How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 446

If a racquetball is one long strand of molecules, if you made a cut in the ball, wouldn't the whole ball fall apart?
A racquetball is made of vulcanized rubber. Rubber consists of countless molecules, each one of which is principally a long chain of carbon atoms, decorated with hydrogen and other atoms. It resembles of bowl of tiny spaghetti strands though each rubber molecule is much, much longer than it is thick. But simple rubber melts rather easily and becomes gooey when warm. To make it more durable, it must be vulcanized. During vulcanization, the individual rubber molecules are cross-linked to form a permanent network of coupled strands. They can't move relative to one another, which is why the racquetball can't melt. It can only burn when you heat it. So the whole racquetball is one giant molecule. If you cut it in half, you are slicing the molecule in half. It doesn't crumble, it just has many of its bonds broken. That's not a problem because bonds break and remake all the time in the molecules around us.

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