Holy Moley! 5 FUN Facts About Mole Day

Today, October 23 (or 10/23, as it’s written the American way), from 6:02 am to 6:02 pm, is Mole Day. No, it’s not a day for freckles, spies, Mexican sauce, or cute little burrowing mammals. Rather it’s the day to celebrate the chemical unit the “mole.”

What is a mole, you ask, having forgotten high school chemistry. A mole of something is 6.02 x 10^23 of it (kind of like a dozen of eggs is 12 eggs, a mole of eggs is 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 eggs*.)

*okay, technically, it’s 602,214,129,270,000,000,000,000 eggs (give or take a few quintillion – scientists can’t agree on the exact number).

So, with that out of the way, here are 5 fun facts about the mole and Mole Day:

1. The mole is attributed to 18th century Italian scientist Amedeo Avogadro, whose full name is Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro di Queregna e di Cerreto. Man, that’s a long name, but it somehow fits the long number that now bears his name (6.02 x 10^23 is called Avogadro’s Constant). His parents called him Amedeo Carlo Avogadro.

We won’t get into the technical aspects, but in 1811 Avogadro proposed a law (now known as Avogadro’s Law) stating that equal volume of all gasses, at the same temperature and pressure, have the same number of molecules.

As with many scientific accomplishments of that age, Avogadro’s findings were promptly ignored. It took about a hundred years for the scientific community to get around to appreciating what he’s done. In 1909, French chemist and Nobel laureate Jean Baptiste Perrin proposed that quantity of molecules be called “Avogadro’s Constant.”

2. Mole Day was proposed in an article in The Science Teacher in early 1980s. Inspired by the article, Maurice Oehler, a chemistry teacher (now retired) in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, created the National Mole Day Foundation in 1991.

3. Did you know that the Mole Day has annual themes? Here they are:

1991 The Mole The Merrier
1992 Go For The Mole
1993 Mole Out The Barrel
1994 An Ace in The Mole
1995 Moledi Gras
1996 Molemorial Day
1997 We Dig Chemistry
1998 Ride the Molercoaster
1999 It’s A MOLE World
2000 Celebrate the Molennium
2001 Molar Odyssey
2002 Molar Reflections
2003 Rock ‘n Mole
2004 Pi a la MOLE
2005 Moles-Go-Round
2006 Mole Madness
2007 Secret Agent Double Mole Seven in Moles are Forever
2008 Remember the Alamole
2009 Molar Express
2010 Moles of the Round Table
2011 Molar Eclipse
2012 Animole Kingdom

4. To help you celebrate, here’s the Molemorial Day song by Michael Offutt (that’s the theme of the Mole Day in 1996, when Offutt recorded the song). Actually Offutt created a whole album, titled “Molennium,” filled with songs about the mole.

5. As you can probably guess, a mole (6.02 x 10^23) is a VERY large number. But, what does a mole of moles look like? What if we release a mole of moles onto our planet? xkcd explains:

An eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) weighs about 75 grams, which means a mole of moles weighs (6.022×10^23)×75g≈4.52×10^22kg.

That’s a little over half the mass of our moon.

Mammals are largely water. A kilogram of water takes up a liter of volume, so if the moles weigh 4.52×10^22 kilograms, they take up about 4.52×10^22 liters of volume. You might notice that we’re ignoring the pockets of space between the moles. In a moment, you’ll see why.

The cube root of 4.52×10^22 liters is 3,562 kilometers, which means we’re talking about a sphere with a radius of 2,210 kilometers, or a cube 2,213 miles on each edge. (That’s a neat coincidence I’ve never noticed before—a cubic mile happens to be almost exactly 4/3pi cubic kilometers, so a sphere with a radius of X kilometers has the same volume as a cube that’s X miles on each side.)

If these moles were released onto the Earth’s surface, they’d fill it up to 80 kilometers deep—just about to the (former) edge of space:

All Candy. All Science. All FUN – Make Your Halloween Scientifically Spooky!

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Drop a Warhead in baking soda water, and bubbles erupt. Leave a Skittle in water, and the S floats to the surface. Melt a Starburst, and shiny oil spots form. That’s right, next week is Halloween which means – All Candy. All Science. All FUN! 

Candy experiments are a great way to use up all of that candy & still enjoy all the sweetness Halloween has to offer.  Why not play with your candy? Any seasoned trick or treater knows that his loot is full of candy that brings lots of unwrapping and stirring and sticking things together – it’s one of the important parts of the trick or treating experience. We love candy experiments because they can teach basic science lessons about topics such as density, dissolving, and nutrition. Listed below are just a few ideas to get started. Have fun, and as always, let curiosity be your guide! 

