Chemistry and awe


From my chemistry book, I’m learning about the kinetic-molecular theory of gases. It’s so great to be back, by the way. I was gone because I had an English project to work on which took much of my time, more than I like. I came across this equation:

KE =½mv2

It gives the kinetic energy of any object in motion (it can tell the kinetic energy of a particle, too) if you know its mass (m) and speed (v). Particles of a certain type of gas all have the same mass, and so any differences in kinetic energy are due to their speed. (Think about it in terms of the equation. If the ½ never changes, and the m is the same between two particles, but KE is different, then v must be the difference between the two particles, right? And v is speed.)

The book goes on to say that “all gases at the same temperature have the same average kinetic energy.” I thought about this in terms of the equation again. The KE was the same, the ½ was the same, and the mass was different (a particle of one gas has a different mass than a particle of another gas)—which meant that they had to have different v values (i.e. different speeds). Because if they had had the same speed, how would they have had they same KE values?

So at the same temperature (same kinetic energy), particles with different masses (particles of different gases) move at different speeds.

When I came across the formula, I was reading about the kinetic-molecular theory of gases, which states five characteristics of what would be an ideal gas (there’s no gas that is ideal, though, so the ideal gas is theoretical). That theory explains physical characteristics of gases, such as gases’ lack of a definite shape or definite volume. They will completely fill containers which they are put in, no matter how big the container, because they are in constant motion, moving about in random directions, and don’t experience enough attraction to other gases to be stopped.

Gases and liquids are both considered fluids, did you know that? That’s because of the fluidity of the particles. Gas particles have such little attraction to each other that they can move past each other easily.

Gas particles occupy a lot of volume compared to their size and the volume occupied by particles in liquids/ solids. Gas particles are usually very far apart from each other. Because most of the area they occupy is empty space, they are not very dense compared to liquids and gases. This makes it possible to compress gases immensly. A certain amount of gas will naturally occupy a volume that is large compared to the amount of volume it will occupy if it is compressed.


The chemistry book I’m working with describes diffusion of gases as the spread of gas particles. This spread can cause two different gases to mix, and this spread is explained by gases’ random, constant, straight-line motion.

This (random, constant) motion is one of the characteristics of an ideal gas. The kinetic-molecular theory of gases provides the ideal gas as a theoretical model describing all the characteristics that a perfect gas would have. Briefly, the characteristics:

  1. particles in a gas are far apart and occupy a large volume, relative to their size. Lots of that volume is just empty space, allowing for gases to be significantly compressed.
  2. when particles bounce against container walls or each other, the collisions are ellastic. No kinetic energy is lost.
  3. gas particles move continuously and rapidly in random directions. They move in straight lines.
  4. no attraction exists between gas particles because the kinetic energy of the particles is too great.
  5. the gas temperature depends on the kinetic energy of the gas particles.


Effusion is, according to the book, “a process by which gas particles pass through a tiny opening.”

Sort of unrelated:

It’s amazing how we evolved to be able to sense the degree of heat of an object or thing. Basically, we evolved to be able to feel the movement of atoms of something. We can tell when a perfectly still object’s atoms are moving very quickly. We sense it as heat, we feel something subjective, a warmth, impossible to describe. We can compare it to other things, like the feeling of sunlight, but how do you describe the sensation of heat to an alien? How do you describe the appearance of the color red vs. the color blue to a blind person?

How amazing that we are capable of such sensations. There is mystery everywhere in the world, if you examine things you think you know. There is something hidden to everything, there must be. No matter how much you think you know, you never know the full story. Something like color can amaze us, something like sight, something like the working of our bodies. There is so much awe to be felt if one starts learning the laws of the universe. There is so much sense that everything makes, and that is stunning and moving.

I just wonder why we get burned when we touch things are too hot. Their heat is something we feel, and when the heat is too great, we feel pain. Objects that emit this sort of heat have atoms that are simply moving too fast—yet why is it bad for us to touch things whose atoms move too fast? Why do we get burned, at the atomic level? Why does our skin turn red?

