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The Physics of the Kinetic Theory of Gases: Energy, Momentum, Speeds, Balloons, and Blowing on Your Arm

This blog post will discuss some of the physics behind the things molecules do – as gases, liquids, or solids – and also get you thinking about the concepts momentum, kinetic energy, rate (of a physical molecular-scale process), and equilibrium constant (of a physical molecular-scale process). These may all sound like difficult, high-level ideas – but if molecules, which don’t have much in the line of brains, can act according to these ideas, you, with brains, can follow them too! What are molecules? First, at their simplest, they’re just clusters of atoms stuck together in such a way that they don’t come apart on their own. (If they did, they would do so immediately; there’s no such thing as delayed disintegration, the way that isotopes of some elements are radioactive.) Wait a minute, you say, what if I heat a pure substance and it breaks down? That happens when one molecule of the substance crashes into another molecule of the substance with enough energy to break at least... read more

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