October 23rd is National Mole Day, a day that encourages people everywhere, especially students, to learn about and celebrate the fascinating subject of chemistry. Mole Day’s roots can be traced back to an article published in The Science Teacher in the 1980′s. After reading the article a Wisconsin high school chemistry teacher, Maurice Oehler, founded the National Mole Day Foundation in 1991. National Mole Day is always celebrated on October 23rd between 6:02 AM and 6:02 PM — an homage to Avogadro’s number (6.02×1023), which defines the number of particles in one mole of substance. Over the years it has been celebrated in schools across the country, with many students creating Mole Day art (with the furry mammalian mole as the mascot) and Mole Day jokes, and participating in other creative chemistry activities.
I have to admit that chemistry was one of my weak subjects in high school and college. I’m not sure why I struggled with it — I had an awesome chemistry teacher in middle school that was not only able to explain the science in a way that made it easy to understand, but he also made it fun! In fact, even though I tend to shy away from open flames and I even hate taking food out of a hot oven, I remember using the bunsen burner with great excitement in Mr. Schwartz’s class. But unfortunately by the time I got to high school I’d long forgotten my middle school chemistry. And when my sophomore chemistry teacher went on medical leave for most of the year we had an extended substitute teacher. She tried her best to teach us, but ultimately we ended up watching “sciency” movies for most of the year. It was one of the few times that I felt like my public school education failed me. Luckily, when it came to my college years I really only needed a good foundation in biology. Still, it makes me feel nostalgic to look back on Mr. Schwartz’s class and remember how much fun I had discovering chemistry.
Chris and I inadvertently started celebrating National Mole Day earlier this afternoon. Late last night we returned home from a wonderful, restorative weeklong vacation so we seized the opportunity to sleep in late today and catch up on our Netflix queue. We’ve been greedily watching episode after episode of the drama / dark comedy Breaking Bad, which follows the story of an ailing high school chemistry teacher as he builds a frighteningly successful crystal meth business to finance his medical needs. The show is wonderfully complex and entertaining, and often serves to remind how incredibly powerful chemistry can be.