all."

The students created a Mole contest, with a winner to be selected for devising the wittiest pun. Last year's winner, submitted by Trang Nguyen '03, said Webber, was especially funny: "The quality of guacamole-y depends on the number of Avogadros used."

-- by Joseph Wakelee-Lynch
College Communications

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