Happy Mole Day! Have you ever heard of “Mole Day” before? It’s actually a chemistry holiday –not a holiday to celebrate furry burrowing pests or unique dark spots on your skin. In chemistry, a mole is a very special unit of measure used to count individual atoms or molecules. One mole is equal to 6.02×1023 atoms or molecules of something. October 23rd (10-23, like 1023) is celebrated as mole day, traditionally from 6:02am to 6:02pm. This number is also called “Avogadro’s Number” after the scientist, Amedeo Avogadro, who discovered it. The best way to celebrate Mole Day is simply to celebrate chemistry and math, remembering the amazing ways our Creator has designed the bare building blocks of our world and precisely orchestrated the atomic world.
When it comes to moles, we’re talking about measuring atoms – which are so tiny we can hardly comprehend them. Since one atom is extremely tiny, a mole has to be extremely large to have anything really manageable in the lab and calculations. Like I said, 1 mole= 6.02×1023 atoms or molecules. That’s a HUGE number. It’s six-hundred-two sextillion, which can also be written as: 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (very roughly, a six with 23 zeros). To give you some perspective on just how enormous this number is, let’s measure some astronomical distances – in inches.
Estimating, the distance between Earth and the sun is about 5.89 trillion inches, which can also be written as: 5.89×1012 or 5,890,000,000,000 inches. Just a drop in the bucket compared to six hundred sextillion. Now, let’s go beyond our “little” solar system, and try measuring our galaxy in inches. The circumference of the Milky Way, measuring from the center to the edge of the galaxy, is very roughly 1.17×1023 inches, making the total width (diameter) of our galaxy about 2.34×1023 inches, which is 234 sextillion inches. That’s less than half of the number of atoms it takes to make one mole.
The measurement of a mole can be extremely useful in chemistry, especially since you can directly convert a number of moles to a number of grams, which are much more practical to work with than cumbersome, astronomical numbers of atoms. A mole of any atom (or molecule) is equal to its atomic mass in grams. You can find the atomic mass of an atom on the periodic chart. For example, if I have a mole of hydrogen atoms, that means that I have 6.02×1023 hydrogen atoms, which is about 1.01 grams of hydrogen (atomic mass of hydrogen is 1.01 atomic units). If you hold a paperclip in your hand, that’s about what a gram is, and about how much a mole of hydrogen would be. A mole of oxygen atoms is 16.00 grams and one mole of lead is 207.2 grams, so how many grams there are in a mole really depend on what you have one mole of.
Everything around us is made of atoms – although we really don’t know how big the universe really is, scientists estimate that there are somewhere between 1×1078 and 1×1080 atoms in the universe. Going with the lower end of this incomprehensible number, that would give us a very rough estimate of about 1×1055 (which is over one septendecillion) moles of atoms in the universe. Extremely small things and extremely large numbers are what moles are all about. Seeing the vastness of the universe, and yet the precise design in minuscule atoms should point our minds back to God. His character – His power, eternity, and knowledge, etc. – is so far beyond our grasp. Yet, at the same time, He wants a personal relationship with each one of us and cares about the tiniest details of our lives. He knows the number of the hairs on your head. He knows everything about you and loves you anyway – and He wants you to love Him back, and let Him be your everything!
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it . . . How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, October 2015