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Exceptions to the Octet Rule

Electrons surrounding a central atom in a stable molecule can be fewer than eight

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Always an Exception

Always an Exception

Credit: Nayu Kim
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nayukim/3826977817/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

International air travel can often be a stressful experience. In some countries, the airplane boarding process is organized and orderly. In others, we see a form of chaos, with pushing and shoving to get on first. When a little grandmother is using her umbrella to get ahead of other people, you know things are not right.

Why It Matters

  • The passengers are waiting to board the airplane. They stand in their designated boarding group and wait to be called. Over the loudspeaker comes this announcement: “At this time we will be boarding passengers with small children, any military personnel, and those who need some extra time in boarding.” Up to the gate come a mom pushing a small toddler in a stroller, two Marines, and an elderly gentleman using a walker.
  • Why is there an exception to the boarding rule? The practice is to board by group – group 1, group 2, group 3, and so on. However, there usually are reasons for making exceptions to the rule. The mother needs to get her small child on safely and have the stroller stored (which would tie up the boarding line). The airline is showing honor to those who are willing to defend their country, and the elderly gentleman moves slowly and may need some assistance in getting to his seat. 
  • There are many examples in daily life of exceptions to a general rule. The spelling rule “i before e except after c” gives both a general guideline for spelling as well as one situation in which the rule does not hold. An ambulance driving 50 miles an hour in an area with a 25 mile/hour speed limit is not “speeding”, but you would definitely get a ticket driving at that speed.
  • Credit: Rolf Larsen
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rlarsen/5310700062/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Ambulances and emergency vehicles with sirens on get exceptions because they are responding to emergencies that are time sensititve [Figure2]


  • Watch a musical video about the octet rule at the link below:


Show What You Know

Use the links below to learn more about the octet rule and exceptions in everyday life. Then answer the following questions.

  1. The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) for the state of Washington contains a statement dealing with exceptions to laws and regulations. Under this law, would a person in prison be exempt from the requirement to pay $100.00 a month for health insurance?
  2. Psychiatrists and other types of counselors are expected to keep client information confidential – they cannot tell anyone else what a client told them. What is one significant exception to that rule?
  3. How can an octet expand its valence shell?
  4. How does free radicals violate the octet rule?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Nayu Kim; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nayukim/3826977817/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Rolf Larsen; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rlarsen/5310700062/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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