Science Birthdays, May 9

5/9/1927          Manfred Eigen            physicist,         Worked on ultrashort chemical reactions.

This is a short one today. Just this one person, so I’ll tell you a little more about ultrashort or ultrafast chemical reactions. If you have ever studied the metric system, you should know that the prefix milli- means 1/1000, the prefix micro- means 1/1,000,000 (that is one one millionth). The prefix nano- is one one billionth or 1/1,000,000,000 and the prefix pico- is one one trillionth or 1/1,000,000,000,000.  If we are talking about fast chemical reactions, they can occur within millionths and billionths of seconds and yes some of the fastest chemical reactions occur within picoseconds. These are the chemical reactions occurring in our eyes. The prefix pico- isn’t used much for other metric measurements because we don’t need to measure distances or mass that small yet. There is probably someone out there trying to do it, but how practical is it, that is another story.

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