Did you celebrate Mole Day?

I just learned of another nerdy holiday: Mole Day is celebrated by chemists as an analog of Avogadro’s Number, the number of molecules in a mole of matter. It’s 6.023 x 10^23, so the holiday runs approximately from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. on October 23.

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Springhill Mine disaster, October 23, 1958

Bone and blood is the price of coal.”

This is the fiftieth anniversary of a disaster in the coal mine in Springhill, Nova Scotia, 13,000 feet down. I listened to one of the few remaining survivors, Harold Brine, on CBC radio today. The disaster was caused not by a collapse but by a “bump,” the rock underfoot buckling and abruptly rising about four feet. Some miners were killed outright and others trapped by rockfalls dislodged by the bump. The disaster is notable for several reasons:

  • According to Harold Brine, the bump followed a change away from staggered supporting walls to walls that were lined up, propagating the fault, because of expert opinion that staggered walls were not needed.
  • After six days the mining officials wanted to stop rescue operations on the grounds that anyone still underground must be dead. 82 out of 175 men had been rescued. The miners refused to stop digging until they found bodies or survivors.
  • After six more days, the miners made contact with twelve more survivors, and got them out the next day. On November first, six more men were rescued. They were the last survivors.
  • The mining company did not pay the miners for their time underground, nor compensate them, nor even express any regret to the survivors.
  • “The rescuers were awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Canadian Humane Association for bravery in lifesaving, the first time the medal had been awarded to a group.” —Wikipedia

You can read the proceedings and report of the inquiry into the disaster.

Fear Not: Halloween Exploration

Fear Not: Halloween Exploration, originally uploaded by Harvard Museum of Natural History. Photo by Adam Blanchette of the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

If you happen to be near Boston, you can go to the Harvard Museum of Natural History for their Hallowe’en exhibit from October 24 to November 2. They promise skeletons as well as spiders, snakes, and bats.

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