6.022137 × 10^23 – that’s Avogadro’s number. It’s the number of atoms or molecules of a substance in a number of grams of that substance equal to its atomic mass. So 1 gram of elemental hydrogen or 12 grams of carbon12 will have Avogadro’s number of atoms. This amount is also called a mole – so a mole of anything has Avogadro’s number of elementary particles – a mole of water has Avogadro’s number of water molecules.
Samuel Hahnemann invented the principles of homeopathy (he “discovered” nothing, it turns out) in the 1790s and published his first article on the topic in 1796. Hahnemann claimed that the more a substance is diluted the more potent a medicine it becomes, in violation of the chemical law of mass action which dictated that chemical reactions proceed more quickly the more substrate there is. Hahnemann also advocated such extreme dilutions, still used by homeopathy today, that many of his potions vastly exceed the dilutional limit – the point beyond which there is likely not a single atom or molecule of substance remaining. That is where Avogadro comes in .
To honor Avogadro further, and highlight the absurdity of homeopathy in the face of basic chemistry and physics, a UK group has started the 10^23 campaign. Their basic purpose is to protest continued support for homeopathy in the UK and elsewhere and to raise public awareness as to what homeopathy really is (nothing). They surmise (correctly, in my opinion) that the more people know about homeopathy the less popular it will be.
Their first major act was a mass public homeopathic suicide:
At 10:23am on January 30th, more than four hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide took part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in protest at Boots’ continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.
It is a dramatic demonstration of the inactivity of homeopathic potions – take a massive “overdose” and suffer no ill effects. This is actually more than a stunt – it demonstrates the lack of a dose-response effect from homeopathic nostrums, which is convincing evidence that there is no effect.