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Chemistry Jokes

Page history last edited by Ian Balcom (Dr B.) 8 years, 2 months ago




Thanks Greg for forwarding this:


From What If:




What would happen if you were to gather a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (the small furry critter) in one place?

Things get a bit gruesome.

First, some definitions. A mole is a unit. It’s not a typical unit, though. It’s really just a number—like “dozen” or “billion.” If you have a mole of something, it means you have 602,214,129,000,000,000,000,000 of them (usually written 6.022×1023). It’s such a big number because it’s used for counting numbers of molecules, which there are a lot of.

"One mole" is close to the number of atoms in a gram of hydrogen. It’s also, by chance, a decent ballpark guess for the number of grains of sand on Earth.

A mole is also a type of burrowing mammal. There are a handful of types of moles, and some of them are truly horrifying.

So what would a mole of moles—602,214,129,000,000,000,000,000 animals—look like?

First, let’s start with wild ballpark approximations. This is an example of what might go through my head before I even pick up a calculator, when I’m just trying to get a sense of the quantities - the kind of calculation where 10, 1, and 0.1 are all close enough that we can consider them equal:

I can pick up a mole (animal) and throw it.[citation needed] Anything I can throw weighs one pound. One pound is one kilogram. The number 602,214,129,000,000,000,000,000 looks about twice as long as a trillion, which means it’s about a trillion trillion. I happen to remember that a trillion trillion kilograms is how much a planet weighs.

… if anyone asks, I did not tell you it was ok to do math like this.

That’s enough to tell us that we’re talking about pile of moles on the scale of planets. It’s a pretty rough estimate, though, since it could be off by a factor of thousands in either direction.

Let’s get some better numbers.

An eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) weighs about 75 grams, which means a mole of moles weighs




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 4.52×1022 kilograms, they take up about 4.52×1022 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 4.52×1022 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 43π 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:

This smothering ocean of high-pressure meat would wipe out most life on the planet, which could—to reddit’s horror—threaten the integrity of the DNS system. So doing this on Earth is definitely not an option.

Instead, let’s gather the moles in interplanetary space. Gravitational attraction would pull them into a sphere. Meat doesn’t compress very well, so it would only undergo a little bit of gravitational contraction, and we’d end up with a mole planet a bit larger than the moon.

The moles would have a surface gravity about one-sixteenth as strong as Earth’s—similar to that of Pluto. The planet would start off uniformly lukewarm—probably a bit over room temperature—and the gravitational contraction would heat the deep interior by a handful of degrees.

But this is where it gets weird.

The mole planet is now a giant sphere of meat. It has a lot of latent energy (there are enough calories in the mole planet to support the Earth’s current population for 30 billion years). Normally, when organic matter decomposes, it releases much of that energy as heat. But throughout the majority of the planet’s interior, the pressure is over a hundred megapascals, which is enough to kill all bacteria and sterilize the mole remains—leaving no microorganisms to break down the mole tissues.

Closer to the surface, where the pressure is lower, there’s another obstacle to decomposition—the interior of a mole planet is low in oxygen. Without oxygen, the usual decomposition doesn’t happen, and the only bacteria that can break down the moles are those which don’t require oxygen. While inefficient, this anaerobic decomposition can unlock quite a bit of heat. If continued unchecked, it would heat the planet to a boil.

But the decomposition is self-limiting. Few bacteria can survive at temperatures above about 60 °C, so as the temperature goes up, the bacteria die off, and the decomposition slows. Throughout the planet, the mole bodies gradually break down into kerogen, a mush of organic matter which would—if the planet were hotter—eventually form oil.

The outer surface of the planet radiates heat into space and freezes. Because the moles form a literal fur coat, when frozen it insulates the interior of the planet and slows the loss of heat to space. However, the flow of heat in the liquid interior is dominated by convection. Plumes of hot meat and bubbles of trapped gases like methane—along with the air from the lungs of the deceased moles—periodically rise through the mole crust and erupt volcanically from the surface, a geyser of death blasting mole bodies free of the planet.

Eventually, after centuries or millennia of turmoil, the planet calms and cools enough that it begins to freeze all the way through. The deep interior is under such high pressure that as it cools, the water crystallizes out into exotic forms of ice such as ice III and ice V, and eventually ice II and ice IX (no relation).

All told, this is a pretty bleak picture. Let’s try an alternate approach.

I don’t have any reliable numbers for global mole population (or small mammal biomass in general), but we’ll take a shot in the dark and estimate that there are at least a few dozen mice, rats, voles, and other small mammals for every human.

There might be a billion habitable planets in our galaxy. If we colonized them, we’d certainly bring mice and rats with us. If just one in a hundred were populated with small mammals in numbers similar to Earth’s, after a few million years—not long, in evolutionary time—the total number which have ever lived would surpass Avogadro’s number.

If you want a mole of moles, build a spaceship.







By Stephen McNeil


SARAH: Daddy, were you in the shower?

DAD: Yes, I was in the shower.