There are so many questions like these which make the world seem interesting again. When you think there’s nothing left for you to do, all you really have to do is look at the world from a different perspective. There is so much that is unexamined and that you will never find, but if you wish to find wonder, you can. There is all the wonder you need right here, if you dare to look for it. It doesn’t have to be hard, and you don’t have to have talent. In my experience, you simply need to have the will, you have to be willing to try hard, and you have to be persistent. You have to be open-minded, you have to listen, absorb, and learn.

I myself sometimes get the feeling of “is that all there is to life?” I think my dad gets it too, sometimes. I remember telling him once, in a determined manner, that I wanted to live forever. And that I hated the fact I might one day die. I remember asking him if he wanted to live forever—if he would if he could—and I remember his surprising answer: just a little longer. Maybe 200 years, maybe less. I couldn’t understand. Did life have so little meaning to him? Didn’t he understand its preciousness? I don’t understand its preciousness until I read about nature’s laws, or nature’s doing, or space, and I am reminded that the mystery lives on and that discovering the universe is all the purpose I need to live indefinitely. I myself don’t think much of my beautiful humanity (because humanity is crazy beautiful sometimes). It really is wonderful to be filled with awe the way I am when I read about the vastness of space, and the wonders of the beyond, and the unlikelihood of life occurring (if it is indeed unlikely, I haven’t made up my mind because the scientists from whom I’ve heard haven’t made up their minds). I’ve cried many times when presented with the sheer beauty of sense-making nature. Nature being all of creation, and that doesn’t imply there is a creator. Though I can’t understand how the hell anything is without a creator, and that’s another mystery I can’t believe I’m going to, in all probability, die before discovering the answer to.

When I look into space, and I go there with the books and facts and ideas, I become aware of all that I will never know. Of an immensity too large for me to fathom. Of questions that are the most important to me and will probably never be answered. And that both gives my life meaning and importance, and breaks my heart.

Anyway, I myself don’t usually think much of my humanity. Of the miracle that I am alive, that I am conscious, that I am here. That of all the other children my parents could have created (think of all the sex cells), I was created.

What the hell????

It’s humbling. It makes me feel fragile and insignifcant and blessed and fortunate all at once. I am one of the lucky ones. So are you, so is everybody who was, at least for a moment, alive.

When the numbers are stacked against you, when probability enters the picture, when the difficulty of life arising enters the picture… when you think of the damn fact that if any of your non-human or human ancestors had not had the offspring they had you would not be here and somebody else would…

Then it’s like you can’t believe you got to live. You can’t believe you got to feel and be here. And for what? To spend your days working at something you didn’t want to work at, to waste time?

That’s just one of the things some people do. And it’s a waste. There are so many miracles in our world that everyone forgets they are one.

Well, I was going to say more, particularly about my dad, but the passion has faded. It always returns, though—I don’t worry. I’ll go back to summarizing/ paraphrasing now. I started talking about heat because that’s an important part about all this: the hotter gas particles are, the faster they move, and gas particles which move relatively fast will undergo effusion (meaning they will pass through a small opening) faster than gas particles which move slower. That’s because faster-moving particles will spread out faster and “explore space” faster. When I say space I don’t mean outer space, but space like the one you are occupying right now, wherever you are.


I’m telling you… simply being reminded that liquid water consists of molecules makes me peer down my water bottle opening at the familiar liquid inside. Why can we see through water, for one thing? That’s so interesting. It’s so interesting to look at something familiar in a new way, which you do every time you learn something new/ are reminded of something new about something. When you learn something new and surprising about a person, you may find that you “look” at them differently. It’s because your idea of them has changed somewhat, and that’s super interesting, huh?

Water’s boring when you think of it in the same way as always, but when you think of it as a substance consisting of atoms! occupying volume… it’s amazing. It’s amazing that all those tiny atoms, which you cannot see with your naked eyes when they are by themselves, are present in quantities large enough to form something that you can see without using a special microscope.

Isn’t that amazing?

The world is always changing when you learn new things.

When you stop learning, the world becomes boring, and that is not because it is boring, and that is not because there are no new things to be fascinated by—rather, that is because we have not learned much, and consequently our model and perception of the world has not changed much.

Learning is changing. Learning changes your ideas, and your world.

Thank you.


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