What is a Molecule?

Posted on August 24, 2009  Comments (4)

One of the things I keep meaning to do more of with this blog is provide some post on basic science concepts that may help raise scientific literacy. Some of these will be pretty obvious but even reminders on some facts you know can sometimes help.

What is a molecule?

A molecule is the smallest particle of a compound that has all the chemical properties of that compound. Molecules are made up of two or more atoms, either of the same element or of two or more different elements. The example of molecules are water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and molecular nitrogen (N2).

Organic molecules contain Carbon, for example, Methane CH4). The original definition of “organic” chemistry came from the misconception that organic compounds were always related to life processes.

A few types of compounds such as carbonates, simple oxides of carbon and cyanides, as well as the allotropes of carbon, are considered inorganic. The division between “organic” and “inorganic” carbon compounds while “useful in organizing the vast subject of chemistry…is somewhat arbitrary”

Ionic compounds, such as common salt, are made up not of molecules, but of ions arranged in a crystalline structure. Unlike ions, molecules carry no net electrical charge.

Related: Why is it Colder at Higher Elevations?Why is the Sky Blue?10 Science Facts You Should KnowBacteria Communicate Using a Chemical Language

4 Responses to “What is a Molecule?”

  1. Mitchell
    August 24th, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

    Raising scientific literacy is a great goal. And spreading good explanations an important approach. Regrettably, good explanations seem remarkably uncommon in science education, with few incentives for their creation. And little recognition of the lack.

    “A molecule is the smallest particle of a compound that has all the chemical properties of that compound.” Oft said, but no. Bulk properties often don’t emerge until nanometer-scale clusters. Thus nanomaterials.

    “Unlike ions, molecules carry no electrical charge” The phrase is no net charge. But since this doesn’t mean everywhere neutral, or that intermolecular electrostatics aren’t critical, it, like “organic”, is more taxonomy than insight. Arguably obscuring more than it illuminates.

    Without dramatic improvements in science education, what hope of science literacy?

  2. Tess Ledesma
    August 25th, 2009 @ 1:26 am

    This is a great site for my son’s assignments for science. It includes the examples.Thanks for science info. I will be looking forward to new ones.

  3. Anonymous
    August 25th, 2009 @ 10:26 am

    Thanks for sharing. Basic concept but more important.

  4. reese
    August 25th, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this blog it’s a great help for the students especially who are taking science subject.

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