Here’s A Few of our Favorite!

Acid Test: This experiment tests for the acid often found in sour candy. 

Chocolate Bloom: Chocolate is made of cocoa butter, cocoa solids, and other ingredients that have been mixed together. Can you take them apart? 

Color Separation (Chromatography): You know candy is colored with artificial dye. To see the different dyes for yourself, try this. 

Density Rainbow: Sugar water is denser than water—the more sugar, the denser. This experiment shows you how to layer different densities into a rainbow.

Dissolving Hot/Cold: See if candy dissolves faster in hot or cold water. 

Hidden Candy: Most candy is made from sugar, corn syrup, and flavorings. These ingredients are used to sweeten lots of different foods. Can you find the “hidden candy” in other varieties of food you eat? 

Lifesaver Lights: Do wintergreen Lifesavers really make a spark in the dark?

Sink/Float Most: candy sinks in water, because sugar is denser than water.  But some will float. Why? 

Oil Test: If you thought your candy was all sugar, think again. Many chewy candies also contain oil. This experiment uses heat to let you see the oil for yourself. 

Pop Rocks: What’s the secret ingredient in the candy that crackles? 

Sticky You: know candy can cling to your fingers—but how sticky can you make it?  

For step-by-step instructions and more information about these experiments, visit www.candyexperiments.com

The fun doesn’t stop there! Check out these additional resources on ways to make your Halloween scientifically spooky! 

Celebrate Leap Day – The FUN Science of Telling Time!

Thirty days hath September…but why on earth does February have 29 every four years?

This year is a leap year, making the length of the 2012 calendar 366 days, instead of the normal 365.  Every four years an extra day is added to the month of February, but have you ever wondered why this happens?  In celebration of 2012 being a Leap Year, we invite you to hop back in time with us for a brief history of our modern day calendar and discover the FUN science of telling time! 

The calendar is supposed to match the solar year, in other words, the length of time it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun once. But things aren’t quite that simple. It actually takes Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds to complete its orbit (about 365 1/4 days). Those extra hours gradually add up so that after four years the calendar is out of step by about one day.  Adding a day every four years allows for the calendar to match up with the solar year again.

However, because the solar year isn’t exactly 365 days, even adding a leap day every four years means that the calendar is still out of step by 11 minutes and 14 seconds each year. Over the course of 400 years this would add up to three extra days. In order to solve this problem it was decided to leave out the leap year three times every 400 years. So the new rule was, a century year (1600, 1700, 1800, etc..) would only be a leap year if it was evenly divisible by 400.  This means that the year 2000 was a leap year, but 2100 will not be.

Phew! So, who figured all this out?

The Egyptians were the first people to think of adding a leap day to the calendar. Later, the Romans copied the idea and in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII reformed the Julian Calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE). By Pope Gregory’s time, the calendar had drifted 14 days off track. He neatly solved this by wiping ten days off the calendar, telling everyone that the day after October 4th was going to be October 15th. Bad luck for people with birthdays during that time, including famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton. His birthday according to the Julian calendar, used during the year of his birth, was Christmas Day, 1642. However, once the Gregorian Calendar went into effect,Newton’s birthday changed to January 4th, 1643. 

The early roman calendar originally began the year in the month of March. It consisted of ten months, each lasting about 30 days, ending with December. This ten month calendar completely left out the winter months.  It is thought that the two extra months, January & February, were added sometime around 715-673 BCE. This would have made February the last month of the year, which might explain why a leap day was added to that month. Later, it was decided to start the year with January.

Other nations have different leap year rules and different methods of keeping their calendar in line with the solar year.  Countries may have a day, or in some cases a month, that gets added every few years in order to balance the time. The Chinese, for example, add a month about every three years, whereas in the Islamic Hijri Calendar a day is added 11 times during a 30-year cycle.

It can be pretty confusing keeping track of our modern day calendar, but just remember…

            Thirty days hath September,

            April, June and November;

            All the rest have thirty-one

            Save February, she’s alone

            Hath eight days and a score

            Til leap year gives her one day more!


Did You Know?

There is a tradition that women are allowed to propose marriage to men on leap days! One day in the 5th century, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about the unfairness of the system which only allowed men to propose, so he decided to let women do the asking once every four years!  Today, we refer to this special day as Sadie Hawkins Day!


Learn more about Leap Years & Leap Day with these Resources!

FUN BrainPOP Video about leap year

Leap Year 2012

Take The Leap: FUN Leap Year Quiz! 

Happy Leap Day!