There is one simple way to tell whether or not two liquids will dissolve: polarity.
Polarity is caused by an imbalance on a molecule, especially if one or more of its atoms is strongly electronegative (which basically means the atom is bigger and more charged).
Unlike the opposites attract rule, in this case, polar only mixes with polar, and nonpolar sticks with nonpolar. Water, for example, is polar. The oxygen atom is significantly electronegative.
Oil, on the other hand, is nonpolar: the charge on the molecules evens out pretty nicely.
If you haven't already tried this particular experiment, take it from my experience: oil and water don't mix.
"Amanda? Are you home yet?" My mother calls after shutting the front door behind her.
"Yes, Mother." I call, reluctantly from my room.
"Come here so I can talk to you."
"I'm doing homework."
"You can do that later, honey. I want to know what is happening in your life."
I roll my eyes and sigh, then get up and thump down the stairs, to find her in the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of some high-fibre vegetable fruit concoction. It's probably really good for you, but it makes me faintly nauseated just to watch her drink it.
"How was your day?" she asks, trying too hard to be nonchalant.
"Great," I say, and turn around to leave.
"Amanda, wait. How did the chemistry project go? You've been working so hard on that."
I can feel her eyes on my back. There's no escape now.
"I got first place," I mumble.
Her squeal is so high-pitched I can hear the neighbour's dog barking. "Congratulations!" she shouts, running up to give me a hug. I pat her back, gently, groaning on the inside. "Let's go out to celebrate tonight! Janie has a soccer game, but I'm sure that can wait."
She sighs, apparently exhausted by joy. "I'm so proud of you."
Then again, that much emotion would probably kill a normal person... Is she going to cry?
"Mom, we don't need to go out, just make my favourite dessert or something."
I think it's safe to say that my mom represents the polar side of things. In fact, if I were a psychologist, I would call her bipolar. She is always feeling something strongly.
An hour or two later, I have given up on escaping to my room. I sit quietly at the kitchen table ripping lettuce. My mother is busy cooking and muttering to herself. My sister Jane is back from her soccer game. We lost, which isn't helping my mother's current state: anger.
My dad walks in, shutting the door so quietly my mom almost doesn't hear it over her own angry mumbling. Almost.
"David, where have you been?!" she shouts. I can almost feel the house shaking. My father doesn't reply.
"Are you going to answer? Do you not even owe me an explanation? I called your office five times! They said you were in a meeting and refused to put me through." She taps her toe impatiently.
Dad hangs up his coat. "I was in a meeting."
My mother will never understand why her husband does not use as many words as she does. "Well, why didn't you call to say you were going to be late?" She goes to the kitchen and stirs a pot on the stove.
"You always do this to me, David. I never know when you will come home. I can never reach you when I need to. You don't care about other peoples' feelings, just your job." She spits out the word as if it were a dirty word. She actually pauses to take a breath. The brief millisecond of silence is deafening, but then she jumps back in. "I bet you don't know that your daughter got first prize on her chemistry assignment. Hmm? Are you even proud of her? I guess we'll never know, because you probably won't get around to telling her, because you'll be in too many meetings..." She's left the stove now and paces the kitchen floor, flapping her hands about, exasperated. My dad heaves another sigh and sits on the stair to take off his shoes. He knows there is not much he can do to appease my mom.
She's the queen of drama, he's the king of calm. Neither understands the other. They both get so frustrated. I have no clue how they have stayed together this long.
One theory stands: when you have oil and water in a container and shake it up really well, they can appear mixed for a while...
"Fire!" My mom's scream sends my stomach into a twist. I look up to see a sizeable flame sprouting from the frying pan. Smoke stings my nostrils. My mother coughs and screams again, grabs my arm and rushes for the door, determined to heroically save her children."Janie!" she yells, "Get down here!"
My dad, however, is still as stable as a noble gas. He is already returning from the garage, an extinguisher aimed at the offending flames. Within seconds the stove is covered with snowy froth. Whatever she was cooking is now charred black and fully extinguished. The ceiling is a little blackened by the smoke, but otherwise, things are okay.
Janie comes down the stairs, one earphone removed.
"What's going on?" She pauses to sniff the air. "Is there a fire?" she squeaks.
My mom is crying, softly.
"No, baby, it's okay. Daddy saved all our lives."
My dad puts down the extinguisher and wipes his forehead. Without another word, my mother runs into his arms and throws herself around him, kissing his face several times. "I love you," she whispers.
My dad grins and kisses the top of her head. "I know."
My sister and I smile.
There is, however, one foolproof way to get oil and water to actually dissolve: an amphipathic molecule. These molecules have both polar and nonpolar sides to them. An amphipathic molecule will mix with both polar and nonpolar molecules, the way soap attaches to oil and water, so they can dissolve in each other.
I guess I qualify.
"Mom, Dad," I say, looking back and forth between them. "I know you guys don't always see eye to eye, but Mom, Dad has had a long day and just needs some peace. Dad, Mom just needs someone to listen and calm her down."
My parents smile at me and beckon for me and my sister to join their embrace. Sure, it's cheesy, but it definitely trumps seeing one of them only on weekends.
"So how about we order a pizza?" My dad suggests. We all chuckle and awkwardly pull apart, ending the family hug.
When there is something between them, something that understands both sides, like love, for example, oil and water can stick together no matter what.