Critical Mass and Chemistry’s Most Famous Number

Chances are, you’re not like me: you cringe when someone says the word “chemistry.” Your memory of it vaguely harkens back to an undergrad class whose knowledge you flushed once you finished the final. That’s okay — my goal for this series is to change that paradigm, make it understandable to all, and provide some entertainment.

It’s 1858, and we’ve reached a point of critical mass.

Dalton proposed the existence of tiny, indivisible pieces of matter called atoms roughly a half century ago. While this led to equivalent…