DAD: I was dirty. The shower gets me clean.


DAD: Why does the shower get me clean?


DAD: Because the water washes the dirt away when I use soap.


DAD: Why do I use soap?


DAD: Because the soap grabs the dirt and lets the water wash it off.


DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?


DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.


DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?


DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.


DAD: Why does soap form micelles?


DAD: Soap molecules are long chains with a polar, hydrophilic head and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail. Can you say ‘hydrophilic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: And can you say ‘hydrophobic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: Excellent! The word ‘hydrophobic’ means that it avoids water.


DAD: Why does it mean that?


DAD: It’s Greek! ‘Hydro’ means water and ‘phobic’ means ‘fear of’. ‘Phobos’ is fear. So ‘hydrophobic’ means ‘afraid of water’.

SARAH: Like a monster?

DAD: You mean, like being afraid of a monster?


DAD: A scary monster, sure. If you were afraid of a monster, a Greek person would say you were gorgophobic.


SARAH: (rolls her eyes) I thought we were talking about soap.

DAD: We are talking about soap.

(longish pause)


DAD: Why do the molecules have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail?


DAD: Because the C-O bonds in the head are highly polar, and the C-H bonds in the tail are effectively non-polar.


DAD: Because while carbon and hydrogen have almost the same electronegativity, oxygen is far more electronegative, thereby polarizing the C-O bonds.


DAD: Why is oxygen more electronegative than carbon and hydrogen?


DAD: That’s complicated. There are different answers to that question, depending on whether you’re talking about the Pauling or Mulliken electronegativity scales. The Pauling scale is based on homo- versus heteronuclear bond strength differences, while the Mulliken scale is based on the atomic properties of electron affinity and ionization energy. But it really all comes down to effective nuclear charge. The valence electrons in an oxygen atom have a lower energy than those of a carbon atom, and electrons shared between them are held more tightly to the oxygen, because electrons in an oxygen atom experience a greater nuclear charge and therefore a stronger attraction to the atomic nucleus! Cool, huh?


SARAH: I don’t get it.

DAD: That’s OK. Neither do most of my students.



20 Things you don't know about lab accidents....

found at;


1 There went our best chance: In the ninth century, a team of Chinese alchemists trying to synthesize an "elixir of immortality" from saltpeter, sulfur, realgar, and dried honey instead invented gunpowder.


2 German scientist Hennig Brand stored 50 buckets of urine in his cellar for months in 1675, hoping that it would turn into gold. Instead, an obscure mix of alchemy and chemistry yielded a waxy, glowing goo that spontaneously burst into flame—the element now known as phosphorus.


3 Soldiers supplied the raw material in vast, sloshing quantities until the 1750s, when Swedish chemist Carl Scheele developed an industrial method of producing phosphorus. He discovered eight other elements, including chlorine, oxygen, and nitrogen, and compounds like ammonia, glycerin, and prussic acid.


4 Scheele was found dead in his lab at age 43, perhaps owing to his propensity for tasting his own toxic chemicals.


5 Kevlar, superglue, cellophane, Post-it notes, photographs, and the phonograph: They all emerged from laboratory blunders.


6 The Flash, created in 1940 for All-American Publications, was the first comic book hero to develop superpowers after a lab accident, attaining "super speed" after inhaling "hard water" vapors.



7 Other beneficiaries of the Freak Lab Mishap include Plastic Man (struck by a falling drum full of acid), the Hulk (irradiated by an experimental bomb), and of course, Spider-Man (bitten by a radioactive spider).


8 In real life, perhaps a bigger risk comes from lab-contracted diseases. The world's last documented case of smallpox killed photographer Janet Parker in 1978 after the virus escaped from a lab at the University of Birmingham in England.


9 But sometimes humans strike back: Alexander Fleming, famous for his serendipitous discovery of penicillin, also chanced upon an antibiotic enzyme in nasal mucus when he sneezed onto a bacterial sample and noticed that his snot kept the microbes in check.


10 The lab-accident rate in schools and colleges is 100 to 1,000 times greater than at firms like Dow or DuPont.


11 In 1938 DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett opened a dud canister of tetrafluoroethylene gas and discovered an amazing, nearly friction-free white powder. He named it Teflon.


12 Perhaps he should have chucked it out instead: In 2005 the Environmental Protection Agency identified a Teflon ingredient, perfluorooctanoic acid, as a "likely carcinogen." It is now in the bloodstream of 95 percent of Americans.


13 After a 1992 drug trial in the Welsh mining town of Merthyr Tydfil, male subjects reported that sildenafil citrate hadn't done much for their angina, but it did have an unusual side effect on another part of their anatomy. Today the drug is sold as Viagra.



14 In 1943 Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman inadvertently absorbed a small quantity of lysergic acid through his fingertips and experienced "dizziness . . . visual distortions . . . [a] desire to laugh." The age of LSD had begun.


