Materials science

actin out

Quick: what’s the difference between an ‘amu’ (atomic mass unit) and a ‘Da’ (Dalton)? Answer: Nothing. They both represent one-twelfth of the rest mass of an unbound carbon-12 atom in its nuclear and electronic ground state, a.k.a 1.66×10−27 kg. This is very slightly less than the mass of a proton or a neutron (approximately 1.67×10-27 kg). When first invented, the Dalton was intended to be a fundamental unit such that one hydrogen atom had a mass of one Dalton. Helium would be two Daltons, lithium would be three Daltons, etc. Of course, then we realized that every atom had different numbers of protons, neutrons and electrons, which mean that there was no simple universal mass. It would be so much easier to memorize if everything on the periodic table was a simple multiple of a fundamental quantity.

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