Science Poetry

On All Counts

“Constantly, consciously,
A. Avogadro will 
Simplify chemistry’s
Math rigmarole,
Working through various
Calcs with his number
Defining the mole.”

This next double dactyl poem, posted on 9 April 2020, blended some historical information about Italian chemist Amedeo Avogadro with some descriptions of the uses of a scientific constant later named in his honor.   

“Constantly, consciously, /
A. Avogadro will /
Simplify chemistry’s /
Math rigmarole.”  
Amedeo Avogadro (1776-1856) examined the relationship of the number of molecules in a gas sample to the volume of that sample, determining that samples with more molecules occupied greater volumes, assuming constant temperature and pressure.  This is true regardless of what the molecules themselves are.  We can see this in the relationship of the variables n (number of moles, which is related to number of molecules) and V (volume) in the ideal gas law: pV = nRT.  Avogadro’s Law, specifically, is often written as V1/n1 = V2/n2.  An important constant used by chemists, Avogadro’s Number, was ultimately named in Avogadro’s honor, but it would take several more decades for this term to be defined by French scientist Jean Baptiste Perrin.   

In terms of the poetic language used here, Avogadro’s work delved into varied quantitative aspects of chemistry, “simplify[ing]” the subject’s “math rigmarole,” and the number named for him is a constant.      

“Working through various /
Stoichiometrical /
Calcs with his number /
Defining the mole.”
As has been discussed elsewhere in this space, Avogadro’s Number is 6.022 x 10^23 “per mole”: 6.022 x 10^23 is the number of particles of a chemical species in one mole of that species.  The scale of this number allows conversions between the particulate and macroscopic levels.

(The second portion of the poem veers into fiction, since Avogadro himself would not have used Avogadro’s Number, but it was too hard to resist using the double-dactyl word of “stoichiometrical” in one of these poems, once I saw a pertinent list of such words and realized that this chemical term would likewise qualify.)