15 Hoffman's long, strange trip continues. He turned 100 this past January.


16 Why he's not the father of the electric chair: While trying to electrocute a turkey, Benjamin Franklin sent a whopping jolt from two Leyden jars into his own body. "The flash was very great and the crack as loud as a Pistol," he wrote, describing the incident as an "Experiment in Electricity that I desire never to repeat."


17 In 1965 astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson scrubbed their Bell Labs radio antenna to rid it of pigeon droppings, which they suspected were causing the instrument's annoying steady hiss.


18 That noise turned out to be the microwave echo of the Big Bang.


19 The world has scores of superpowerful particle accelerators. Last year, a fireball created at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Upton, New York, had the characteristics of a black hole. Physicists are reasonably sure that no such black holes could escape and consume Earth.


20 Reasonably.








A proton and a neutron are walking down the street. 
The proton says, "Wait, I dropped an electron help me look for it." 
The neutron says "Are you sure?" The proton replies "I'm positive."


Money has recently been discovered to be a not-yet-identified super heavy element. 
The proposed name is: Un-obtainium.


As an ion chromatography chemist I made this one up: 
Anions aren't negative, they're just misunderstood.


The optimist sees the glass half full. 
The pessimist sees the glass half empty. 
The chemist see the glass completely full, half in the liquid state and half in the vapor state.


Q: What do chemists call a benzene ring with iron atoms replacing the carbon atoms? 
A: A ferrous wheel.


Q: If H2O is the formula for water, what is the formula for ice? 
A: H2O cubed.


Q: What did the bartender say when oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur, sodium, and phosphorous walked into his bar? 


A neutron walks into a bar. He asks the bartender, "How much for a beer?" The bartender offers him a warm smile and says, "For you, no charge".


Q: What do you do with a dead chemist? 
A: Barium


Q: What did one ion say to the other? 
A: I've got my ion you.


Q: Why did the chemist sole and heel his shoes with silicone rubber? 
A: To reduce his carbon footprint.


Q: What do you call a tooth in a glass of water? 
A: One molar solution.


A small piece of sodium that lived in a test tube fell in love with a Bunsen burner. "Oh Bunsen, my flame," the sodium pined. "I melt whenever I see you," The Bunsen burner replied, "It's just a phase you're going through."


Q: What do you call a clown who's in jail? 
A: A silicon.


Q: Why do chemists enjoy working with ammonia? 
A: Because it's pretty basic stuff.


Q: What emotional disorder does a gas chomatograph suffer from? 
A: Separation anxiety.


Q: Why does hamburger yield lower energy than steak? 
A: Because it's in the ground state.


Florence Flask was getting ready for the opera. All of a sudden, she screamed: "Erlenmeyer, my joules! Somebody has stolen my joules!" The husband replied, "Calm down, honey. We'll find a solution."


Q: If H20 is water, what is H204
A: Drinking, bathing, washing, swimming, etc.


Titanium is a most amorous metal. When it gets hot, it'll combine with anything.


Q: What did one titration say to the other? 
A: "Let's meet at the endpoint."


Q: What did the Mass Spectrometer say to the Gas Chromatograph? 
A: Breaking up is hard to do.


Old chemists never die, they just stop reacting.


Q: What is "HIJKLMNO"? 
A: H2O.


Q: When one physicist asks another, "What's new?" what's the typical response? 
A:C over lambda.


Q: How did the chemist survive the famine? 
A: By subsisting on titrations.


Q: What happens when spectroscopists are idle? 
A: They turn from notating nuclear spins to notating unclear puns.


If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.


Q: Why can't lawyers do NMR? 
A: Bar magnets have poor homogeneity.


Q: What element is derived from a Norse god? 
A: Thorium.


Q: What happened to the man who was stopped for having sodium chloride and a nine-volt in his car?
A: He was booked for a salt and battery.


Q: What element is a girl's future best friend? 
A: Carbon.


Little Willie was a chemist. Little Willie is no more. What he thought was H2O was H2SO4.


Q: What is the name of 007's Eskimo cousin? 
A: Polar Bond.





For those taking Organic Chem next year, this will make more sense then.


Q: What is the name of the molecule bunny-O-bunny?

A: An ether bunny



This one was sent in by Kristen W. Thanks...






The following is an actual question given on a  University  of Arizona  chemistry mid term, and an actual answer turned in by a student. 
The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well :  
Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?  
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. 
 One student, however, wrote the following:    First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely.. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. 
 Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
This gives two possibilities:  
 1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.     2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.  So which is it?   If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct..... ....leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'  THIS STUDENT RECEIVED AN A+.

Comments (3)

dmjepson said

at 12:06 pm on Apr 23, 2011

haha, I saw that one too. hilarious.

Samantha Wolf said

at 4:07 pm on Apr 22, 2011

Here's one I just saw:
A small piece of sodium which lived in a test tube fell in love with a Bunsen burner.

"Oh Bunsen, my flame. I melt whenever I see you . . ." the sodium pined.

"It's just a phase you're going through", replied the Bunsen burner.


dmjepson said

at 3:58 pm on Feb 15, 2011